Bouquets and Brickbats: Fiscal report deserved to be presented

Count us among those disappointed — even frustrated — by the San Luis Obispo City Council’s 3-2 decision Tuesday against hearing a formal presentation from a task force advising City Manager Katie Lichtig on the city’s long-term finances.

The 32-member Financial Sustainability Task Force — a mix of business executives, nonprofit officials and city employees — spent seven months and considerable brain power in order to offer thoughtful, reasoned recommendations addressing the city’s deficit and growing fiscal problems.

Lichtig noted that the report was officially prepared for her, not the council, and that it’s her responsibility to filter through the recommendations when she presents her budget plan to the council in May. But because the report focuses on policy issues and specific strategies that would require council approval, Councilman Andrew Carter lobbied for a formal council presentation.

Although we applaud Lichtig’s creation of this task force and understand her point of view, we believe the council erred. City residents could only benefit from a full public airing of the report. Yes, it’s posted on the city’s website, but the more public discussion there is on the fiscal challenges facing the city — and possible solutions — the better. No matter how difficult and controversial these issues may be.

For recognizing this, we send sunshine bouquets to Carter and newly appointed Councilman Dan Carpenter and head-in-the-sand brickbats to Mayor Jan Marx, John Ashbaugh and Kathy Smith. We only hope that these three didn’t vote “no’’ because they fear the wrath of public safety unions whose pensions have come under fire. Among other things, the task force recommended ways to reduce those escalating pension costs.

Jack O’Connell earns A+ for service

After 28 years of public service, including lengthy stints in the state Assembly and Senate, Jack O’Connell stepped out of the limelight Monday when Tom Torlakson was sworn in as state schools superintendent.

The San Luis Obispo resident has been a bright, thoughtful advocate for public education and student achievement — and counts higher student test scores, more nutritious meals in schools and Proposition 39 (which reduced the threshold to pass local school district bonds to build schools to 55 percent from two-thirds) among his career highlights. For all of that and more, he merits an apple-studded bouquet. Friends advised O’Connell to take his time before deciding what to do next. We just hope it’s not too long. We are certain that he has much more to offer.

Former sheriff leaves tarnished legacy

We present a tarnished-star brickbat to former Sheriff Pat Hedges. During his time in office, he operated like the late Tricky Dick Nixon, what with his hatred of the press, and secretly taping an employee — which cost county taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle out of court. And to finish his tenure on just the proper note of disrespect to the voters of state law, he involved his department in the busts of 12 local residents for running a nonprofit medical marijuana delivery service. He did this all within about a week of the county’s new sheriff, Ian Parkinson, taking office.

Heckuva job, Pat.