Tom Fulks

A warning to the powers that be: The people are revolting

Tom Fulks
Tom Fulks dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

The hard-right majority on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors seems to be channeling Louis XVI, who famously enthused, “It’s good to be king,” before his beheading.

Actually, that’s from “History of the World, Part 1,” the uproarious Mel Brooks parody of indolent monarchy. But the attitude’s familiar. When his adviser, “Count de Money,” warns “the people are revolting,” the king allows: “You said it. They stink on ice.”

Lynn Compton, Debbie Arnold and John Peschong flaunt their newfound political power like royalty — gifting millions in public money to upper caste cronies, ignoring public pleas for transparency — seeming to barely tolerate revolting taxpayers.

On a budgeting bender since taking power in January, the troika cloaks its politically self-serving largesse in standard Tea Party tropes: small government, fiscal conservatism, limited taxes, personal liberty, all that. But haughty is hard to hide.

In nearly four months holding the reins of county power, these three redefine hypocrisy: They’re “fiscally conservative,” except when handing millions of tax dollars to friends and larding government pork into their districts. They talk “small government,” yet hawk a big-government takeover of groundwater management for special interests.

Last month, the three voted to extract money from urban taxpayers and water ratepayers from throughout the county — including Nipomo — and hand it to North County friends who refuse to pay for groundwater management. Other rural users of stressed groundwater basins will get government handouts, too, and as a net result, the General Fund will be depleted by up to $8.6 million over five years.

Earlier that day, our Royal Trio facilitated Compton’s scheme to funnel more park money into her district, legitimizing the lie that Nipomo’s been shorted for decades while Bruce Gibson’s and Adam Hill’s “elite, liberal,” coastal districts wallowed in taxpayer-funded recreational munificence.

Last week, in a fit of royal short-sightedness, Compton opposed even considering critical funding for the popular Bob Jones Bike Trail — in Hill’s district — saying she wouldn’t prioritize any recreation project ahead of those in her own district.

Up for re-election next year, Compton conveniently ignores facts (i.e. significant public money spent in her district prior to her election) while pork barreling park projects for Nipomo, letting other districts eat cake.

Seemingly intent on Balkanizing county spending by supervisory district, this can’t end well for her, given where General Fund money actually comes from (more on this later).

Perhaps the royals are motivated less by facts than unmoored principles of political expediency. Evidence is easy to find.

The anti-tax-of-any-kind Central Coast Taxpayers Association and COLAB loudly opposed a failed half-cent sales tax measure for roads last November. Our Royal Trio heartily agreed.

As for the multimillion dollar General Fund raid? Enthusiastic ayes from the three “fiscally conservative, small-government” poseurs. Crickets from the Taxpayers. Bupkis from COLAB.

Principles of political convenience seem rooted in their party’s core.

Typical of Republicans’ party-above-all doctrine: In 2013, only 22 percent of Republicans supported President Barack Obama’s missile strikes against Syria. Today, 86 percent of Republicans support President Donald Trump doing just that, a 64-point flip.

Amoral ideology, philosophical jujitsu, political tone deafness: These are pathologies of decadent, incompetent regality. A century ago, tin-eared royalty, overly navel-gazing at their inbred Balkan fiefdoms, eventually backed into WWI. Attitude matters.

If they continue tapping the General Fund to dispense political favors, the Royal Trio’s sovereignty might eventually devolve into reign over five of Compton’s “all-for-me, none-for-thee” sub-county fiefdoms, some richer than others.

Hotel taxes collected in the unincorporated areas go into the General Fund to be spent countywide on law enforcement, fire protection, road maintenance and other basic services. The county Assessor’s Office estimates that over the past eight years, bed taxes from Districts 2, 3 and 4 contributed some $60 million to county coffers, but contributions are uneven.

▪  Avila Beach and rural San Luis Obispo — in Hill’s District 3 — supplied 18.7 percent, $11.1 million.

▪  San Simeon, Cambria, Cayucos and Los Osos — in Gibson’s District 2 — contributed 78.6 percent, $46.8 million.

▪  Nipomo, Oceano and rural Arroyo Grande — in Compton’s District 4 — provided a paltry 2.7 percent, $1.6 million.

In Compton’s Balkanized-fiefdom scheme, District 4 is a serious slacker. District 2 is filthy rich, and District 3’s not too shabby.

Under the Compton Doctrine, in which each district fends for itself, there would be little cash for her “loser” district. However, there would be plenty for Gibson’s and Hill’s “winners.”

She might want to think this through.

Next time our three Rogues Royale loot the public purse for political purposes, then try to horde the stash, remind them where the money comes from.

Then ask: Who’s revolting?

Liberal columnist Tom Fulks serves on the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Central Committee. His column runs every other Sunday, in rotation with conservative columnist Andrea Seastrand.

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