County can’t afford to elect extremists
By Zaf Iqbal
In order to maintain a well-functioning, responsible, responsive and nonpartisan San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, it is imperative that we re-elect Adam Hill and Jim Patterson.
We cannot afford to have any extremists on the board whose modus operandi is, “My way or the highway.” Divisiveness on the county Board of Supervisors would create an environment similar to the one in the U.S. Congress, where hardly anything gets done.
Hill and Patterson have worked jointly on many substantive issues. Both are true leaders, willing to make tough decisions based on what they believe is in the best interest of county residents. They are hardworking, compassionate and effective in managing economic and social issues.
For this, they are willing to pay a price, if necessary. Unlike in the past, neither received the Sierra Club endorsement for the June election, despite their longstanding and impressive environmental records. Their decision to support two solar projects, against the Sierra Club’s position, cost them the endorsement. The board has made difficult and wise decisions to balance the budget each and every year, despite the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.
This has been, arguably, the most fiscally responsible board in the history of the county:
It introduced and implemented pension and salary reforms that are model in the state;
The county government was downsized by 250 positions (a 10 percent reduction) without layoffs;
And the county has $83 million in reserves.
The strong fiscal position has earned the county the third highest bond rating of all 58 counties in California. Fitch Ratings, which awarded the “AA” bond rat ings, noted, “The county has consistently maintained a solid financial position with strong reserves through conservative budgeting and policies.”
Hill has been instrumental in leading the first countywide comprehensive economic development strategy. It has already provided significant benefits to local employers, e.g. Level Studios, which had considered leaving the county. Hill held meetings with Level Studios and made the case that the company should stay and build in San Luis Obispo County, which saved jobs and tax revenues.
Hill also chaired hearings that resulted in approval of two major solar energy projects that will create 900 jobs. He helped persuade PG&E to conduct more seismic safety studies of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Hill also convinced the company to form a peer review panel that has community representation.
Patterson supported solar power plants in Carrisa Plains while knowing that some of his strongest environmentalist supporters were unhappy with his position. His decision was based on the fact that solar power produces jobs and, in this case, it was a good trade-off.
Hill and Patterson have been part of the board majority that has formulated land use policies that reflect the community’s desire to control sprawl, protect water resources, protect scenic beauty and prevent pollution and traffic congestion.
One allegation against Hill must be refuted. He has been falsely accused of being disrespectful to those who make public comments in meetings. The truth is that the same anti-sewer Los Osos people regularly show up at the board meetings. Instead of making thoughtful comments, they are belligerent, abusive and disorderly. They display disrespectful behavior toward supervisors as well as county staff. The situation reached such a point of ugliness that the sheriff and the administrative officer decided, on their own, to have a deputy sheriff present at the board meetings.
When Hill was chairman of the board, one individual insisted on reading from the divorce records of a county official. To stop this inappropriate behavior, Hill had her microphone turned off. Requiring decorum and civility in a public forum is not disrespectful.
Hill successfully persuaded the board for land to be used for a future regional homeless services center. Then he led the efforts to secure the land and have it entitled for the center. This proves that fiscal conservatism and human compassion are not mutually exclusive.
Through their performance on the board, both incumbents have demonstrated that good governance requires a reasonable, pragmatic approach and not ideological demagogy based on closed minds. The latter approach leads to biased decisions that fit in the narrow ideological framework. Voters deserve better.
Zaf Iqbal is past associate dean and professor emeritus of accounting of Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business. He volunteers with local nonprofit groups including Habitat for Humanity, the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Children's Resource Network. He is president of the San Luis Obispo Democratic Club.
Incumbents must be held accountable
By John Allan Peschong
It is a familiar refrain nowadays that government is broken. The latest CBS News/New York Times poll shows that 61 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. The feeling that government is failing us is also reflected in poll numbers that show high disapproval of elected leaders from President Barack Obama and Congress to our own state Legislature.
The genius of the founders lies in the creation of a political system that allows citizens to hold elected leaders accountable by voting them out of office.
While we don’t always get it right, and perhaps too often we re-elect the incumbents, our system has worked pretty well for more than 200 years.
Nowhere is it more important to hold politicians’ feet to the fire than on the local level, where as citizens we can attend local government meetings and petition our elected officials on issues we care about. That is why the election of our county supervisors on June 5 will be one of the most important choices local voters make.
In full disclosure, my company, Meridian Pacific Inc., works for two of the candidates for supervisor, Debbie Arnold and Ed Waage.
I’m sure all the candidates for supervisor would agree that the quality of life we enjoy in San Luis Obispo County is unmatched anywhere in the state.
However, the lack of long-term vision on the Board of Supervisors has led to decisions that hurt our local economy and impact the services people need.
Incumbent Supervisors Jim Patterson and Adam Hill have served a combined 12 years on the Board of Supervisors.
In the past eight years, unemployment has nearly doubled, spending has increased more than 30 percent despite recent cuts and the county has vastly expanded regulations that harm small businesses and control people’s lives.
Some will say Supervisors Patterson and Hill are not responsible for our local economy and that spending would have risen regardless. However, if these elected officials are not accountable, who is? Let’s examine some facts.
Within the past six months, Supervisors Patterson and Hill voted to ban businesses from offering customers free grocery bags. A short time later, Scolari’s grocery store announced it was closing its Central Coast stores.
Did the bag ban force Scolari’s to close? Probably not entirely, but it easily could have been the regulation that broke the camel’s back.
It’s foolish to think that the cost of compliance, in addition to a six-month jail sentence and hefty fine per violation of the bag ban didn’t factor in to Scolari’s decision. Regulations like the bag ban have real impact, and cost real money, and in all probability played a part in Scolari’s decision to close down its stores.
There is also the case of Patterson’s support for, of all things, regulating “wine barrel emissions” by taxing our local wineries. The wine industry in California is extremely competitive, and Patterson’s wine barrel emissions tax puts San Luis Obispo County wineries at a competitive disadvantage, which hurts local businesses and jobs.
Another job-destroying vote. Patterson and Hill voted multiple times to raise permit fees for building a single-family home — a nearly 300 percent increase in just eight years.
Then, there is the ridiculous. Patterson and Hill led the effort to raise property taxes to purchase mosquito-eating fish — even going as far as to spend more than $250,000 of taxpayer money to run a campaign to approve the property tax hike. Not surprisingly, San Luis Obispo County voters overwhelming defeated the tax.
And let us not forget Patterson’s famous effort to regulate backyard bird feeders.
These are just a few examples of how our supervisors’ lack of long-term vision and desire to score short-term political points can have real impacts on our local economy and the county’s bottom line.
When politicians take credit for the good, they also have to be accountable for the bad. Unfortunately, San Luis Obispo County is not in great shape. The buck stops with Supervisors Patterson and Hill.
I believe our county would be better served with Arnold and Waage on the Board of Supervisors. They both have extensive education and experience in business, and have served within local government.
Arnold owned and operated a local small business in Atascadero for 17 years, and Waage had a successful career in academics and business. Arnold and Waage are thoughtful leaders who would bring vision and balance to the Board of Supervisors.
On June 5, it’s time to exercise our most important right as citizens, and vote for new leadership on the Board of Supervisors.
John Allan Peschong served in President Reagan’s administration and later as asenior strategist for the campaigns of President George W. Bush. He is a founding partner of Meridian Pacific Inc., a public relations and public affairs company, and serves as chairman of the San Luis Obispo County Republican Party.