Bouquets and Brickbats

Replacing a supervisor needs work

Having the governor appoint one takes too long and may not reflect county’s values

letters@thetribunenews.comJuly 1, 2013 

Paul Teixeira talks to a guest at his party in Nipomo after the election in 2010.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A bludgeon-shaped brickbat is en route to Sacramento, for mandating that the governor fill vacancies on county boards of supervisors. There should at least be the option of holding a special election, as there is with city councils. Or why not allow existing board members to appoint, and if they deadlock, the governor steps in as a last resort?

There are a few things that bother us about the current appointment process, which is dictated by government code:

• Regardless of who is sitting in the governor’s chair, that person is not in a position to know what’s going on in SLO County as well as those who live here.

• There’s a strong possibility that a partisan governor will appoint someone from his own party, even if the seat had been held by someone with a different political ideology, as is the case with Paul Teixeira.

• It takes too darn long. According to SLO County Counsel Rita Neal, it could be several months before an appointment is made.

Given the current split on the board — two liberals and two conservatives — that could leave the supervisors hopelessly deadlocked on some important issues.

While we want the governor’s office to thoroughly vet candidates, we urge that it do so as expeditiously as possible. We really don’t have several months to spare.

Atascadero chooses manager wisely

Newly appointed Atascadero City Manager Rachelle Rickard earns a congratulatory bouquet for a well-deserved promotion. Rickard, 48, has worked for the city for 16 years — including 15 years as administrative services director. Tribune columnist Lon Allan, who reported on the city of Atascadero for 25 years, offered this description: “She is no-nonsense friendly. When she answers a question, you actually understand her. She has flawlessly managed the almost $40 million overhaul of the City Administration Building, and from everything else I know of her, she plays well with others.”

The City Council made a wise decision in unanimously choosing someone with a solid reputation who also knows the city inside and out.

One sour note: News that departing City Manager Wade McKinney will walk away with more than $135,000 in unused vacation and sick time.

As pointed out by the county grand jury last year, Atascadero has a policy of limiting vacation accrual but had not enforced it for 20 years. The city has since taken steps to remedy that, but McKinney still had 1,180 hours of unused vacation, leaving taxpayers on the hook in a big way.

County dropping the ball on water

We already know that the Paso Robles groundwater basin is in trouble and that wine grapes are consuming around 67 percent of the supply pumped from the basin. Given that, the sensible step would be to call a time-out on vineyard expansions.

Yet as Tribune writer Julie Lynem reported Thursday, as many as 3,000 to 8,000 acres of wine grapes could be planted in the near future. We don’t have a more specific figure, because the county doesn’t track that information. Nor does it require conservation measures.

Even if county supervisors remedy that in the future — which is no sure bet — it will likely be after thousands of additional acres are planted. It reminds us of the old adage about closing the barn door after the horse is gone … except in this case, the barn door is still wide open. For that, the county gets a barn full of brickbats.

Competition good for aquarium site

We toss a whale of a bouquet to the three Morro Bay City Council members – Mayor Jamie Irons and Councilmembers Noah Smukler and Christine Johnson — who voted to seek new proposals for the Morro Bay Aquarium building, rather than extend the existing lease for 10 more years.

The current lessees will be able to submit a proposal — which is only fair — but other individuals or organizations interested in marine education also will have the opportunity to submit ideas.

That’s good; it’s time to modernize the aging facility, for the sake of the marine life housed there, for visitors to the aquarium and for the city, which is entitled to a share of the revenue.

We look forward to seeing what the future holds for this key piece of property on the Embarcadero.

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