Supervisor Adam Hill’s apology to a local organization for self-described “strident” remarks he made last week has not been accepted by the organization’s executive director, Andy Caldwell, who released his own statement criticizing Hill early Thursday.
But after meeting a short while later, both men said they want to move forward constructively.
In the statement sent to The Tribune on Thursday, Caldwell criticizes Hill for calling the Coalition for Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) “hostile, secretive and racist,” and he calls Hill’s apology “weak.”
Caldwell said he didn’t consider Hill’s apology legitimate because he didn’t take responsibility for associating COLAB with racists.
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Hill told The Tribune that he thought the Thursday morning meeting was “candid” and “constructive.”
“We shook hands and we seemed to agree,” Hill said. “We left agreeing to tone down the rhetoric.”
“I’m done with any (more) fighting,” Hill added. “I’m hoping to move on.”
In his statement, Caldwell wrote that Hill is “attacking” his organization “for the simple reason that we are exposing things about San Luis Obispo County government that he would rather the public not know.”
He cited “the insurmountable debt burden of county government, the over-reaching of the Planning Department as it undermines property values in the county, (and) the folly of Smart Growth, among other things.”
But Caldwell devoted most of his statement to the charges of racism that surfaced last week in an email Hill sent to state Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, that became public.
Hill criticized Blakeslee for scheduling a fundraiser in Paso Robles at which Caldwell was to be the master of ceremonies. Blakeslee at first postponed the fundraiser and then rescheduled it after Hill’s apology.
Initially, though, Hill made reference to a COLAB event in Santa Barbara at which entertainer Steve Bridges, who is white, impersonated President Barack Obama. Hill likened the performance to the notorious and racist “blackface” shows of a century ago.
Caldwell and others bristled at the accusation. They said Bridges is a professional and sought-after entertainer who also impersonates former President George W. Bush, among others.
Caldwell wrote that Hill “can’t point to a single quote, mannerism or any content of our entertainer’s act that could be even slightly construed as having anything to do with racial stereotyping.”
Although Hill apologized for his lack of tact, he did not back away from his opposition to racism.