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Debbie Peterson gets it wrong

Her last commentary was an attempt to smear county Supervisor Adam Hill



In Debbie Peterson’s commentary “APCD litigation” (July 14), she makes several specious arguments in an effort at self-aggrandizement and in attacking 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill. One would think that if a mayor was booted from her assignment as an Air Pollution Control Board member by her City Council, lost her bid to remain mayor, and did not make the cut in her recent run in the primary election for county 3rd District Supervisor, she would learn some humility. Not Peterson.

Instead, she spins reality in trying to make a case about why she was on the right side of an issue all along, how her position has been vindicated, and how Hill, whom she has been attacking for years, has somehow been at fault for wasting taxpayer money. 

Here is where she is clearly off-base: Peterson says she advocated for a settlement agreement between State Parks and the APCD instead of including a permit requirement in Rule 1001. But integrating the permit as a tool to make State Parks comply with air quality standards was necessitated by State Parks’ failure to live up to an already existing agreement. 

Second, she attacks Hill for calling for the firing of a state geologist because he expressed support for an agreement, when it was that geologist’s behavior at an APCD Board meeting and his misrepresentation of his position that led to Hill’s call for accountability.

She said that it is a disgrace that millions of dollars are being diverted to lawsuits, but it is the off-highway group Friends of the Oceano Dunes (and friends of hers) that has filed five lawsuits against the APCD! 

The funds are being spent unnecessarily all right—but the APCD is merely defending itself and defending its duty to do its job of protecting Nipomo Mesa residents from hazardous air pollution. Peterson goes on to say that—unbelievably—the air pollution control officer and lawyers are getting rich as government agencies duke it out. First, the air pollution control officer is a salaried county employee who does not personally benefit from this litigation, and second, it is the so-called Friends group that necessitated legal expenditures.

Finally, despite her claims to the contrary (and that of Kevin P. Rice in a companion letter to the editor: A coincidence?), the interest of the public is being served. In its case, Friends of the Dunes won on one cause of action out of nine, lost the case on the other eight because Rule 1001 that the suit attempted to overturn is still in place, and the right of individuals to breathe clean air has been affirmed by the court. 

We now have a control monitor in place in Oso Flaco that proves that the air pollution from the riding area is many times higher than anything coming from the non-riding area. That’s a lot since it undermines any claim that the Oceano Dunes OHV is not the source of the hazardous silica dust.

But it seems that Peterson cannot bring herself to go quietly into the night despite consistent rejection by those who know her best—her City Council, her constituents, and the voters. Instead she serves as a mouthpiece for those in our county who want to defeat Hill, despite his laudable service on the Board of Supervisors. And that letter to the editor by Rice on the same theme is no coincidence, but given that they are cohorts, rather it appears to be a coordinated attack meant to discredit Hill.  

Arlene Versaw is an Arroyo Grande resident who co-founded the group Concerned Citizens for Clean Air. Send comments to [email protected] or a letter to the editor at [email protected].

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Debbie Peterson’s op-ed regarding the SLO County APCD (“APCD litigation,” July 14) is a master class in reality distortion and another sorry effort by the local outrage industry to smear one of her political rivals. Her gauzy, self-serving speculations about what the world would be like—if only the APCD Board had listened to her—would be amusing if it weren’t so full of errors and misrepresentations. 

This is a pure concoction of the local pseudo-news and talk radio machine, and it’s disappointing that the New Times stooped to publish it.

It would be a long and tedious task to rebut each piece of her misinformation—and the story of the APCD’s efforts to reduce dust pollution from the Oceano Dunes has been told too many times in these pages. 

Suffice it to say this: The APCD Board passed the dust rule in 2011, based on peer-reviewed science that was discussed in an extensive public process. Implementation of the rule was initially resisted by State Parks, and then litigated by a dogged group of off-road vehicle enthusiasts.

Eventually, State Parks signed an agreement to work toward compliance with Rule 1001. Not as fast as some might prefer, but progress is being made.

The litigants did win a small, technical victory—the means of compliance could not be by “permit”—but Rule 1001 stands in all other respects and compliance is required. For their efforts, the plaintiffs were granted a large sum for attorney’s fees.

More telling in this story, however, is how Peterson has reacted to not having things go her way. After being elected Grover Beach mayor in 2012, she joined the APCD Board representing the city—and immediately began a public campaign to repeal the dust rule. This was not an effort to convince the board to change course, but a public petition drive, fueled by outrageous misrepresentations of the dust rule’s provisions and consequences. The APCD Board majority repeatedly supported Rule 1001.

Her behavior was so egregious and disruptive that the Grover Beach City Council removed her as their APCD representative in 2013. She lost her bid for re-election in 2014. She has since been a relentless objector to the APCD’s efforts. Given the stage by an internet blog site and local talk radio, she has for some reason focused on denigrating 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill.

Now in 2016, she decided to challenge Hill in the 3rd District race and lost badly in the primary. Once again defeated, she lashes out with a deceptive opinion piece, attempting to blame Hill for the cost of defending the APCD’s mission. Of course, the piece appeared on the internet blog and received air time on local radio (both of which make a living on Hill hit pieces). The outrage machine trundles on.

I’m confident that most people see her diatribe for what it is, but it’s time for this to stop.  Our civic discourse is demeaned by it, and the issues facing voters this fall are too important. Let’s take the high road.  

Dorothy Modafferi is a resident of Nipomo. Send comments through the editor at [email protected] or a letter to the editor at [email protected].

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