San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Lynn Compton opened Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting with a suggestion: Pretend your mother is in the room.
In other words, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want her to hear.
If only Compton’s advice had been consistently followed.
Instead, what should have been a routine matter — the appointment of the board’s chair for 2017 — turned into a contentious issue that pitted conservatives against liberals.
We heard some of the same “to the victor belong the spoils” philosophy trumpeted in Washington, D.C. Only this time, the gloating was more narrowly directed at San Luis Obispo County’s liberals, who, as they were reminded, no longer hold the majority on the county Board of Supervisors.
News flash! They haven’t for the past four years, but never before have we heard partisanship expressed in quite the same “Na-nana-naa-nah” fashion, at least not at the local level.
“Elections have consequences,” one conservative speaker told the board, echoing a statement used in national politics, including by President Barack Obama when he was newly elected. “Well, we had an election, and we’re going to have consequences.”
Apparently, one of the consequences for San Luis Obispo County is that no Democrat will ever again wield the chairman’s gavel on the Board of Supervisors, at least not as long as Republicans are in power.
And you thought the office of county supervisor was nonpartisan? Well, think again.
As Andrea Seastrand, a former Republican congresswoman from the Central Coast, noted: “I will tell you everything is politics. Everything is partisanship.”
Another news flash: Serving as chair really isn’t that big of a deal, but this brouhaha has transformed it into some sort of shiny political prize that conservatives are going to keep out of the hands of liberals. Otherwise, the economy will go to hell! The Oceano Dunes will be closed to off-road vehicles! Proposition 13 will be rescinded!
At least, those were the warnings from some of the speakers who lobbied for the appointment of newly elected District 1 Supervisor John Peschong, a conservative, over liberal Adam Hill, who as vice chair was the more traditional choice.
True, politics wasn’t the only reason given for passing over Hill.
Most of the other explanations were variations on the same theme: Hill is rude and should be punished.
On top of that, Hill has criticized the Bible. He’s accepted campaign donations from developers. He once wrote a really weird letter to New Times. He’s been sued. (At one time or another, just about every top-ranking county official has been sued.)
Supervisor Debbie Arnold accused Hill of failing to show up for a group photo of the five county supervisors because he didn’t want to have his picture taken with her.
To be fair, she made that complaint only after Hill accused her of failing to return a congratulatory phone call he made to her four years ago.
Petty stuff? You betcha, but apparently, this jockeying for power brings that out in politicians.
That’s exactly why it’s an excellent idea to rotate the position of chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Don’t make it about political ideology or personality or payback.
Don’t deny the voters of one district the opportunity to see their elected representative elevated to the chairmanship — ceremonial though the post may be — because he rubs you the wrong way.
There’s enough stomach-churning, partisan divisiveness in D.C. and Sacramento. We expect more from our county supervisors.
We hope Peschong can use the limited power of the chairmanship to bring some semblance of civility to the board. We wish him well, for all of our sakes.
Otherwise, Seastrand will be proven right. Everything really is partisanship.