EXTREME JEOPARDY

That’s the dire situation the County finds itself in as supervisor candidate Lynn Compton borrows from the Tea Party playbook in her manic attempt to unseat incumbent Caren Ray in the 4th district race that could tilt the balance of power on the SLO Board of Supervisors to the extreme right.

Lynn Compton
Lynn Compton

By AARON OCHS and ED OCHS

District 4 Supervisor candidate Lynn Compton embraces the midterm election madness that has consumed the country from coast to coast. Like the federal midterm races, elements of extremism have permeated an already heated political climate on a local level. Voices of extremism—which the voter majority has traditionally dismissed as fringe—now reverberate the loudest in District 4. With Compton’s brash and aggressive tactics in tow, the far right is waging war against the moderate Democrat voter majority with the intent to reshape the board and the direction of the county.

Deploying extreme tactics to win elections is nothing new in national or local politics, but the rise of extremism in county politics has reached new and alarming levels in the past several years. Nowhere is that extremism more evident than in the crucial District 4 Supervisor race—representing Arroyo Grande, Nipomo and Oceano—between newcomer, agri-businesswoman Compton and Gov. Brown-appointed incumbent, Caren Ray.

The County faces challenging issues like the drought, dwindling water supplies, oil companies seeking increased access by rail, drilling and fracking, and the current and future needs of SLO’s large homeless population. There’s a lot at stake for county taxpayers. Yet a burgeoning network of extremists have joined forces to assist Compton while, at the same time, undermining the clear severity of local issues.

Gov. Brown did Ray no great favor when he appointed her to fill the seat on the County Board of Supervisors. The seat was vacated by the untimely death of popular conservative Republican Paul Teixeira, but he knew what he was doing.

Ray, a registered Democrat, served as councilwoman for the city of Arroyo Grande from 2010 to 2013 and had been a modern world history teacher at Santa Maria High School since 2007. Before her tenure as councilwoman, Ray served on the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission from 2005 to 2010. Ray was vocal in extending the emergency ordinance in Paso Robles, which prevented further planting of vineyards in the Paso Robles groundwater basin. Before she was appointed, the Board of Supervisors were deadlocked, failing to obtain the four vote majority required for a moratorium extension. Since the drought began to adversely impact the entire state, Gov. Brown has supported local water conservation measures. Brown recognized the record-setting depletion of the Paso Robles groundwater basin, as evidenced by signing Assembly Bill 2453 into law. Authored by conservative Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, AB 2453 was designed to establish the governance structure and authority of a water district in Paso Robles. The district would be responsible for managing the basin and taking proactive measures to conserve water.

Compton, who has sided with forces to oppose long-term management of the Paso Robles groundwater basin, wasted no time jumping into campaign mode. Just two days after Ray was officially sworn in, Compton held her kick-off party in Nipomo. Compton told news sources that she had every intention to enter the race after she sought the governor’s appointment. Compton told reporters that she waited to announce her candidacy in respect to Teixeira’s family.

Despite seeking the appointment, Compton later dismissed any legitimacy associated with the appointment process. Compton told the New Times’ Jono Kinkade, “It should be the people that decide, not the governor, with no disrespect to the governor.”

Three months after Gov. Brown selected Ray over Compton, Compton launched her campaign on that basis alone, without any platform, and that non-platform has continued to consist largely of charges, irrelevancies, assumptions and suppositions. Her often-stated support for property rights, less government, fewer taxes, and her abhorrence of rules and regulations that she claims cripple small businesses is eerily reminiscent of Tea Party strategies. Compton has not officially declared herself a Tea Party candidate. Despite resonating strongly in the national polls during the 2010 midterm elections, Tea Party relevance within the political landscape has sharply diminished. Any admission of toting Tea Party principles could risk offending some voters who might otherwise vote for her if they didn’t know her hard right-leaning bent.

Network of Supporters

Like a comet, Compton’s basically burst of nowhere, and she would probably prefer it stay that way at least until Election Day, but one look at the Compton campaign and who’s endorsing her raises a row of red flags on her candidacy.

The Republican Party chose Compton early on and threw their weight behind her as a viable candidate, which the successful businesswoman and attractive mother of two surely is; however, this isn’t your father’s Republican Party. Despite Compton using the Reagan namesake to tout her conservative values, the party she belongs to has swung to the right of her presidential icon. Though Ronald Reagan’s adopted son Michael Reagan keynoted a Compton fundraiser in February, the Republican Party of 2014 has veered so far to the right that if Ronald Reagan was president today, he’d been thrown out for raising taxes more than 10 times. During his presidency, Reagan also raised the debt ceiling 18 times.

Compton’s supporters display a long list of conspiracy theorists, right-wing extremists and thinly-veiled corporate interests. Hiding behind her many contributors, Compton is safely tucked in the back pocket of the current Republican establishment as they seize this golden opportunity to get control of the powerful Board of Supervisors, which, as they see it, the left has controlled too long. Though the late Teixeira tended to vote independently, it is doubtful that Compton, who often invokes Teixeira’s name to appeal to his voters, will do the same given her heavily partisan campaign pulled from the pages of the Tea Party playbook.

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising public support for Compton comes from a handful of political lobbies clearly on the lunatic fringe, including Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists.

The “Agenda 21” conspiracy group, whose members believe that liberals are working with the United Nations to take away their property rights and personal liberties, preach weekly at Board of Supervisors meetings.

Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists, such as San Luis Obispo resident Laura Mordaunt, have sharply criticized District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson and District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill for allegedly bargaining with the United Nations to erode the rights and liberties of citizens. Mordaunt referred to the alleged attempt of subversion by Democrats on the board as “domestic terrorism” on March 6, 2013. Local residents attending South County events have witnessed Mordaunt and other Compton supporters—donning Compton t-shirts—videotaping known Ray supporters and following them in their cars. Residents have informed law enforcement. Mordaunt’s videos, photos and letters to the editor are prominently featured on Compton’s website.

Mordaunt is not the only Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist to be featured by Compton’s campaign.

Former Republican congresswoman and Compton supporter Andrea Seastrand has appeared before the Board of Supervisors to criticize the supervisors on several occasions. Last year, Seastrand accused supervisors of being complicit in a conspiracy to keep CalCoastNews co-publisher Karen Velie’s grandchildren in foster care as retaliation for the site’s investigative reporting. In September, Seastrand criticized Ray for voting to “weaken” Proposition 13. On February 11, four of the supervisors—with the noted exception of District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold—noted to approve their legislative platform. A portion of the platform sought a sales tax increase in SLO County’s unincorporated areas. Compton supporters point to a portion of the platform which reads, “Should a Constitutional amendment be proposed for the 2014 ballot that would authorize local agencies to raise taxes with a 55% approval threshold [instead of a two-thirds majority vote, as required by Proposition 13], seek inclusion in that amendment for counties to raise a tax in the unincorporated area only.” However, the platform merely anticipated a potential challenge to Prohibition 13, and offered to only advocate for an increase of tax in the unincorporated area. There was no endorsement, implied or otherwise, to “weaken” Proposition 13.

Additionally, Seastrand and the Compton campaign erroneously claimed that Ray and supervisors voted to increase sales tax in unincorporated areas. Compton wrongly concluded that the approved platform would place “a hit on property taxes,” when the portion dealt solely with sales tax. The platform stated nothing about weakening Proposition 13 homeowner protections statewide, as Seastrand and Compton supporters have claimed.

Despite Compton clearly misunderstanding the verbiage of the legislative platform, property rights advocates Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association rushed to endorse her and her interpretation. Ironically, the HJTA, a right-wing lobby, supported a significant modification to the Proposition 218 assessment for the Los Osos wastewater project in 2007. Traditionally, the HJTA supported Prop 218 property tax assessments that were approved by a two-thirds majority. Instead, the HJTA worked with then-Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee to undermine the two-thirds vote by allowing only a select group of homeowners to approve a tax that arguably benefited the entire community of Los Osos. The assessment was ultimately approved under duress by homeowners by a significant margin, although the margin touted by the County was embellished.

Claims that Ray sought to weaken Proposition 13 were echoed exclusively on controversial tabloid website CalCoastNews.

The website has echoed claims about Ray since she became a councilwoman for Arroyo Grande in 2010. The website accused her of having a “harried, secret life” as a former member of the SLO Hash House Harriers, a local chapter of an international running club. The story originated from CalCoastNews contributor Kevin P. Rice, who previously ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat on the San Luis Obispo City Council. Rice, a vocal, sometimes inflammatory supporter of Compton’s campaign, was assigned by CalCoastNews to track Ray’s movements. In July 2013, Rice was seen taking photos of Ray as she met with Supervisor Hill at a coffee shop in San Luis Obispo. In an email dated July 26, 2013, Supervisor Hill told the Grover Beach City Council that Rice had “stalked” him throughout the morning of July 23. Rice denied the claims. Mired with stalking accusations from Hill and supporters of Oceano Dunes dust regulations, Rice has continued his one-sided campaign of sandbagging Ray on a myriad of issues on CalCoastNews, though he’s received ample criticism for being obsessed with the supervisor at the expense of the facts.

CalCoastNews boasts a heavy right-wing presence, featuring fringe personalities like Rice while shamelessly publishing right-wing propaganda and failing to disclose their affiliations to Tea Party groups. CalCoastNews and writer Josh Friedman have promoted their work within the North County Tea Party. Acting as a conduit for Tea Party principles and ideologies, the site has attacked Democrats such as supervisors Hill, Gibson and Ray under the guise of investigative journalism. However, the site has mostly deferred to unsubstantiated allegations from anonymous sources.

The site has sharply criticized and targeted supporters of Ray while publishing a series of misleading articles about her.

Supporters contend that CalCoastNews’ Karen Velie personally threatened to expose Ray supporters over stealing campaign signs without offering any evidence to back her claims. Shortly after filing with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) against the Compton campaign on May 20, Ray supporter Ed Eby received a call from Velie, who told Eby that she had photos, implicating him in theft of Compton yard signs. Eby recalled the phone conversation with Velie. “Since I have never touched a Compton sign, I demanded she show me the photos,” Eby wrote on CalCoastNews on June 2. “She then backed off and said the photos didn’t clearly show they were Compton signs. Of course not. It didn’t happen.”

Velie has reportedly harassed other Ray supporters, accusing them of sign thievery: a common theme on CalCoastNews. But when supporters demanded to know where she heard the accusations from, Velie replied, “Compton told me.”

Another related supporter of Compton in this dubious network is the Arroyo Grande Police Officers Association, which is part of the ongoing independent investigation involving Arroyo Grande City Manager Steve Adams and Community Development Director Teresa McClish. The Association, whose role in the investigation and credibility have been questioned as a result of their adversarial relationship with Adams during heated contract negotiations with the city, has collaborated with CalCoastNews to help force Adams’ termination, unseat AG Mayor Tony Ferrara in the coming election, and replace him with a write-in candidate that the website is also promoting. Adams was forced to resign amid a string of allegations, although he denied any sexual misconduct took place in the late-night encounter with police in City Hall—as promoted but, as usual, unsubstantiated by CalCoastNews.

Compton will not be alone philosophically if she wins the seat. Supervisor Debbie Arnold, a sister property rights advocate from North County, voted consistently against a Paso Robles Water District. Compton has drawn considerable financial support from North County vineyard owners such as Cindy Steinbeck of Steinbeck Vineyards, who is leading the lawsuit against the county and any sort of groundwater management in North County, plus another suit to try to stop the urgency ordinance, and Steinbeck expects Compton to fight recently-enacted legislation establishing the district, which will attempt to equitably regulate how much water is allotted to vineyard operators, property owners and businesses. Vintners have a huge interest in controlling the Board of Supervisors and avoiding water regulation of any kind. Arnold has aligned with Compton, while fellow Republican supervisor Frank Mecham has for the most part stayed neutral on crucial water issues.

In an interesting regional angle with a national footnote, Kevin McCarthy, the new majority whip in the House of Representatives, representing District 23—Bakersfield, Kern and Tulare in the Central Valley—has donated $1,000 to Compton’s campaign. Why? Because this election is all about taking over the BOS, and Compton fits the GOP’s current right-wing leadership profile.

Other large contributors reflect Compton’s array of reactionary supporters. H.D. Perrett, who tried to secede from the county, to be annexed by Santa Barbara so he could develop his land—which would have been a huge loss of tax dollars both for the county and the schools—has contributed $5,000. Etta Watterfield, a Tea Party conservative who ran against Katcho Achadjian for Assembly, and attacked him in the same way Compton has attacked Ray, especially on Proposition 13, a Howard Jarvis/Republican protectorate, has along with her husband contributed well over $10,000. The conservative Lincoln Club kicked in $5,000. Wing luminaries Matt Kokkonen, Ed Waage and Jeanne Helphenstine have also chipped in. The Republican Party has dropped $16,000 on her, but her biggest contributor so far has been Lynn Compton, propping up her campaign with over $42,000 in loans to herself, in addition to tens of thousands in in-kind donations, after having earlier failed to report the campaign expense of painting cars and trucks in her business fleet with her image, and spending $20,000 on deceptive “slate mailers” to every home in the district. This fiscal conservative has over-spent and gone into debt in her campaign to win the seat at any cost, outspending Ray in a landslide.

The Manchurian Candidate

While Compton enjoys legitimate support in the rural, unincorporated areas of the 4th district and in hardcore Republican circles, sooner or later she must face the fact that some of her supporters represent the most radical elements in the county and will hurt any attempt by her to build consensus on the board. So far, however, Compton shows no interest in consensus building. Her arrogance, combative style of non-diplomacy and Tea Party roots ensure she will only be the candidate for some of the people, sharing none of Ray’s crossover appeal to the broader community.

Unlike Ray, an experienced community leader, Compton has never served in the community on any level. She has made an appearance at the Board of Supervisors a few times for public comment and left before the board deliberated or voted. To fill the void, Compton has resorted to anger—anger that Gov. Brown didn’t have the decency to replace a Republican with a Republican, but instead chose a moderate Democrat; anger at Ray for usurping that seat, for her voting record and for taking donations from developers; anger mirrored and fomented at every turn by CalCoastNews to drive their feverish hate campaigns against Ray, Hill, Gibson, Torres, Ferrara, and other politicians, public figures, allies or family that get in the way of their extreme right-wing political agenda whose face is now Lynn Compton.

Backed by a coterie of right-wing extremists, Compton makes a compelling candidate for her base and presents a nice front. Attractive, well-spoken, assertive, Compton basically burst of nowhere, from the private sector, and that works well for her. She has no record, no government service and, apart from her own business and corporate life, no real leadership experience. At the same time, she is curiously robotic, as if she’s a contestant on “Jeopardy,” rather than a candidate for higher office. At least Sarah Palin was the Mayor of Wasilla before becoming Governor. And like Palin, what she believes—and doesn’t believe, like climate change, solar energy and air control—disqualify her from office. She has stated that SLO needs to loosen land-use policies to be more like Bakersfield, and that the problem in Oceano was “the Hispanics, and all the problems that go with that”—comments that are inherently dangerous to the advancement of serious public debate on issues vitally important to the future of the district, county and country.

Because she is “fresh out of Compton” with no track record to critique, voters know little about her closely-held views other than what’s in the neatly-scrubbed sketch offered on her website. However, each day more people discover that Compton’s business, Valley Farm Supply Inc., as homey as it sounds, is actually a wholesaler of environmentally dangerous pesticides and fertilizers, that she’s worked for pharmaceutical giants Monsanto, Pfizer and Merck, and is owned by Big Ag, Big Oil and Big Chemical, which is why she’s against water-protection regulations and ambiguous about her support for the Phillip 66 rail project in Nipomo. And more people are realizing that she’s not looking out for the little guy, no matter what she claims in her bitter, belligerent effort to win. The real question is, given her Manchurian candidacy, lack of substance and well-armed attack campaign, given what’s at stake in gallons of water lost and budgets for vital services slashed, how concerned should the taxpayers of the 4th district and the county be if Compton and her supporters get hold of the BOS?

Compton has a brief video on her website:

It announces: “In the life of every winner… There comes a moment of truth… Heroes will rise… Stars will fall… Let’s win one for the Gipper with Lynn.”

If stars fall when this hero rises, they should be very concerned.

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The ROCK Interview: ADAM HILL (Complete)

District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill

A resident of San Luis Obispo County since 1995, Adam Hill was elected 3rd District Supervisor in 2008, representing Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Avila and San Luis Obispo on the County Board of Supervisors. A proud Democrat, he was reelected to a second term by a wide margin in a rough-and-tumble race this year. Unlike most politicians, Mr. Hill doesn’t believe in playing it safe. He is intelligent, outspoken and controversial. Born and raised in New Jersey to working class parents, he fell in love with books early, becoming a voracious reader by age eight. The main role model of his youth was his Grandfather, an orthodox Jew who came from Russia through Ellis Island and devoted his life to the service of God and people in need. Mr. Hill worked for New Jersey Senator and former presidential candidate Bill Bradley, a hero and political role model. Eventually, he fell out of love with politics and went to graduate school for “books and writing.” He came out to the Central Coast in 1995 to teach in the English Department at Cal Poly and “thoroughly enjoyed 13 years there.” He wrote freelance for years, for publications ranging from Esquire to the LA Times on books, music and “weirdo art scenes.” He is a lover of dogs and has two Australian Shepherds, Alice and Nora. He is also a lover of music, especially jazz. Mr. Hill serves in several county leadership roles. With Supervisor Frank Mecham, he co-chairs the County’s Economic Development Project. He also served as the founding chair of the Homeless Services Oversight Council, and the chair of the capital campaign for the new homeless services center. Additionally, he is a board member on the Economic Vitality Corporation, the Council of Governments, the Regional Transit Authority, the Integrated Waste Management Authority and the Air Pollution Control District. He also serves on a special collaboration committee with the SLO Chamber of Commerce to strengthen and coordinate entrepreneurial activities with Cal Poly and the community. He has spoken or written on a number of important county issues, including green energy, climate change policies, compensation reform, gang intervention and crime reduction. Here is part 2 of our two-part interview with Adam Hill, followed by part 1:

The ROCK: Recently, plans to construct the proposed homeless service center on South Higuera Street were halted amid concerns that there hasn’t been enough input from area businesses and the community. Some have suggested that a downsized center and/or a separate detox facility would be more appropriate. Others are deeply hesitant about having a new homeless shelter in San Luis Obispo. As a member of the executive board of the Homeless Services Center (HSC), how would you like to see it play out, and what do you feel is the best way to generate more outreach to both businesses and residents in the community?

MR. HILL: We are looking into all things, beginning first with some solid policy documents that will allow participation from as many in the community as possible. Yes, we will need to go back for a more economical design, and yes, we are always talking about how to add key services such as a detox. All of this effort will take more time than we had originally anticipated, but it will help us be more successful in the end. We had such a reasonably smooth time getting the property entitled that I think we were overly optimistic about what comes next. But we’ll get there.

With homelessness a persistent issue in our economically stressed times, just how serious is homelessness in SLO County right now, how serious will it be in the future, as far as you can tell, and what do you see from a policy and budgetary perspective as the best way to contain it, if not end it?

Homelessness is certainly near crisis proportions in our community, as it is in most communities in our state. Because resources are so scarce, we’re looking to put things back to their original intent—emergency shelter and transitional help. We need to focus strongly and even solely on outcomes—getting people necessary services and getting them into housing. It will mean some tough choices ahead, and probably some very complicated but useful debates.

In January next year, Debbie Arnold will replace Jim Patterson on the Board. It’s been predicted by some that the current 3-2 majority once in favor of resolving environmental concerns will flip to a 3-2 majority that’s not as receptive to remedying those concerns. Are you confident that you will be successful in pushing for environmental reforms that the county needs? What would you define as the “best of all possible compromises”?

It’s really hard to predict how things will be with Debbie aboard. I have had no interaction with her, and certainly her Tea Party and COLAB affiliations concern me. That said, I will be welcoming and supportive and will hope she finds the necessary independence that the job requires if you are to do it well. As for compromises, it has gotten harder as the polarization in our county has gotten more rigid. Remember, we can only craft compromises in public, and if 30 people show up and demand a certain point of view and they happen to be affiliated with three of the Supes, compromise gets pretty difficult.

I have spent four years willing to lose friends for the sake of the common good and to solve problems. One has to sometimes resist the loudest voices, the voices of those who show up at the meeting, when they do not represent what is truly best for the community. If you haven’t lost good friends and supporters while in office, you probably haven’t done your job very well.

As a vocal Democrat, you early on sharply criticized some conservatives for embracing what you call “disturbing and demeaning imagery” about President Barack Obama and his racial background. This year, Mike Hayhurst, a rodeo clown performing at the Creston Classic Rodeo show, made a joke that many saw as racist toward First Lady Michelle Obama. Do you feel that racism, in some form, is still an active part of political currency in this county?

There is no doubt that racism still exists in some obvious and less obvious ways in the country and in our county. I think a lot of it is unconscious, often expressed out of cultural/historical ignorance, and often expressed out of innate discomfort with difference. Nobody seems very willing to talk honestly about race except when flagrant examples of racism occur, and that’s a major obstacle to true understanding. But if you’re asking if I think there is still a lot of racial anxiety out there, particularly among Republicans? Yes, of course. I don’t say this to demonize Republicans, I say this because it is true and it is evident in obvious and coded ways. It’s very very complicated and one has to want to know more and discuss the issue if one wants to have an informed view.

There have been some important writings on the issue; I’d recommend Te-Nahisi Coates’ essay : http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/09/fear-of-a-black-president/309064/ as well as books by Tim Wise, Michelle Alexander and Frederick Harris.

What do you do for relaxation when you’re not engaged on the various boards and committees you sit? Do you have a hobby? Do you travel? Where do you vacation? Do you read? What is the last book you read or are reading right now? What refreshes you?

I am an obsessive reader, and usually have five-six books going at once. I can’t help myself and probably read about 100 books a year. Right now I am reading: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, Why Does the World Exist by Jim Holt, Three Strong Women by Marie Ndiaye, Plutocrats by Chrystia Freeland, Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Gluck, and Both Flesh and Not by David Foster Wallace.

I am also obsessive about music, jazz mostly, but I love everything really. And other than books and music, I love dogs.

“Unless there are enough people serving as the reasonable citizenry, the reckless idiots will too often have too much of a voice.”

 

What do you hope to accomplish in your new term in office that you either started in your first term and want to complete this term, or that represents a new direction or different mission? Where do you intend to focus your efforts for the County and your district?

In my next term, I hope we’ll be able to move the new homeless services center into construction phase. Of course that will take quite a lot of work and quite a lot of fundraising, but this project is so important and so desperately needed.

I would like to put some energy into drug and alcohol services and related mental health issues as they are all connected with some of the toughest social challenges.

And I will continue to be a leader for our business community, especially our employers. I’m a pro-business Democrat, and I think quite a few people in the business community have discovered that my leadership can be invaluable. I have credibility with people who don’t trust certain businesses, and our county staff trusts me when I push on them.

As for my district, I am proud to have helped good people on SLO City Council and Grover Beach City Council, and happy to collaborate and support both cities. Pismo’s city government will need to change and it will. I helped get one ally elected last month and I expect to help two more get elected there in the next cycle. This has made some people unhappy, but I believe I am doing what is best for the city and the sub-region by trying to affect change. As for Avila and Edna Valley, they will continue to thrive and I am happy to help that continue.

What haven’t I asked you that you think is important, that perhaps I missed and should be included here, and that the public should be aware of?

I think it is more important than ever for people to get better informed and more involved in local issues. I know it’s time consuming, but we are at an important crossroads in our community and it is so much harder than ever to get good people to run for office, so the public really needs to step up their role as sort of the guard rails against the Tea Party, COLAB, the small-minded haters who create this pornography of commentary—whether we’re talking about Congalton or Velie or anyone else with an internet connection and a lot of spare time.

I get the anti-government vibe. I understand the value and role of skepticism and suspicion. But unless there are enough people serving as the reasonable citizenry, the reckless idiots will too often have too much of a voice. People seem to not to want to admit that government has had, and should continue to have, a very important part in improving our lives. That’s why I am doing what I am doing.

Following is part 1 of the interview:

When did you first decide to run for Supervisor? Who or what provided the biggest influence on you in making that decision, and what was that input?

It’s a little hazy now as so much has happened between 2007 and now, but there were was a lot of unhappiness with the previous BOS’ decisions on land use, and some serious dissatisfaction with the 3rd District Supervisor.

There were several people who encouraged me to run, all of them are/were very politically active women, some who would eventually turn against me too—which led to some good early lessons on the value of independence.

Looking back, what would you say have been your top accomplishments in your first four years in office? One or two highlights is fine if you don’t wish to go deeply. Wherever your passion takes you…

Honestly, I don’t spend much time looking back, but a campaign forces you to do so, thus, I would say providing leadership on a whole range of issues—economic development, financial reform, homelessness, and public safety.  I am also very pleased that we’ve been able to put into place good land use policies and good anti-pollution policies. Certainly we’re all pleased with the two solar plants and also with the fact that we’ve kept some key employers from moving out of our county.

With bipartisan support on your side, you were able to maintain a reserve fund of over $80 million and you also downsized the County’s budget by over 10% without layoffs. This happened after your first year in office (2008) when you had a $30 million gap. Is it possible that lightning could strike twice, again in 2013, with the new board and given how the economy is shaping up this year?

The financial foundation of the County is very strong and we are now better prepared to weather cyclical downturns or even a worsening of the current economic situation. Achieving the pension and pay reforms has been huge to our overall picture, and we couldn’t have done it without the cooperation of our employees. They’ve really stepped up, and we’re in good shape despite the usual challenges (the state and federal governmental dysfunction).

“Yes, I am pugnacious and yes, I have a wicked sense of humor. But when people turn to me for help they get someone who knows how to get things done…”

Which of your key positions on issues do you think galvanized your 3rd District and resulted in your reelection in June of this year by a sizable margin?

Having been in every neighborhood and nearly every street in my district (walking precincts and speaking to people at the door), I have a fairly good sense of what my constituents care about and I try to be as reflective of that as possible. People on the left (which is the majority in my district) like my leadership on poverty issues and environmental protection, and people who hew more to the right like my hands-on involvement with the business community and my willingness to take on leadership responsibilities.

You had a fairly unprecedented re-election campaign, given the lengths people went to in order to reduce your re-election chances. Some of your critics focused heavily on a telephone call you made to someone, jokingly impersonating your political opponent at the time. Later, a critic of yours even attempted to impersonate you by registering an official-sounding domain referring to your re-election campaign. When you decided to run for re-election—which you eventually won by 16 percentage points—did you expect this sort of outcry from critics? What is it about you that your critics just don’t “get”? Is it partly your sense of humor, or the “Jersey boy” in you in the way you handled it?

It’s also no secret that you have been the ongoing target of scrutiny by a controversial local tabloid website. In one piece, they claimed that you’d gone on a campaign to smear their reputation and “shut down” their site in retaliation over articles they previously wrote about you and your private life. Or, is it actually the other way around and they’re the ones trying to smear your reputation? Which is it? Or is there something else going on here behind the curtain?

I’ll be candid: my loudest adversaries are really small, vile people, people who care nothing about the truth and care even less about how their actions damage civic culture. Whether we are talking about Congalton, Velie, or two guys who run COLAB, you have people who have staked financial interests in making their followers feel outraged and bitter. It’s not what I would want to do for a living, promoting polarization and distrust, but those folks seem rather content.

But you know what? They matter very little to most of the community. They occupy their little bubble of venom, they pollute a very small sluice of the public discourse, and I have found over the past few months that if I completely ignore them, I am much happier. The three factions I mentioned above—they are going to have to recalibrate if they derive joy from making me miserable because I pay them absolutely no attention anymore. They cannot beat me in an election no matter how much they try (and try they have and still do).  But they can get a small group of angry people to send me death threats or stalk me and I suppose that is satisfying to them.

As for my “Jersey boy” attitude, yes, I am pugnacious and yes, I have a wicked sense of humor. But when people turn to me for help they get someone who knows how to get things done, who is not afraid to push and politick and make things happen. I haven’t worked as hard as I have to sit politely and vote at hearings and do little else. I did this and keep doing this to improve our community. Sometimes that requires a little bit of the ‘punch & hug’ politics that I learned in the east coast that doesn’t always play well here among the more uptight and righteous.

But I am happy with what I am able to achieve and ask anyone who has worked closely with me on an issue or a project and they will tell you that my candor is appreciated and my cut-through-the-nonsense approach gets results.

Coming Soon: Part 2

News of the Day Digest (3/13/12)

News of the Day Digest for March 13, 2002

Pot Shop Snuffed in Oceano

Last week the County Board of Supervisors reversed a Planning Commission decision made in November to approve a medical marijuana dispensary in a house on 4th Street in Oceano. But that may not be the end of the controversy in Oceano or the County, which presently has no dispensaries and dim prospects. Tammy Murray, owner-to-be of the rejected dispensary, told The ROCK she has consulted her lawyer and is seriously thinking of filing suit against the County. She is convinced that supervisors Bruce Gibson, who is pro-dispensary, Adam Hill and Jim Patterson voted against their “hearts” and caved into political and inter-agency pressures, primarily from Sheriff Ian Parkinson, who spoke persuasively at the March 6 Board of Supervisors meeting about potential related crime and residents’ concerns. Residents complained the dispensary would be situated on a poorly-lit street close to homes, elderly and children, and bring unwanted traffic. Murray responded that she had observed every law, dispensary signage would be well lit, ample parking provided, and visitations would be strictly monitored as well as by appointment only. Murray told The ROCK that the Supervisors, who lauded Murray for her detailed plan, should “grow a pair” and reverse their reversal of Planning’s decision – or she might take them to court to crack what she believes is SLO’s illegal medical marijuana prohibition. “People who need marijuana will have to get it from streets dealers,” said Murray. With legal challenges mounting on both sides of the issue, including one attempting to quash dispensaries by making them grow what they sell at the same location, Murray doesn’t expect any resolution on the legality of dispensaries in California for up to two years. So medical pot smokers shouldn’t hold their breath for a medical marijuana dispensary opening in San Luis Obispo County anytime soon.

 

Controversial Paso Robles Police Chief Taking Leave

Paso Robles Police Department confirmed today that controversial police chief Lisa Solomon was on leave, but it was unclear as to what kind of leave it was. Paso Robles Police Captain Robert Burton has taken over her position until she returns on March 22. Solomon has been accused of engaging in conduct unbecoming of an officer including sexual harassment of male officers and imposing policies that concerned many residents in the area. She has been accused of misconduct that started in 2007 when she was appointed to the job. Several have come to her defense, including current County Supervisor Frank Mecham, who was a member of the Paso Robles City Council that endorsed staff recommendation to appoint her. Paso Robles City Council is currently investigating the allegations.

Downtown Parking Meters in San Luis Obispo Receive Improvements

Parking meters in San Luis Obispo will start taking credit cards and will have an increased hourly rate. 400 new parking meters will be installed from Wednesday to Friday. Changes will include an increase in the hourly rate to $1.25, which is up 25 cents from the previous rate. City Parking Services says the hourly rate is increased so that it encourages visitors — who plan on parking for extended periods — to use the parking structures. The news comes after the San Luis Obispo City Council voted to charge for Sunday parking later this year. Revenue is expected to net at least $385,610 annually. But some residents are unhappy about the new changes, saying that plans would make parking unaffordable in the city. Others have agreed with Parking Services manager Robert Horch, who said in a news release, “Without enough parking, people will be less likely to visit downtown in the future.”

Steve Bridges, Political Impersonator, Dead at 48

Steve Bridges, an actor famous for impersonating the likes of former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Barack Obama, passed away today at the age of 48.

His brother, Phillip, told the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Bridges was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment. An autopsy has been scheduled to determine the cause of death,.

Mr. Bridges’ web site issued a statement, which reads, “Steve brought joy and laughter to millions and was a great inspiration to all who knew him. He will be sadly missed. Our prayers go to his family at this time.”

Mr. Bridges had a local, but controversial connection to the Central Coast. On June 2011, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill accused the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) — and the fundraiser’s master of ceremonies Andy Caldwell — of racism for having Mr. Bridges impersonate President Obama at a fundraiser scheduled by State Senator Sam Blaskeslee. Pressured by Supervisor Hill, Mr. Blakeslee postponed the fundraiser. Mr. Hill later apologized to COLAB for his “strident remarks.”