Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill are a disingenuous duo in need of baby pacifiers

By T. Keith Gurnee

Special to The Tribune

November 07, 2017 2:09 PM

The not-too-dynamic duo are at it again. With their latest “Minority Report,” published by The Tribune last weekend, San Luis Obispo County Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill leveled another venomous diatribe against the board majority. But they did so by accusing the majority of Gibson and Hill’s very own shortcomings.

Pouncing upon Supervisors John Peschong, Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton for the recent $8 million budgetary error is only the latest ploy in the blame game of this disingenuous duo. The truth is that nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than stooping to their level, the members of the majority have chosen to rise above the fray. But lest the public starts believing the Gibson/Hill propaganda, leave it to someone who respects that majority to expose the errors of its would-be tormentors.

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                   Minority Report: Fighting the chaotic reign of error on the Board of Supervisors

After Gibson and Hill claimed the board majority had “left the administrative office adrift” when Chief Administrative Officer Dan Buckshi left for a more lucrative position and was “taking too much time” finding an interim CAO, the other three supervisors joined Hill and Gibson in appointing the current interim CAO, Guy Savage. Savage was the last man standing at the time, and the only person Gibson and Hill ever wanted for the job. And under whose watch was this pricey mistake discovered? Guy Savage, the very person Gibson/Hill wanted to appoint to the job.

Instead of blaming those members of the board who had nothing to do with this mistake that Gibson/Hill propagated, why don’t they own up to their responsibility for it?

T. Keith Gurnee is a planning consultant who specializes in urban design and land conservation strategies. He served on the San Luis Obispo City Council from 1971 to 1977.
Barry Goyette

The duo’s “minority report” goes on to blame the majority for other problems the duo themselves caused. Blaming Lynn Compton for leading the charge for a $1.5 million allocation to South County Parks — only after Gibson/Hill participated in plundering nearly $10 million of public facility impact fees collected in Compton’s district — was the height of hypocrisy. The “pork-barrel funding” was expropriated by Gibson and Hill from the South County to fund projects in their own districts back when they were in control of the board.

Blaming Debbie Arnold for increasing the county’s budget for rural roads continues to stick in their craw. Ironically, in the same issue of The Tribune as the Gibson/Hill “minority report” was a major article reporting on the poor state of roads in our county. Looks like Arnold is trying to solve the problem rather than exacerbate it.

The board majority’s decision to allocate funding to the county Flood Control and Water Conservation District was a wise one after the voter’s defeat of the North County Groundwater Management District. Before the vote on that district, Gibson and Hill avowed to abide by the results of that vote, only to break that promise by asking the state to intervene in managing our groundwater resources. Did the duo really think we needed such a top-down, over-regulatory approach run by a dysfunctional state government?

Gibson and Hill then castigated the majority for their cautious approach on cannabis regulation, by claiming that the majority “tore apart the thoughtful work of staff” on the ordinance. Isn’t it the board’s job to properly study and evaluate staff’s work?

Peschong, Arnold and Compton have spent hundreds of hours studying a subject they were previously unfamiliar with, handling it as carefully as should be expected from a concerned majority charged with protecting the youth of our community.

By contrast, Gibson and Hill have become the primary boosters of cannabis. With their Wild West “let cannabis be” approach, perhaps their position is being guided by the promise of lucrative political contributions both now and into the future.

Finally, accusing their colleagues of “reflexive ideology” and “political dogma,” I know of no two public officials more befitting of those terms than Gibson and Hill. Their studied antagonism toward supervisors Peschong, Arnold and Compton has rendered Hill and Gibson little more than whining political eunuchs.

Instead of accusing the board majority of their own failures and shortcomings, couldn’t they make any effort to help peace break out? I often wonder what would happen if they were to calmly reach across the aisle to Peschong, Arnold and Compton to offer a little support for the betterment of the entire community.

Alas, they seem content to be flame-throwing outliers more interested in notoriety and grandstanding than their ability to properly benefit their districts.

If they continue to shoot off their immature, ideological mouths, it won’t be long before someone tries to stuff a pacifier in them.

T. Keith Gurnee is a planner and urban designer who once served on the San Luis Obispo City Council while a student at Cal Poly.

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Minority Report: Fighting the chaotic reign of error on the Board of Supervisors

By Bruce Gibson And Adam Hill

Special to The Tribune

October 28, 2017 1:31 PM

News of the county’s surprising multimillion dollar budget deficit is an object lesson in why competence in elected office matters.

Sound governance requires thoughtful, honest, hard work. When breezy ideology trumps math, when political dogma substitutes for reasoned analysis, we can end up going from a healthy budget surplus to deficit overnight.

By all official accounts, it was an honest mistake which can and will be fixed. A cost miscalculation has turned an expected $3 million-to-$5 million surplus into a $3 million-to-$5 million deficit for the next fiscal year.
inRead invented by Teads

The unspoken truth is this glitch is a painful symptom of a much larger problem within county government: the chaotic reign of error and behind-the-scenes tyranny by the ruling majority of the Board of Supervisors.

Their disdain for good governance, their disrespect for seasoned staff, have made this sort of mistake almost inevitable — and more difficult to rectify.

The budget process has been carefully constructed as a year-around endeavor involving all our departments, led by our Administrative Office. Earlier this year, however, the board majority drove off our outstanding county administrative officer, Dan Buckshi, whose budgetary skill guided us through the Great Recession and its aftermath, earning our county’s highest bond rating in history.

They then left the department adrift as they maneuvered unsuccessfully for two months to install their own politically aligned, outside candidate. The resulting damage reflects their overall shabby treatment of senior staff, whereby the majority contemptuously ignores professional advice, disregards facts, concocts new rules and blames others when their money grabs go bad.

This seemingly deliberate failure to govern competently shows up in many other actions — from the skewing of budget priorities to manufactured controversies over facility funding to fundamental ignorance of the emerging cannabis industry and its land-use regulations.

We have repeatedly seen this board’s majority behave as if they were a feudal troika, disregarding informed and transparent governing in favor of naked maneuvering for pork-barrel funding targeting their own districts and steadfast refusals to work within established best practices.

Why? Because three votes to do whatever they want is far more expedient for re-election and rewarding their patrons.

We’ve mentioned a number of examples:

Supervisor Debbie Arnold finally got three votes this year to alter our budget priorities, putting rural roads at the top of the list, right behind law enforcement. That added another $3 million to the $8.7 million already allocated annually for roads.

Serious problems with our jail’s mental health services? Lack of detox facilities? Desperate shortage of workforce housing? Nah, she went with potholes.

Voting in lockstep, these three also gave $2 million to subsidize their rural friends’ water consumption, another $1 million for useless planning studies at the behest of Home Builders Association cronies, and siphoned another $1.2 million for projects in Nipomo yet to break ground.

After nearly three years with few accomplishments, Supervisor Lynn Compton launched a conspiracy campaign in which her voters are victims of county misdeeds, using stage-crafted outrages to lard money into Nipomo to support her re-election.

Consequently, the proven process of professional planning for parks was scrapped and the countywide account of development fee collections is empty. Ironically, her political targeting of public money to Nipomo isn’t enough to put together one fully funded new park project in her district.

Justifications of these actions from board chair John Peschong are few — he often votes without comment, leaving us to wonder if he understands. His recent efforts to craft a land-use ordinance for cannabis activities suggest not.

He casually rammed through a radical change to push cannabis distribution into rural areas, while banning safer public dispensaries.

Why I grow marijuana: Arroyo Grande mom wants to make SLO County pot industry a success

Although she’s only tried marijuana once, Shelby Bernard and her husband think the land they recently bought outside Arroyo Grande would be ideal for cultivation. She spoke at a hearing on Friday, October 20, 2017, to the SLO County Board of Supervisors.
San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors

Those knowledgeable about the state’s regulation of the cannabis industry were stunned as Peschong, with his two loyal colleagues, tore apart the thoughtful work of staff and the Planning Commission. We’ll see the full damage when the board reconvenes on the issue Nov. 7.

That leads us back to how this ruling majority treats facts and evidence. Referring to cannabis, they’ve suggested widespread “chaos” and “devastation” without documentation.

They casually dismiss voters who don’t think like them — for instance, 57 percent of county voters who voted in legalized cannabis. They ask staff for professional advice, yet ignore it if contradicts their biases.

Thus, knowing what we know, seeing what we’ve seen, it’s understandable our beleaguered administrative staff made a mistake. We can overcome this oversight, but it will be more difficult due to the majority’s questionable spending decisions.

The majority will dismiss these criticisms, as is their wont. Regardless, we encourage this board majority to embrace fact-based decision making in the interest of the entire county, not just their voters and financial patrons.

Thoughtful consideration — not reflexive ideology — of the challenging issues before us is paramount. Good government requires careful analysis and the engagement of expert staff professionals.

Competence matters.

Bruce Gibson represents the 2nd District and Adam Hill represents the 3rd District on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

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