The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors managed to maneuver into compromise during a tense June 19 discussion that could have left a routine decision up to the courts.
The debate over just how to package the citizens' initiative to ban fracking and oil expansion in SLO County for the November ballot had supervisors in a 2-2 stalemate. Potential tiebreaker 1st District Supervisor John Peschong recused himself due to his political consulting firm's work with the oil industry.
"Do we really want to get to a point where a court is telling us what to do? First of all, that makes us look bad," 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson told his colleagues on the dais. "In the spirit of compromise: I do not want the embarrassment of a court telling us what to be."
At issue was whether to print the full text of the initiative in the informational election pamphlet mailed out to voters, which could have cost the county an additional $100,000, and whether to ask SLO County Auditor-Controller Jim Erb to prepare a fiscal impact statement. Supervisors Lynn Compton (4th District) and Debbie Arnold (5th District) pushed for both, as many initiative opponents had asked for during public comment, while Gibson and 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill initially opposed both, siding with the initiative's backers.
Arnold and Compton argued for including more information in the ballot pamphlet rather than less.
"People at home open this ballot material, and without some transparency, it's difficult to have the information you need to make important decisions," Arnold said. "It's a service to the voters to help them make informed decisions."
Hill called the argument a false one, referring to the civility code supervisors had voted to pass earlier in the meeting and insinuating that Compton and Arnold were unable to budge from their positions.
"This is probably why civility is not going to change anything. Transparency should not be misused," he said. "It's misleading to tell people that this is a transparency issue. ... They're not going to concede anything until we go to court. Let's go to court."
But Gibson and Compton managed to work out a deal. Drop the full text of the initiative and include the fiscal impact statement on the accompanying ballot information materials. The board passed the compromise 4-0.