Editorials

County Supervisor chair switch is all about politics

Supervisor Frank Mecham, center, was elected chairman of the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 5. He's congratulated by outgoing chairman Bruce Gibson, left, and newly elected vice chairman Adam Hill.
Supervisor Frank Mecham, center, was elected chairman of the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 5. He's congratulated by outgoing chairman Bruce Gibson, left, and newly elected vice chairman Adam Hill. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

When county Supervisor Frank Mecham stepped down as chairman of the Board of Supervisors this week to cede the gavel to Debbie Arnold, the decision seemed to settle the argument over whether Arnold was overdue for a leadership position on the board.

We were OK with that.

Except, Mecham didn’t stop there. He also nominated Lynn Compton to take Adam Hill’s slot as vice chair.

In nominating the two women, Mecham wanted to put an end to the perception of a“good ol’ boys” attitude on the board.

Those rumors are nonsense; Mecham himself told us he didn’t buy into that.

The positions of chair and vice chair have been rotated in such a way that each district gets a turn every five years regardless of the gender of the supervisor. The pattern has occasionally been broken — for example, newly elected supervisors have sometimes asked to skip their turn — but it’s generally been a routine appointment. Mecham, though, points out that there was some disagreement over the order of the rotation, which got “goofed up” at one point; giving the positions to Arnold and Compton this year will cure that, he said.

We aren’t going to waste time looking back over the history of the rotation.

We will say, however, that we don’t believe for a second that this political kerfuffle was about correcting a goof so the lineup would be in sync.

The fact is, Hill’s election as vice chair didn’t sit well with some conservatives in the county; COLAB rallied its troops to turn out on Tuesday to oppose Hill’s appointment and to support Arnold for vice chair. Here’s part of COLAB’s (all-capped) message on its website:

“THE REAL ISSUE IS THE APPOINTMENT OF HILL AS VICE CHIARMAN (sic) OF THE SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS. REMEMER (sic) THIS POSITIONS HIM FOR CHAIRMAN IN 2016.”

And what happens in 2016?

Hill is up for re-election, and some believe the chairmanship would give him some sort of leg-up in a campaign. In other words, voters would be so blinded by the power of the chairmanship that they would automatically vote for Hill and pay no attention at all to the candidates’ backgrounds, their positions on the issues, their political ideologies, etc.

More nonsense, right?

No matter how one feels about Adam Hill, there’s no getting around the fact that he is the duly elected representative of District 3. According to time-honored tradition, he deserves a turn as chair just as much as the supervisor from any other district.

To do any less is, frankly, an insult to the voters of his district. (As in: “Hey, you idiots! You elected such a *%$# that he doesn’t deserve to wield the gavel — at least not in an election year!”)

We don’t really care who is chair or vice chair; in the end, each supervisor gets one of five votes.

We do care, though, when such a superficial issue is allowed to further split a county that’s already bitterly divided on partisan lines.

Rotating the position of chair and vice chair has worked well for decades. This year’s deviation was for purely political purposes, and for that, those who supported the change earn Brickbat No. 1.

Brickbat No. 2 goes to the entire board, which spent way too much time and energy and emotion on what should have been a routine procedural issue and we hope will be again in years to come.

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