Hey Congress, in case you want to know how that whole government thing is supposed to work, look no further than the SLO County Board of Supervisors, which proved on Tuesday, Aug.16, that miracles do happen.
Before I start, I have to say, I’m so sick of writing about this, but perhaps after this vote, we can finally put it to rest. At least, for eight months! In a rare demonstration of adult behavior, the five supervisors actually managed to agree on a compromise (no, it’s not a dirty word) to extend the urgency ordinance to ban the clear-cutting of native trees.
And they were actually civil to one another. Civility is not dead, people! Unless you’re on Facebook talking about the current election for some God-forsaken reason, but I refuse to go there.
In case you’ve been napping under the dead horse I’m still beating, the tree controversy came up after Justin Vineyards and Winery, owned by The Wonderful Company [Not!], which in turn is owned by our favorite resource-hogging celebrities Stewart and Lynda Resnick, bulldozed thousands of native oaks to make way for more grapes. The billionaire Beverly Hills’ power couple perpetually tries to pretend they’re really swell people. I will admit they’re generous philanthropists, but they can’t even do that without demanding praise.
The Resnick Foundation is currently seeking Sole Donor Recognition for its recent $750,000 donation toward the restoration of the Cactus Garden area of the Beverly Gardens Park. The restoration still needs another $425,810 in donations to be completed, but in exchange for their donation, the Resnicks want to ensure that only their names appear on a plaque placed in the garden for 50 years. Ooh, la, la. So generous and altruistic!
How about creating an endowment to fund restoration of the oak forest you decimated? I’ll make you a deal. You get to pay for all of it. We’ll even throw in a plaque with your names on it. It can talk about the property’s history and teach people about how long it takes to restore an ecosystem.
But back to the board of supes and its herculean effort to govern like grown-ups. I’ve never been so enthralled. It was like watching a soap opera: Hours of our Lives. Seriously. They dragged my heart all over the place.
Conservative-minded supervisors Debbie Arnold (5th District; the one “no” on the initial urgency ordinance vote) and Lynn Compton (4th District) pitched the idea of extending the urgency ordinance for just six months even though county staff told the board it would take at least a year to draft a permanent ordinance. It took Santa Barbara County eight years to draft an ordinance that their board could finally agree on.
Meanwhile, liberal-minded supervisors Bruce Gibson (2nd District) and Adam Hill (3rd District) were lobbying for a year extension.
Who knew the conversation could drag on for hours? Geezus. Because these urgency ordinances require a four-fifths majority to pass, it was a nail-biter, but the board finally and unanimously voted to extend the ordinance for nine months. Well. I do declare!
“Best Use of Props” award goes to Los Osos resident Lisen Bonnier, who brought a tiny oak tree she dug up in for the show-and-tell portion of public comment. She told supes the sapling was defenseless and couldn’t run away from her. She showed by threatening to cut the tiny tree down in front of the audience and board with pruning shears. Yes, for realsies. Oh, the drama! I was moved to eye rolling.
Props also go to County Planning and Building Department Director Jim Bergman, who showed the board and audience how important having quality staff is. He’s good in the clutch, and he brought a map of the county’s oak resources with him.
Last week I gave Supervisor Hill a solid flogging for an email he sent out scolding local business “leaders” for not donating to his campaign, intimating that without some generous campaign donations, they may not have his support.
This week’s Deserves to be Flogged Award goes to SLO Vice Mayor Dan Carpenter. Why? I’m so glad you asked, because while Hill’s campaign coffers have been well filled by local developers, Hill’s opponent, Carpenter, seems just as eager to get cozy with generous developers.
This year, Carpenter got a $1,000 campaign donation from SLO-based Souza Construction, which partnered with John Madonna Construction to protest the city of SLO’s 2014 decision to award Watsonville-based Granite Construction (they also have an office in Santa Maria) the $16-million project to build the now-completed Los Osos Valley Road overpass, which by the way was finished before its scheduled deadline.
When the five-member SLO City Council voted on whether to uphold the Planning Department’s decision to award the job to Granite, Carpenter was the sole dissenting vote. Hmm. Coincidence? Just asking.
Carpenter, like any half-decent politician, denies any quid pro quo. He was just trying to keep those jobs local because, you know, neither Watsonville nor Santa Maria are in SLO County. On the other hand, if the two-year-long job employed out-of-the-area workers, they still had to find housing here, shop here, and eat at restaurants here for two years.
The bottom line is developers and construction companies are going to try to kiss shiny political butts as long as SLO County continues to grow. No politician will ever kiss-and-tell because it’s just poor form. Maybe it’s time to get the binoculars out to see who’s kissing whom in the North County race.
In the meantime, maybe I need to start kissing the Resnicks, because I hear Justin Vineyards is looking for someone to improve community relations. But, then again, there aren’t enough lips in the world to save them from the well of community spite they’re drowning in.
The Shredder likes free kisses. Send ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.