Editorials

SLO’s environmental mayor was spotted riding in a car. That doesn’t make her a hypocrite

SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon talks about her first year in office

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon talks about her first year in office, as well as her plans for the future of the city and the Central Coast of California.
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San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon talks about her first year in office, as well as her plans for the future of the city and the Central Coast of California.

How dare she!

Mayor Heidi Harmon rode her bicycle to a San Luis Obispo City Council meeting, then she (and her bike) got a lift home that night from City Manager Derek Johnson.

Thank goodness Cal Coast News was on the job!

Some enterprising staffer snapped a photo of Harmon’s bicycle on the back of Johnson’s vehicle, then paired it with a stunning expose about Mayor Harmon titled, “Bicycle advocate, leader or hypocrite?”

Among other revelations: “While Harmon attempts to push city residents towards a ‘driver-less future,’ she does not regularly ride her bicycle to city meetings. ....”

And this: “On four occasions, reporters watched Harmon leave city meetings in gas-fueled vehicles.”

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Whoa. Couldn’t she have at least hitched a ride in a Prius?

Seriously, what kind of card-carrying, tree-hugging, vegan-leaning environmentalist rides a bike (or walks, or takes a bus) to an event and then accepts a ride home?

We’ll tell you: One who wants to get home safely.

And it’s not just us saying this: “I’ve ridden my bike at night in SLO and was almost hit on two different occasions by cars, so I don’t blame her for hitching a ride home after dark,” wrote one commenter who responded to the Cal Coast piece.

Exactly. There is nothing the least bit hypocritical about riding a bike one way, then accepting a ride home (or vice versa). In fact, we say kudos for cycling at all.

As for advocating for a “driver-less future,” while a bit idealistic, that isn’t a nefarious plot to force everyone out of their cars and onto bicycles.

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There are multiple ways to cut down on driving: Walk. Run. Skate. Carpool. Take public transportation. Or, yes, ride a bike.

Mayor Harmon, by the way, isn’t taking this criticism sitting down; she’s pushing back on Cal Coast News.

“You may have seen the news that I am being stalked by associates of a right-wing blog that supports my opponent,” she said in an email blast. “On numerous occasions after late council meetings, I have been followed from City Hall to my home. These same people have sent me creepy notes, and have even published photographs on their blog that document their stalking. And yes, I have reported it to the police.”

This may be a good time to point out to Mayor Harmon and others that, however unwelcome, it is the job of journalists to report on elected officials, and that may occasionally include following them home, or knocking on their doors, or driving by their residences. For example, a few years ago The Tribune photographed the exteriors of City Council members’ homes for a report on whether they were following city policy on drought-tolerant landscaping.

That may be annoying, but it’s not stalking.

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As to the mayor’s contention that her opponent is supported by Cal Coast News, candidate Keith Gurnee is indeed listed as a Cal Coast News contributor. (His latest piece on development in San Luis Obispo is headlined, “Shame on the Tribune.”)

We asked Gurnee if he had anything to do with the Cal Coast article, which is not bylined.

“Absolutely not!” he told us. “I had nothing to do with it. ... I’m staying above the fray. I’m not going to trash Heidi Harmon.”

He advised us to ask Cal Coast News about the authorship, which we did.

We also asked if the website had a response to Harmon’s stalking allegation and whether they are looking into the transportation habits of any other elected officials.

Here’s the response we got from Cal Coast co-founder Karen Velie:

“If the Tribune would spend half of the time doing legitimate journalism as you do asking these silly questions, you would be a much better newspaper. That’s my opinion!”

Come on, Karen. Don’t be that way.

Are our questions really that much sillier than the ones you sent to Mayor Harmon?

Here they are:

Do you drive a car or bicycle more often?

Do you own a car?

You have been photographed having the city manager drive you and your bicycle home from council meetings. Is it appropriate to request staff drive you home?

Is having a truck transport your bike supportive of your global warming agenda?

For the record, Harmon told us she does not own a car and, yes, she will ask for help late at night to get home safely.

Again, that’s not violating some environmental honor code — that’s exercising good, old-fashioned common sense.

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