Opinion » Shredder

Alone on a hill


Week after week, alone on her hill, a SLO County Supervisor with a furrowed brow is sitting perfectly still.

And she can't help but grandstand. But, this time, the fool on her hill saw her argument going down. And the eyes in her head see a new top county elections official stepping in.

Any guess as to who our lonely lady is?

It's 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold, who just had to speak up during the Oct. 12 special meeting where supervisors finally chose a new clerk-recorder to replace Tommy Gong.

Arnold was not happy with her very qualified choices! She wanted seven candidates to pick from, and the committee they chose only offered supervisors three. Duh, we know! We've been listening to you bitch about it for weeks now!

"We wanted a transparent process," she lamented.

Wait, am I crazy? This is, like, the most transparent process the county has ever engaged in. Since Gong left, everyone in the county has known exactly what's happened or been happening during the whole clerk-recorder replacement appointment process. And everyone also offered their hot takes on it, most of which were neither hot nor worth taking.

Let's take Mike Brown from COLAB's (Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business) lame, last-minute hot take inspiration. He rolled into the meeting late, fresh off of sitting in traffic on Highway 101, and he was pissed!

"Highway 101 is completely shut down in Nipomo," he said, alluding to some Caltrans project near Laetitia Winery that caused traffic that morning. "And this goes down to the issue you're facing here and the issue with expertise. Some expert engineer, right, the project manager, who decides on a Tuesday morning that this thing is going to start ... . It's just so typical of the problem of government expertise, because there's no accountability."

Wow, one morning of bad traffic, and he's ready to throw job qualifications out the window. No more "expert" civil engineers for the roads! Let's have the next Caltrans project headed up by a ballet dancer or a English professor! Then we'll finally have some accountability.

What Arnold really wanted—which she has repeated ad nauseam—was to start the entire appointment process over again.

"Our motion was ignored. ... Today, we are the voice of the citizens, and I just want to do my job," Arnold said, and promptly declined to do her job by not choosing a candidate to appoint. "It sounds like you guys have it taken care of."

In a surprising show of bipartisan congeniality—except for ideological Arnold—supervisors chose Santa Barbara County Elections Division Manager Elaina Cano as the next SLO County clerk-recorder. And 1st District Supe John Peschong, who said that both Cano and fellow applicant Acting Clerk-Recorder Helen Nolan were "highly qualified" (I guess he didn't sit in traffic that morning), even went so far as to actually praise Clerk-Recorder's Office staff!

"I think we have a very good Clerk-Recorder's Office. I think there are exceptional people there, and I think that they run fair elections," he said.

Take that, all you Chicken Little Republicans crying "fraud!" Not only is the sky not falling, but elections in this county are being conducted efficiently, effectively, and fairly.

And supervisors took steps to ensure that continues: Even 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton—who sides with Arnold on almost everything—agreed that it was best to put this controversial, partisan-divided chapter of SLO County history in the rearview.

"We already have enough people that have distrust in the process right now. And I just think that going back to the table and doing it all over again, adds to that distrust," Compton said. "I think it becomes a mockery in the county if we go back and do it all again."

It was already on the verge of mockery-dom, so it wouldn't have taken much chicanery to make that happen. In an all-too-fitting example of what disgruntled "patriots" could do in SLO County, Cano spilled the tea during her transparent interview process about some recall election night shenanigans in Santa Barbara County.

A group of extremely fired-up folks actually met some county elections ballot box drivers on the night of Sept. 14 (recall election night), heckled and harassed them, and then followed them back to the elections office. Followed them! This little group of 10 to 12 individuals then congregated in front of the office and were being unruly enough that the sheriff's deputy on duty called for a little bit of backup.

Cano, who heard the call, joined the response. She told the group of fraud-obsessed conspiracists (My words, not hers!) that she would take them in to watch the vote tabulation process if they just calmed down. That took about an hour.

She then spent hours of arguably the busiest night of her year with these people, guiding them from room to room, pointing out each and every process, all the while listening to their comments "disagreeing with everything I had to say."

Even though they were seeing the process in real time.

"That's not what I planned to do on election night," she said during her interview.

But it's good she has some "expertise" in dealing with it, because more of that is likely to come. We all better hang on. This next election ought to be a fun one. Δ

The Shredder doesn't envy elections officials. Send comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.


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