Opinion » Commentaries

Arroyo Grande needs facts, not opinions

Look at the evidence to see why Jim Hill won the mayor's race

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Perspective is a difficult thing to argue against, and that is precisely what Mr. Cuddy’s opinion piece titled “Jan. 1 didn’t erase 2014’s wounds in Arroyo Grande” (Jan. 8) attempts to do. Perspective depends on a person’s opinion, which is also difficult to refute. Words used by Mr. Cuddy like “disgraceful,” “engineered,” “burst into City Hall,” “scurrilous,” “mugger,” “stealing,” “wood shredder,” “most likely needed to go to MapQuest,” “rancid horse,” and all come from a perspective, an opinion; these words are not factual, nor do they tell a truthful account of the events played out in the media prior, during, and following the mayoral election of 2014.

My perspective, having been a member of the group who worked to elect Mayor Hill, is that I truly felt that, aside from “a scandal,” Mr. Ferrara had overstepped the lines governing his position as mayor on more than one occasion. People from across the city of Arroyo Grande shared their stories with committee members working to elect Mayor Hill about misguided actions as well as acts of deceit coming out of the city of Arroyo Grande—from the mayor and council members.

To correct errors in Mr. Cuddy’s opinion piece, please make note of the fact that Mayor Hill did offer a platform, and it was published in Cal Coast News as well as heard over Mr. Congalton’s radio show. What is also factual regarding the platform issue is that other members of the media, when approached by Mr. Hill and committee members to publish this platform, were dismissed. Another fact is that Mr. Ferrara did not at any time publically state or publish a platform stating his agenda for the upcoming mayoral term. Mr. Hill’s platform consisted of term limits, transparency in governing decisions, and collaboration. This short list is not exhaustive, but it gives a snapshot of the platform Mr. Hill campaigned on. I do not recall seeing one piece of documentation regarding Mr. Ferrara’s platform. I saw signs around town, and I heard explanations about why city workers removed the tree from his front yard, but I did not see a viable platform coming from Mr. Ferrara or his supporters. Could it be that the long-time incumbent underestimated the power of the democratic process, the sentiments of the citizens of Arroyo Grande, and 
the power of Mr. Hill’s campaign? Did 
he wrongly assume the election was in the bag?

Mr. Cuddy goes on to say the police “burst into City Hall.” In fact, according to police reports, officers knocked on the doors repeatedly for someone, namely Mrs. McClish, to open the door to ensure her safety upon receiving a phone call from her husband who was worried for her safety. Not getting a response, keys were used to access City Hall to ensure their wellness check produced some results. “Burst into” is hardly a phrase that describes the situation. Police reports are used as factual evidence, and the words “burst into” weren’t used to describe entry into City Hall the evening of July 3.

Mr. Cuddy continues to further attempt to discredit the AGPOA by stating they were “dragged into the politics of this.” Fact: The AGPOA took a vote of no confidence in then-Mayor Ferrara, as well as the City Council. They made this vote of no confidence public knowledge at a City Council meeting during public comment. Fact: The AGPOA was disparaged by Ferrara supporters as a group using this situation to improve their chances of negotiating a more favorable contract. The AGPOA stood on its own in this situation, and people who supported Ferrara used this against the AGPOA to not only discredit the AGPOA, but to attempt to discredit the entire Hill campaign.

Let us not forget the fact that chairs were removed from council chambers, limiting the number of people allowed in by the fire marshal attending one particular City Council meeting. Let us also not forget that, at the same meeting, people were turned away by the fire marshal, even before the 140 person limit was reached. These are facts, not merely opinions or statements coming from a person’s perspective. I was there. I witnessed both factual events.

Another fact that is lost in Mr. Cuddy’s opinion piece is that the roots of the Hill campaign were to provide the citizens of Arroyo Grande an option in the mayoral race. Mr. Hill’s name not being on the ballot is irrelevant. What is relevant is that voters were given a choice, a choice they took full advantage of at the ballot box. This campaign was not engineered as an act of retribution, an act of disregard for others, or meant to act as a steamroller. We did not “smell blood.” What we did is organize a campaign to give people a chance to vote for a change in leadership. Fact: A majority of people in Arroyo Grande decided to elect a new mayor based on their opinions and experiences with the prior mayor and City Council. Mr. Cuddy and others may not agree with who was elected; all elections have two sides—sometimes more than two. This goes back to my original point that disagreements about elections are based on perspective and opinion, not just facts.

From my perspective, Mr. Ferrara proved himself to be a bully, a liar, someone not concerned about the opinions of others that did not align with his opinions, and someone who very much relished his position of power and used it to his benefit. Again, this is my perspective. However, if you peel back the veil of the events as they unfolded in Arroyo Grande this past year, there is a sense of this perspective being factual, especially if you attended the council meetings leading up to the election. Let us also not forget that a council member did, in fact, state openly in a City Council meeting that there had been a warning given to Mr. Adams regarding his actions toward and his relationship with Mrs. McClish prior to July 3, 2014. In addition, it was stated that Mr. Ferrara wanted to handle that situation in-house, which turned out to be ineffective (at best).

I would also maintain, Mr. Cuddy, that had Ferrara remained in office, he would have had a lot to prove as well. He would have to prove that he was willing to listen to people who did not agree with him. He would have to prove he was not a stooge of Steve Adams, AG in Bloom, certain members of the community at large, Caren Ray, the Wallace Group, John Shoals, Adam Hill—this list could go on. Everyone in politics has to prove something to the electorate; this is not a new reality.

My perspective regarding Cal Coast News and their role in the election was not that they took language and ran with it; they provided a platform that other media sources did not provide to the Hill campaign and to people who were working for and wanting changes in leadership. They provided information to the voting public that the other media sources did not provide. They took a risk in allowing and welcoming citizens of both Arroyo Grande and the greater Central Coast to have a venue in which to voice their concerns, their opinions, and work for a change they deeply believed in. Fact: Other media sources did not allow for this.

The one and only statement in Mr. Cuddy’s opinion piece that I agree with is that the citizens of Arroyo Grande need to remain watchful. We need to be diligent in or our participation in the local politics and governance of our community. We need to take an active role in ensuring the greater good is fought for and won. We need to hold our elected and appointed officials accountable for their actions. We also need to recognize that doing so is bound to drawn lines and create fissures between people, because these actions come down to opinions and perspectives. Defining the greater good, deciding who should be elected and ultimately what decisions should be made with regard to the governance of our city, come from a place of perspective, not fact.

Making the request to move forward with governance is something that just needs to happen in the city of Arroyo Grande. The business of the city and the people must continue. This is not simply a “Buddhist philosophy,” as suggested by Mr. Cuddy. Moving forward is a choice, Mr. Cuddy. If you choose not to, that is your choice. But factually, change happens naturally, whether you agree with the change or not. The city, as a whole, will move forward, with or without you and whoever shares your same perspective—that is also factual. Another fact is that the election is over, and it is time the new mayor and new council get down to business. If you choose to sit and lament the election and the “steamroller and fringe group” who worked for change, then do that. That is also your choice. Just know the people who spoke with their voices and their vote in 2014 affected change they deeply believed was necessary. You are fully entitled to disagree with them, but do not confuse facts and opinions/perspectives. Know your disagreement and recent rendezvous attempting to discredit the new mayor, his intentions, his abilities, and his goals, will not change the outcome of the election, or the fact that Mayor Hill has many supporters.

I respect your opinions and perspectives, but I do disagree with you.

 

LeAnn Akins lives in Arroyo Grande. Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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