Editorials

SLO County assessor shouldn’t be the poster boy for No on Measure G campaign

SLO County residents debate banning fracking, oil wells on the Central Coast

The San Luis Obispo County, California, Board of Supervisors discussed an initiative to ban new oil wells and fracking to be placed on the ballot in November 2018. Residents from across the Central Coast debated at the June 19 meeting.
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The San Luis Obispo County, California, Board of Supervisors discussed an initiative to ban new oil wells and fracking to be placed on the ballot in November 2018. Residents from across the Central Coast debated at the June 19 meeting.

It’s one thing for elected officials to make election endorsements; it’s another to be the face of the campaign.

That’s the role that county Assessor Tom Bordonaro is playing for the No on Measure G campaign. Bordonaro’s photo appears prominently on two mailers. He’s also on TV commercials, and on a video posted on the No on G website.

Other local elected officials also are campaigning for and against the measure, but none is front-and-center to this degree.

Here’s how Bordonaro sees it: “I don’t think because you’re an elected official your First Amendment rights are diminished,” he told The Tribune. “I think people who are elected need to express themselves and be leaders.”

Voters do have an interest in where elected officials stand on issues like Measure G, which would ban fracking and new oil wells in San Luis Obispo County.

But the very visible role Bordonaro is playing in the No on G campaign — which is heavily funded by oil companies — is rubbing some voters the wrong way.

Essentially, Bordonaro is using a nonpartisan, elected office as a soap box to sway voters on an issue that has little, if any, connection to the county assessor’s role.

Even more concerning, the wording of Bordonaro’s message implies he has special knowledge and insight into the effects of Measure G.

“As county assessor, I work with facts,” one flier says. “I’ve closely studied Measure G and I’m voting NO.”

Another contains this veiled threat: “Measure G would cost our county important revenue, making it harder to fund the vital services we all depend on.”

Bordonaro also makes this contentious claim: “This would result in the complete shutdown of existing oil and gas production in our county and would reduce the tax revenues used to fund vital services like public safety and schools.”

The impartial analysis of Measure G, prepared by the county Counsel’s Office, says nothing about a “complete shutdown.”

It simply says that some of the effects are uncertain — a far cry from Bordonaro’s certitude.

Bordonaro is a smart man and a seasoned politician — he served in the state Assembly prior to his election as assessor — but he is not an expert in the oil business.

So why is he getting so involved?

“The reason I got involved is because I got a little irritated with the whole fracking thing,” he told us.

He believes it’s misleading for Measure G backers to put so much emphasis on a fracking ban, when there’s no fracking occurring in San Luis Obispo County.

The prohibition on new oil wells will have a much greater impact, Bordonaro says.

Tom Bordonaro is entitled to his opinion — and he’s entitled to voice it.

But voters should not look to the county assessor for leadership on this issue, any more than they should look to the District Attorney for advice on how to vote on the ban on caging chickens.

Tom Bordonaro should stick to what he does best — being an advocate for taxpayers — instead of being a poster boy for the oil industry.

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