‘We will look at this situation as a temporary setback for them and continue educating the public as to the many problems associated with a National Sanctuary system,” said Jeremiah O’Brien of the MBCFO. ‘We will be interested in the content of the new proposal as the rejection letter described many of its deficiencies in the area of management, which is the area that has many of us here on the Central Coast concerned.’
In a March 6 letter to Fred Collins of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, promoters of a proposed, new Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary off the Central Coast, Daniel Basta, Director of of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, stated: “The nomination, as submitted, is not sufficient to more forward with a more detailed review.”
Mr. Collins submitted the nomination seeking national sanctuary status for the Chumash Marine Sanctuary on February 2.
While the proposal in no longer currently eligible of review, Mr. Basta suggests in his letter that Mr. Collins could resubmit his nomination after responding adequately to all the information, national significance criteria and management considerations required by NOAA to move forward.
Responding to the announcement, Jeremiah O’Brien, Director of the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization, said: “It appears the reasons [for rejecting the nomination] were lack of information and incomplete data on the application. The letter of rejection seems to encourage them to resubmit their proposal.
“Many of us have been trying to educate the public as to why it is not a good idea to turn over our ocean and beaches to federal control,” Mr. O’Brien told The ROCK. “We, therefore, will look at this situation as a temporary setback for them and continue educating the public as to the many problems associated with a National Sanctuary system. We will be interested in the content of the new proposal as the rejection letter described many of its deficiencies in the area of management. This is the area that has many of us here on the Central Coast concerned.”
Concluded Mr. O’Brien, “Losing or giving up control of our resources to federal management would be a shame. We believe our community is the best manager and steward or our coast, and our past performance speaks for itself. We only have to walk outside our door, take a deep breath, look around, and realize we have done well, and we will continue that tradition on our own.”
The Chumash Sanctuary proposal is supported by the Santa Lucia chapter of the Sierra Club and District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson.
‘Once we take on these additional layers of bureaucracy and find out in the future about the problems it causes, we will not be able to turn back.’
By JEREMIAH O’BRIEN Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization
Well, the sanctuary question is back on the table. This issue seems to arise every few years since Monterey got their sanctuary. This one is in the form of the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. The commercial fishermen in our county are unanimously against it, and we have spoken to various sport fishing groups and have yet to find any one of these groups in support of a sanctuary in our area.
The sanctuary issue is a very big concern, not only for the fishing industry, but the entire county. This is an issue that should not be taken lightly. When we invite the federal government to take over control of our resources, we, meaning our communities, will lose the ability to manage our beaches, our ocean, our ports and our harbors.
The cost to communities for additional federal regulations governing areas such as runoff and discharges, currently administered by local and state government, will increase dramatically. These costs will severely impact our harbors and ports, increasing the difficulty for projects necessary for their operations, such as, dredging, soil samples, construction of docks and slips, as well as maintaining structures that are currently in place. Once we take on these additional layers of bureaucracy and find out in the future about the problems it causes, we will not be able to turn back.
Proponents of the National Marine Sanctuary issue have proclaimed there will be no loss of local control. Unfortunately, this is not true as “National Marine Sanctuary” clearly implies management will not be local but rather at the Federal level.
California Marine Affairs and Navigation Conference, or C-MANC, is a group of all of California’s harbors and the cities affiliated with those harbors. This group encompasses the area from San Diego to Crescent City, the entire length of our state, and deals directly in many of these areas with National Marine Sanctuaries, such as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, and the Channel Island National Marine Sanctuary.
C-MANC has issued a legislative policy statement concerning marine sanctuaries, which consists of a list of five problems. Some of those problems include disposal of dredge materials, and requirements to the already burdensome federal and state processes, vessel traffic, fishing regulations, either direct or indirect, and general maintenance issues. And finally, C-MANC’s legislative policy reads: “C-MANC recommends suspending the expansion of existing sanctuaries until the problems identified above are resolved.” We should remember these are the representatives of their respective areas, many who are living under the umbrella of the National Marine Sanctuaries.
Our county, cities, towns, and commercial and sport fishermen have long been very outstanding stewards of our ocean. We work with many state, federal and environmental groups, as well as universities and colleges. The Central Coast has been the “poster child” of how to do things right in many discussions and meetings held in California, on the East Coast as well as our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. And finally, it is important to remember the amount of fishing grounds closed to some form of fishing, those include Marine Protected Areas, Essential Fish Habitat Areas, and Rock Cod Conservation Areas. I think we can be very proud of our stewardship of the Central Coast.
I guess I just love the Central Coast, and when my wife and I step outside and look around, we remind ourselves every single day of what we have here. We do not think additional layers of bureaucracy would be in the best interest or add to the beauty of this area.
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.
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.
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.
The ROCK believes that District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson should resign as soon as possible.
According to local news reports, Gibson admitted to having an extramarital affair with his legislative assistant, Cherie Aispuro. This news motivated us to look at his record — given that he’s lobbied for his positions as a “moral obligation.” When a politician supports their arguments on a personal, moral plane and they do something that is widely considered to be immoral, that should give their constituents some pause. The ROCK researched Gibson’s positions, words and decisions extensively — and we believe that Gibson no longer deserves the title “Supervisor.”
Bruce Gibson supports PG&E’s high-energy seismic survey (HESS), which was unanimously rejected by the California Coastal Commission. At the October 4 Morro Bay Business Forum, Gibson opposed the proposed project — emphasis on the proposed — because the project did not adequately satisfy the conditions set by the Board of Supervisors. As stated in the Board’s August 7, 2012 letter, the conditions were “(1) all environmental impacts are fully understood and mitigated to the maximum degree possible, (2) all unavoidable economic impacts are fully and fairly compensated; and (3) the technical details of the survey have been subjected to independent third-party review by industry-qualified experts to confirm that the best available technology is applied to this crucial investigation.”
However, the conditions he pushed for are undermined by his support for the HESS. He’s gone on public record with his unequivocal endorsement of a survey that, by its very nature and process, makes any mitigation efforts ineffective and ultimately futile. He’s repeatedly pushed for the use of what he calls a “state-of-the-art” oil-industry vessel that, he claims, would spend less time in the water, tow a larger array of sensors than the smaller R/V Marcus Langseth vessel (PG&E’s vessel of choice), which would theoretically shorten the survey time in the water and therefore incur less damage to the environment — yet the impacts would still ultimately yield the same lethal result for a few less days, given the continuous, devastating air gun blasts being utilized.
Secondly, sources close to the commercial fishing organizations negotiating with PG&E told The ROCK that Gibson, himself, was not wholly committed to reinforcing Condition No. 2 because he feels that the benefits of using HESS — to “ensure public health and safety” — outweigh the economic and environmental impacts that would likely occur as a result of the test. Compensation was not a high priority for Gibson, who has met with commercial fishermen organizations several times to discuss HESS. Gibson did not push for any guarantees that the fishermen would be compensated “fully and fairly” nor did he specifically define what would constitute “full and fair.” The ambiguity of that condition offers no guarantees that the fishermen would be compensated fully, fairly or in a timely manner — or that he would halt the test until that cornerstone condition was met.
For Condition No. 3, Gibson volunteered for the independent third-party review since he’s versed in exploration seismology. However, we don’t see his involvement as having any additional benefit to the County communities he’s supposed to be representing, other than sharpening his resume for a future campaign, and forcing the County to rely solely on his expertise; for he is anything but independent, and this misguided leadership very nearly cost Morro Bay its very existence.
Gibson has a serious problem with who he believes he’s working for. The Coastal Commission unanimously believed that HESS was not feasible; the very nature of the test was deemed environmentally and economically destructive whether or not conditions were attached. At that meeting, hundreds of people — concerned citizens, commercial and recreational fishermen associations, environmental groups, city representatives and coalitions — joined the Commission in opposing the project. Several thousand people were being represented by those who drove to Santa Monica on Wednesday, November 14, to say no to acoustic seismic testing. Moments after the meeting adjourned, against a background of celebration, Gibson chose to stand beside PG&E and their spokesman Blair Jones, instead of the people who fought tirelessly to protect their way of life against them.
Gibson maintained that he was concerned for public safety and that there was a “moral obligation” to perform HESS.
Before HESS — and up to this day — Gibson has found no moral obligation to critically assess the seismic impacts of the Los Osos wastewater project, only nearby Diablo Canyon. The gravity collection sewer system is located in a County-documented high-risk liquefaction zone, and there are currently no hard mitigation measures in place or built into the design of the system should a large-scale earthquake strike the seaside community of 15,000 residents. According to the project’s 2008 environmental impact report, liquefaction impacts would be “considerable and therefore significant” if a gravity system was used. It was Gibson who aggressively and unilaterally pushed for the removal of all feasible project alternatives and fought to eliminate open bidding, thus focusing exclusively on a seismically hazardous solution that he repeatedly and emphatically refused to assess. Ironically, Gibson wanted to pursue high-energy seismic surveys because he wanted more data about the fault lines surrounding the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, yet he pushed for a sewer solution — which costs more than twice the seismic survey itself — that had empirical evidence of nearby fault lines eventually causing “considerable and significant impacts.”
Since early 2006, The ROCK has rigorously tracked progress with the Los Osos wastewater project. We’ve criticized Gibson’s approach and his decisions, which he said were often based on his “morals.” We’ve transcribed hours of Gibson cruelly mocking and verbally abusing Los Osos residents from the dais. We’ve witnessed his contempt for those who contested his policies, his morals and his integrity. When his character was questioned, he scoffed at the naysayers and resorted to insults and pious grandstanding instead of arguing the merits of his positions. He’s refused to answer questions on the record, respond to calls and e-mails from Los Osos residents. He’s refused to comply with public records requests. He’s given deference to residents who tout his ideology. He courts the naive with his superficial charm, confidence and stoical assertiveness. He resoundingly dismisses his dissidents, especially those who maintained their civility and courtesy. Regardless, Gibson touts the process as being “transparent” — perhaps as transparent as the secrets he’s kept from his loved ones and constituents who deserve to know he’s kept a double life.
Gibson knows how extramarital affairs damage the County government’s reputation. In May 2009, former County Administrator David Edge and his second-in-command, Assistant County Administrator Gail Wilcox, were accused of having an inappropriate relationship, which stemmed from Edge reportedly sexually harassing Wilcox. By July 29 that year, it was revealed that Wilcox and Tony Perry of the Deputy Sheriffs Association had a sexual relationship while the two were involved in collective bargaining. At the time, Gibson — who was Chairman of the Board of Supervisors at the time — steered clear of giving a personal opinion of the improprieties taking place. He tried to expedite the investigation, hoping it would go away and not define his term as Chair. The scandal made local headlines in 2009, and it continues to be cited every time a sexual faux pas involving government employees is mentioned.
But on November 16, 2012, he became synonymous with the Gail-Wilcox brand and helped cement the County government’s reputation as an anything-goes fraternity of flawed, self-righteous egoists — though we know that there are County employees who don’t pledge these same values. They are also victims because earning public trust on County initiatives is now arguably harder to achieve, if not less credible in their entirety for the unnatural weight Gibson carries on the Board.
Gibson violated the public trust in very significant ways. His affair is emblematic of that deception. The violation of public trust is no longer debatable. Asserting that Gibson violated the public trust can no longer be considered a vindictive exaggeration or a flippant dismissal of his record — though his record is contradictory and, in hindsight, anything but exemplary. He has become a polarizing force and sacrificed the well-being of many he calls his constituents to further his deeply flawed moral agenda. He’s hurt the people he claims to represent, not to mention his family — in other words, his most loyal constituents. By remaining in office, he will show the County that power is more important than policy and morality, that ambition trumps reason and respect, that supreme arrogance is rewarded. Resigning his seat immediately would help restore the County’s core integrity and usher in a new, long-overdue era of self-accountability.
We urge Bruce Gibson to resign for the greater good.
UPDATE: [11-6-12] SLO COUNTY SUPERVISORS SUPPORT DELAY TO REDESIGN PG&E’S HIGH-ENERGY TEST. In a November 1 letter to the California Coastal Commission, the SLO County Board of Supervisors recommended that the Commission deny PG&E a permit to conduct a 3D high-energy seismic survey off the Central Coast this year.
“After reviewing our previous recommendations and hearing over four hours of public testimony,” the letter said, “we are of the unanimous opinion that your Commission should not approve the application for the project as currently proposed.”
The Nov. 1 letter cites the same reasons for opposing the test now as provided in the Board’s August 7 letter to the State Lands Commission and concludes: “None of the three conditions listed have been met.” Those three conditions were: “All environment impacts are fully understood and mitigated to the maximum degree possible; all unavoidable economic impacts are fully and fairly implemented; and the technical details of the survey design have been subjected to independent third-party review by industry-qualified experts to confirm that the best available technology is applied…”
While the letter claimed to factor “over four hours of public testimony” into the Board’s decision-making process, practically all of that testimony was opposed to the test in any form, not for it, even with conditions. The letter reiterated unanimous Board support for the high-energy test: “We acknowledge that a three-dimensional high-energy survey could provide essential information…”
Conspicuously absent from the Board’s letter was any request for more information about less-invasive alternative technologies to 3D high energy, or any details as to how “full and fair” compensation to the fishermen would be determined and by who, or how the independence and impartiality of the Independent Review Panel would be assured. [END 11-6-12 UPDATE]
UPDATE: [10-9-12] BOARD OF SUPERVISORS AGENDIZES SEISMIC TEST ISSUE FOR OCT. 30th RECOMMENDATION TO COASTAL COMMISSION. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors moved on Oct. 9 to add PG&E’s planned offshore seismic test to its Oct. 30 action agenda, when testimony will again be heard from PG&E as well as from opponents to the test. Said Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who has aggressively promoted the overall test: “Our action on the 30th will be as a matter of making a recommendation. This board does not have regulatory authority over the actions regarding the operation of Diablo Canyon and, for the most part, not on the actions of this seismic testing. It lies outside our jurisdiction… (Regarding a member of the public’s) continued suggestion that we have somehow failed to exercise the small amount of land use authority we have, there is no way in which we could condition the seismic testing based on the very small bit of land use onshore in the County that’s currently proposed in (PG&E’s) Coastal Commission proposal. In any case that’s all appealable to the Coastal Commission and the Coastal Commission will be taking it up in its meeting in mid November.”
Supervisor Gibson suggested to the Board that the Oct. 30 meeting “might be to refine and confirm, or modify or otherwise state our current position as explicitly as possible, regards our recommendation as to what the Coastal Commission can do. As while we don’t have a specific regulatory authority, I think we absolutely do have a moral responsibility to represent the big issues that surround us and the interests of our community.” (END OCT. 9 UPDATE)
ORIGINAL ARTICLE [10-9-12]: SUPERVISOR GIBSON OPPOSES PG&E’S SEISMIC TEST — WITHOUT INDIE REVIEW AND ‘BEST TECH’
San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, one of the driving forces behind PG&E’s Central Coast 3D high-energy seismic survey planned to start in November off the Central Coast, is now opposing the revised test as presented by PG&E to the California Coastal Commission. Speaking at a business forum in Morro Bay on October 4, Supervisor Gibson stated he would not support the test.
Clarifying “the board’s and his position regarding the seismic test” in a email to a Morro Bay resident, the Supervisor’s legislative assistant, Cherie Aispuro, wrote: “Supervisor Gibson’s comments of Oct. 4th were that since no independent review has since been conducted that he personally interprets the Boards stated position as one of opposition to the proposal that is currently before the Coastal Commission. He also noted that there is not at this time an explicit Board approved statement regarding the specific Coastal Commission item, but believes his interpretation is reasonable. Any decision on whether to pursue further consideration of this matter would have to be made by the Board as a whole.”
The County Board of Supervisors is on record supporting the seismic test. In its August 7, 2012 letter to the State Lands Commission, the Board stated that if high-energy seismic surveys are conducted, according to Ms. Aispuro’s email, they “must” have the “least possible environmental impacts,” use the “best possible science,” and PG&E must compensate all affected businesses “fully and fairly.”
Supervisor Gibson and the Board, led in this matter by the Supervisor, a former seismologist, believes that “independent review of the survey design is required before work begins…” The Board forwarded the same position statement to the Coastal Commission in a Sept. 17, 2012 letter. Independent review is apparently not as yet in place and, like the fishermens compensation issue, resolution lags far behind PG&E’s timeline to start the test.
Supervisor Gibson has continued to request a different ship to conduct the survey, rather than the vessel contracted by PG&E. He is optimistic that his choice of ship would prevail through independent review and believes it would better represent the Board’s definition of “best possible science.”
Days after three Department of Fish & Game Commissioners recommended on September 24 that their department director not issue a scientific collection permit for the test, and just over a week before the California Coastal Commission was scheduled to meet on issuing the project a Coastal permit, PG&E revised its proposal to the Coastal Commission, scaling back its controversial $64 million survey to seismic testing only in Zone 4 in Estero Bay, off the coast of Cayucos, Morro Bay and Los Osos.
Major environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club and newly formed C.O.A.S.T alliance, are opposed to the test on environmental and economic grounds, which Gibson is not, and their positions have not changed with PG&E’s fall-back to Zone 4.
Proof of pollution or not, the Los Osos sewer is coming to the embattled little Central Coast town by the bay this summer.
The announcement by 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson in the Tribune on March 20th overshadowed that afternoon’s update of the Los Osos Wastewater Project for the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and public. At the update the supervisors approved a contract with Carollo Engineers of Walnut Creek for about $943,000 to design the project’s wastewater treatment plant, and another contract for $898,000 with Far Western Anthropological Research Group of Davis for archaeological services.
Supervisor Gibson, sewer project whip on the board, whose district includes Los Osos, told the Tribune he is “confident” construction will begin on time despite a petition by the Los Osos Sustainability Group, comprised of knowledgeable Los Osos residents, asking the California Coastal Commission to revoke the County’s permit for the project based on the use or false or misleading false information to obtain the permit.
Gibson, known for his supreme confidence and less than supreme predicting skills, believes his confidence is well founded this time. Dan Carl, Central Coast Supervisor for the Coastal Commission, told the Tribune, in the Tribune’s words, that “the request (to revoke the permit) could cause delays in the project because it will take staff time away from verifying that the county has met its permit conditions.” Carl is satisfied that the County has met its permit conditions. The Tribune has worked closely with government agencies to promote the project, and Carl’s public message can be taken as a strong signal of the Commission’s predisposition against the LOSG’s revocation request.
As a result, the likelihood of the revocation is viewed as a “moon shot” by most observers, with little chance of succeeding since the petitioners must prove intent to deceive, or willful negligence by the County, and a majority of the Coastal Commission, a ‘sister’ state agency to the County, must agree. Based on the information on hand, Gibson feels secure speaking publicly that the revocation request will not disrupt the County’s timetable.
Barring a surprise 11th-hour reprieve that halts the start of construction, only one question remains for the 5,000 homeowners saddled with paying the cost of the $189 million project: Will the long, drawn-out Los Osos sewer debate finally come to an end when the tractors roll and digging starts in earnest at the end of July, if in fact it does?
Based on the reaction of sticker-shocked Los Osos homeowners speaking at public comment during the project update, the answer is clearly no. Most of the speakers were disappointed at the brevity of the County’s presentation, and dismayed at the failure of Public Works staff to address the many outstanding issues related to the costly project. Not the least of these inadequately addressed issues is the fate of a select group of 5,000 homeowners in an officially-declared “disadvantaged community” faced with having to pay an average sewer bill of $250 a month for 30 to 40 years.
The meeting was tightly controlled by Chairman Jim Patterson who interrupted each speaker who ventured even a second over the allotted three minutes of public comment. His over-bearing response to speakers exceeding the three-minute limit, which resulted in him erroneously cutting off two Los Osos speakers in the board’s morning session, did not prevent speakers from lambasting the County over the project for a wide variety of reasons. (See REACTION CAPSULES below.)
Several Los Osos residents were sharply critical of the quality of the update and the County’s performance in general in shaping the project, the largest in County history, and explaining its murky benefits to ratepayers. Linde Owen called Carollo Engineers and associates “crooks,” and Ben DiFatta said the Carollo contract had “the smell of suspicion of a lot of corruption.”
Responding to those comments Gibson said: “Miss Owen’s characterization of our staff as ‘crooks’ and Mr. DiFatta’s reference to the ‘smell of corruption’ are both outrageous and deeply offensive. I believe they skirt the edge of being libelous. and I believe they are worthy of an apology to the individuals involved.”
After Patterson threatened to remove two stunned elderly Los Osos residents he accused of calling out in chambers, Gibson added, “That again continues a pattern of behavior that’s unfortunate.”
Asked if they had an apology to offer, DiFatta told The ROCK: “Gibson should apologize to Los Osos for proposing the most expensive sewer in the country per capita. Gibson should apologize to the several thousand property owners and 7,000-9,000 people that will have to move out of their homes because of his insistence to build an antiquated, over-priced, unaffordable gravity collection system. Gibson should apologize to the businesses that have and or will go out of business due to people not having discretionary funds to spend on food, entertainment, furniture, medicine, gasoline, auto purchases, sports activities for their children, etc. throughout this County. Many things he and his sewer staff have done throughout this ordeal are suspicious, especially when his gravity proposal is $50 to $100 million more than other alternatives.”
“I have no reason to apologize,” Owen told The ROCK. “If anything, Public Works Director Ogren and Supervisor Gibson should apologize to Los Osos for putting the community through six years of hell and giving us the most expensive project per capita in state and U.S. history – which they promised they would remedy.”
Los Osos BOS Public Comment Capsules Excerpts from public comment by Los Osos residents at the March 20th Board of Supervisors meeting update on the wastewater project:
Elaine Watson, speaking on behalf of the Los Osos Sustainability Group, explaining why they filed for revocation of the Coastal permit for the sewer: “Having exhausted all recourse available to us we were left with no other options. There’s hardly any issue in this revocation that we didn’t bring to you first and many times. And gentleman, I want to remind you that we’re citizens trying to remedy a train wreck… Has anyone here (the Board of Supervisors and staff) read the revocation request yet…? Judging by no response I’m assuming that you haven’t…”
Julie Tacker: “What I wanted to see in an update (and didn’t) was some progress on a second 218, an explanation for our Habitat Conservation Plan, the firing of one consultant, and the new RFP that’s out, and we are hiring another. I wanted an update on the grant that’s proposed for our LCP [Local Coastal Permit], a groundwater management plan. I wanted Coastal conditions laid out in front of me. I want you to know not one of the 180-some conditions that the project must meet has been approved by the Coastal Commission. Regional Water Control Board has their conditions, USDA has conditions, State Revolving Fund has conditions, the purchase of the Giacomazzi site – you have to record a public lot on top of the purchase. You do have to go through an eminent domain process. The roads-and-drainage “show” that came to Los Osos has damage outside the approved footprint for the Coastal Development Permit. A recycled water management plan, a Habitat Management Plan, progress with the ISJ, the Tri-W restoration – what does that mean? The pump house was moved to the library. It’s above ground, Mr. Gibson. You told LOCAC it was a below-ground facility. I want to hear about your trip to Washington and the bags of money you brought back. There’s monitoring programs, there’s decommissioning of septic tanks, there’s sign plans, lighting plans, ag easements, protection of the ag land, conservation. At the beginning of your due diligence it started a one-year clock, that clock was met a week ago.”
Bo Cooper: “At the last project update it was said, “Nobody should have to leave their home to pay for a sewer.” Later on a TAC draft report said, “The Prohibition Zone residents who will be paying for the project are predominantly middle and lower-income people. For some, any increase in their monthly cash outflow will be disastrous.” But then that last part was taken out for political reasons because they wanted to have the sewer… Paavo’s letter to the State Water Board in November 2011 (read): “According to the Wastewater User Chart Survey Report published by the State Water Board, the monthly cost to Los Osos property owners would be the highest in the state for similar population served and nearly five times the state average.” It’s just out of control. That same letter talked about affordability benchmarks – the EPA is 2% (of annual median household income), the USDA and Dept. of Public Health benchmark is 1.5%. So if it’s $217 (a month average sewer bill) — but it will really be about $250 – 2% is $130,000 (median household income), at 2% of $250, which is more likely, a household has to have a median household income of $150,000. At 1.5% which is USDA, which half our money comes from, 1.5% of $217, you have to have an income of $174,000, and last but not least, 1.5% of $250, you have to have a median household income of $200,000 – almost nobody has that. It’s completely unaffordable.”
Jeff Edwards: “I object to sole-souring the contract before you to Carollo Engineers. They don’t need the $25 million design/build contract – they have every other contract is this County for engineering services. You may remember your master water plan, I mean study, that you recently considered – I think you changed the name to a study because it was of such poor quality – they did that. They’re actually the go-to engineering firm for your public works director. In fact, their total (on the Los Osos sewer project) with this contract is up to about $3 million. That goes with their other building partners, and they all come from the same community of Walnut Creek up north. We know HDR got a contract for $7.6 million, CDM $5 million, so the numbers for engineering just keep going up. The reasons given to you (the Board) for sole-sourcing this to them by your Public Works department are disingenuous. The only reason they gave it to them was because they wanted to, not because of familiarity or timing… Last Thursday, the Regional Water Quality Board met in San Luis Obispo, and apparently it’s (the treatment plant) a recycled water facility. What you neglected to give the Regional Board staff is the Recycled Water Management Plan. Their staff was quite surprised. It’s been out since late last year – they don’t have a copy, or at least didn’t until we gave them one. The Regional Board wants to hear from you. In fact, Mr. Gibson, they want to hear from him on May 3rd what’s going on… I’d like to close by asking, why did we take $18 million of grant money and reduce our low-interest rate Clean Water/State Revolving Fund loan? Instead of taking it out of the more expensive USDA loan, we’ve taken it out of the cheaper money. It defies logic.”
Linde Owen: “The presentation is definitely lacking. I could have brought the other 24 items that are still not being addressed in a project update. This (update) was basically to tell us about the new sole-sourcing (to Carollo)… Your Recommendation No. 3 (on the staff report) is to waive board approval of expenditures so that this group of crooks, I’m going to call them right now, will not have to get your permission to spend over $25,000 on any item, so here we go. We’re just opening up the doors to take our money, take all the money you want and have a good time with this project. Let’s see if we can’t make it even more expensive… Carollo Engineering, the “Love Boat” I call them, want $942, 669 to design a sewer plant that was “shovel ready,” Mr. Gibson. Were you misinformed? Did Mr. Ogren not tell you that it wasn’t shovel ready – or did you just go along with him and go to Washington to see if you could get some of that money? It isn’t shovel ready and we all knew that, but now we’re going to pay another million to keep upgrading something that’s basically copy-paste.”
Ben DiFatta: “This project lacks common sense. It’s way over your heads, and you’re now going to spend another $2 million for studies that have already been done. Didn’t we already pay for this once or twice? Why do these things have to be done again? Can’t you modify the old studies?… The same old cronies, the sole-source, no-bid contract (to Carollo) has the smell of suspicion of a lot of corruption here going on. Why didn’t you have the bidders choose their teams and then bid all the costs, instead of always going to the board for more money?”
Gewynn Taylor: “…Now again you are going outside to get Carollo Engineering involved in a project. When they were doing the Basin Plan for the County they got the water distribution from the Los Osos water basin coming from Morro Bay! How in the world can you trust an engineering firm that can’t even get it straight where Los Osos gets its water? This is ridiculous. Not only that but the nitrate well-testing has been requested by the Regional Water Board again, and not just requested, they are advising this board to approve the nitrate testing and do it now, not at the time that this sewer plant has been installed and is producing water. (Regional Board staff) was directed on Match 15th to get to you and let you know what they are asking. This board has not put out the information that is required or is necessary for the development of this project. If you take the word of your Public Works staff alone, you are setting yourself up for a lot of disruption and a lot of problems…”
For her public comment, Dr. C. Hite presented a three-minute film tribute to Los Osos citizens who have spoken out against the County’s project for six years, and been the object of scorn, verbal abuse, and Brown Act violations by the Board of Supervisors. Dr. Hite’s short film depicted the citizens as heroes.
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.
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.”