Obey the spirit, not just the letter of the law

Technically speaking, Arroyo Grande Planning Commissioner John Mack may not have had a conflict of interest when he voted against Nick Tompkins’ development proposed for Grand Avenue — even though Mack lives a short distance away.

That doesn’t make his actions OK.

We subscribe to the time-honored practice followed by many elected officials we’ve reported on over the years: If there was even an appearance of a conflict of interest, they did not take part in deliberations, or they at least raised the issue at the start of the public hearing so they could get a legal opinion as to whether they should participate.

Mack, on the other hand, quietly transferred his half-interest in a home at Berry Gardens — located four blocks from Tompkins’ project — to his girlfriend on Aug. 18. That very same night, he voted against the development.

Mack has said the timing of the real estate transaction was coincidental, which sent us on an Internet search to find out who so wisely said, “There is no such thing as coincidence.” (In case you’re wondering, we never did get a straight answer on the origin of the quote.)

Back to Mack: He may have been following the letter of the conflict-of-interest law, but he spat on its spirit. For that, he earns a black-eyed brickbat.

Tompkins, by the way, filed a conflict of interest complaint against Mack with the Fair Political Practices Commission. It was initially dismissed, but the commission has since received additional information and is taking another look at the case.

The City Council, meanwhile, will consider removing Mack from the Planning Commission next month on account of what happened. Some community members have lobbied the council to drop the issue. We agree, but only if Mack takes the high road and steps down voluntarily.

A Cayucos pier party without peer

We toss a seaworthy bouquet to the community of Cayucos, to help celebrate the reopening of the nearly 150-year-old pier.

The popular pier was shut down in July 2013 over safety concerns after several piles were found to be missing or badly deteriorated. The county spearheaded a $3.5 million reconstruction project and on Saturday, the town will celebrate with a party that starts at noon.

This is a huge credit to everyone involved, including community members who raised $750,000 to save the pier, about half of which will go into an endowment fund for ongoing maintenance. Great idea; that should help ensure future generations aren’t stuck without a pier.

Quit stalling on nuclear-waste storage

We were already angry at the federal government for never making good on its promise to provide a permanent storage site for nuclear waste from Diablo Canyon and other nuclear plants.

Now, there’s even more reason to get fired up: The Associated Press reports that closed reactors are dipping into funds set aside for dismantling to pay for long-term, on-site storage. That violates Nuclear Regulatory Commission Rules, but the NRC has been granting exemptions that allow it to happen. San Onofre in San Diego County is among the shuttered plants that have received permission to use dismantling dollars for waste storage.

That, according to the AP, raises a question as to whether there will be enough money to complete the dismantling.

Good question.

Here’s another: What will it take to get the presidential candidates to engage in meaningful discussion about nuclear waste storage?

We understand that only those communities with nuclear power plants — or those that might be home to permanent waste storage facilities — are likely to care much.

But if we don’t force the feds to keep their promise, that only increases the likelihood that communities like ours will become permanent de facto hazard waste storage sites, even though that was never envisioned when nuclear plants were permitted.

So here’s our scorecard: Brickbat to President Barack Obama’s administration for failing to make any substantive progress on permanent waste storage. Brickbat to the NRC for bending the rules on expenditure of decommissioning funds. Bouquet-in-waiting for presidential candidates willing to take a definitive stand on an issue ignored far too long.