City of SLO will no longer invest in tobacco, fossil fuel production

The San Luis Obispo City Council approved changes to its investment management plan this week, including prohibiting investment of city money to support the direct production or drilling of fossil fuels or in tobacco or tobacco-related products.

The council unanimously approved the policy Tuesday. In a separate motion, the council voted 4-0 to divest from Chevron as soon as city finance staff can feasibly do so, even though it means a loss of about $5,700, according to Wayne Padilla, the city’s finance director.

Councilman John Ashbaugh recused himself from that vote, as his daughter works for the oil and gas company.

Mayor Jan Marx said the city holds a $700,000 corporate bond in Chevron, which matures in December 2017. Marx said she wanted to approve the policy and divest the bond.

“If we’re going to say we’re going to divest in fossil fuels, we should just go ahead and do it and not wait a couple of years,” she said.

She said the city does not have any current investments in tobacco.

The “socially responsible investing” section of the revised investment policy drew support from seven people, mostly San Luis Obispo residents, as well as the Santa Lucia chapter of the Sierra Club.

“Divesting helps save the planet and our money,” said Heidi Harmon, a local resident who chairs the local Sierra Club chapter’s Climate Change Task Force and serves as program director of the San Luis Obispo chapter of 350.org. “If we’re going to have any chance of slowing down climate change, most fossil fuels need to stay in the ground.”

Councilman Dan Carpenter supported the policy but questioned whether there had been enough public outreach done to form the socially responsible investing portion of it.

“I think that if we’re really going to address the social conscious of this community, we should do further outreach before we move forward,” he said.

The rest of the council said they believed the process had been robust and noted that the policy will come back for an annual review.

On Carpenter’s suggestion, the motion to adopt the policy included a caveat that city staff will do more outreach on social responsibility provisions before a future revised policy comes back to the council.