At last Tuesday’s SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting, many Los Osos speakers commented on the fact that the police were present during general public comment. Two weeks after my previous article was published, there was an increased presence of police inside the chambers. Newly elected San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson was present, as was the Under-Sheriff Martin Basti — formerly Chief Deputy when he physically assaulted Alan Martyn, an elderly resident of Los Osos, in 2005 — and an unnamed sheriff deputy.
How can one maintain decorum with cops that don’t know what decorum is?
The increase of police presence infuriated many of the speakers, including Richard Margetson and Retired LA Superior Court Judge Martha Goldin, to name a few.
The New Times’ Shredder wrote, in the February 23 edition of the publication, chided BOS chairman Adam Hill for creating a “bad message” by having “Johnny Law” oversee the meetings. “Don’t get them wrong, though, you can absolutely say whatever you want, as long as it’s condoned by the board or you like tazers in the tuchus,” said the Shredder.
CalCoastNews followed up on the Shredder’s comments by claiming that Chairman Hill asked Parkinson to station a deputy in the back of the chambers “to help maintain decorum, especially from the more vocal residents of Los Osos who regularly use the comment period to criticize board actions.” These alleged comments are from the very same chairman who — on his first day as chairman — sharply criticized and condemned Los Osos speakers for their constitutionally-protected “boorish behavior.”
Chairman Hill has yet to officially clarify his views on this issue, but his silence speaks volumes.
The community of Los Osos has been a part of a 30-year war with heated rhetoric coming from all sides, but as this war is approaching the end, the powers that are bringing the sewer closer to fruition have placed all the blame on a small group of public comment speakers for being the problem — for failing to “maintain decorum” and thus meriting almost totalitarian supervision by law enforcement. But there has never been public acknowledgment, by any member of the Board of Supervisors, that every interested party — not only those speaking behind the podium — should be held responsible for their own “boorish behavior,” including their own colleagues.
Calling 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson provocative would be an understatement. Like several of his most vocal supporters from Los Osos, Gibson has not only vehemently disagreed with those who oppose the currently proposed wastewater treatment project for Los Osos, he has used every opportunity to use his bully pulpit to de-legitimize the opposition with barbaric disdain. He has even participated in lengthy efforts to discredit his dissenters. Gibson was interviewed in Barbara Wolcott’s controversial Small Town Perfect Storm novel, which many consider to be a heavily divisive, partisan work that has intensified community strife. Gibson has unabashedly baited his detractors into a state of seemingly incurable madness that could only be subdued by police “protection.” Curiously, Gibson has remained silent as public comment speakers have railed against his intimidation tactics.
Hill, however, remains undisturbed by the criticism. That’s cowardice.
This is not an issue that we should be talking about. In fact, it’s a distraction — and a very tasteless one at that. The board and community should be talking about mitigating the social, economic and environmental impacts that the wastewater project is going to have on this disadvantaged community. We should be having an active, ongoing conversation about how thousands of residents in the Prohibition Zone are going to be affected by the decisions Hill and his colleagues have made.
Los Osos wants to have the opportunity to sit at the table with Hill and Gibson as grown adults — as equals — without being treated as anything less. It’s a shame that there are people in this world, like Hill, who actually believe that all men are not created equal — that some people deserve to be branded with the reputation that they are unable to behave, unable to speak freely, and unable to be considered.
Mr. Hill, I know people like you: phony philosophers who stand behind lecterns and teach without learning from their students. Not many of us are in a position to earn thousands of dollars while twiddling our thumbs and haranguing constituents — and their concerns that you know nothing about.
Chairman, do you seriously think you are the quintessential deliverer of civility and order? If you do, take a look at the mirror. Don’t be surprised if you find a joke looking back at you. What you’re doing to Los Osos residents is no laughing matter. What you’re doing to residents is seriously, outlandishly offensive, as it appears you are trying to beat Gibson at his own game. Do you actually think you’re going to get away with this?
It must be difficult to keep that poker face, Mr. Hill. Behind the monotone and dazed appearance is a pompous Napoleon with a tongue of fiery vengeance. You’ve sworn, “I’m not going let what happened to Gibson happen to me.”
So, as a shrill cry for attention, you invited the cops to chill the room. As chairman that was your choice and your choice alone. You want to be as clear as possible so those really nasty senior citizens and low-income homeowners don’t give you an earful about having to sell their homes and move because of your decision, telling you how much of a horrible mess this project has become for them and everyone they know — telling you you can’t do your job by giving your constituents the respect and dignity they unequivocally deserve.
Mr. Hill, you don’t have to explain why you have three cops in the room if you don’t want to, because there is no reason that rings true; you’re just playing politics, trying to build a name for yourself by belittling Los Osos homeowners. Instead, I challenge you to remove the cops in the back of the room or have the cops in the chambers for the entire duration of the meeting on Tuesday.
If you don’t, you are everything that I said about you.
— Aaron Ochs