It's hard to be mad at predictability. In the case of redistricting, the outcome of the map-narrowing process was predictable: What SLO County's conservative majority of supervisors want, they get!
And they'll say "no" to everything else, including the map choices of 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson and 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg without a scintilla of compromise offered.
"Could we ... ?"
"What about if we ... ?"
"But ... ."
Gibson's exercise in futility was painful to listen to during the Nov. 19 public hearing on the county's redistricting maps. As was 1st District Supervisor John Peschong's indignant speech about the people who disagree with him and the way that disagreement is expressed.
"You all know who I am. You all have kicked me around because of my past," he said during the meeting, ignoring the fact that he hasn't stopped engaging in the political exploits of his "past."
"Why is everybody always picking on me?" he and 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton opined during the meeting—striking a maddeningly similar tone to recent contentious discussions over the SLO County Clerk-Recorder and the county's waste management debacle.
Apparently, Peschong doesn't like being called a white supremacist—welcome to the club! The insult is très en vogue en ce moment! And Peschong really doesn't like it when area newspaper outlets publish opinion pieces in which the authors express their First Amendment views on redistricting maps and what the outcome of the discussion could mean for the community.
"I systematically disagree that we will have violence in the streets because of what's going on," he said. "Letters like these are unacceptable to send to the supervisors."
Must be tough to take umbrage to so much and still say so little about the discussion at hand. Of course, his little soapbox soliloquy was meant for the people who are on his side. Liberals and the media are such easy targets. He called out The Tribune, New Times, and the opposite political party. Points scored!
Where was his anger when death threats, sexual insults, and more were leveled at former SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon. I guess he only cares about insane rhetoric and out-of-line insults when they're directed at him—that's where he draws the line! Liberals need to tone it down!
People are off their rockers with partisan anger, and it has indeed ratcheted up the severity of insults, threats, and more to an almost untenable level, but being an elected official is a choice.
"Supervisor Peschong's personal outrage over this is sort of interesting," Gibson said. "I think all of us on this dais have suffered insults ... but that's part of this business. ... What I'm hearing in your outrage, sir, is a set-up to produce a radical redrawing of the county's makeup."
Here, here, Gibson.
While defending themselves against accusations of partisanship, Peschong and his fellow conservatives said very little about why they chose the dreaded Patten map—a Republican fever-dream of what the future could hold for them in this Democratic-leaning county—and a SLO Chamber of Commerce map to decide between at a future meeting.
In that deafening lack of specificity, we are forced to read between the lines due to a lack of transparency on Peschong, Compton, and 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold's part while we heard Gibson and Ortiz-Legg plead for and attempt to engage in an actual detailed debate.
"No!" was the resounding response.
While Gibson pointed to the county's historical record on redistricting as a place to anchor the current efforts to, Ortiz-Legg asked for clarification on what the county is legally required to prioritize in redrawing efforts—communities of interest is the first priority—and pointed out flaws in the Patten map—such as the smallest district ever drawn, which includes the cities of SLO and Morro Bay and not much else; a lack of cohesion when it comes to communities of interest, such as separating the North Coast from Morro Bay, San Miguel from Paso Robles, and Atascadero from Santa Margarita; and the fact that only four out of the five districts would assume responsibility for almost all of the county's unincorporated residents.
Arnold, unhappy with the competing interests of having Cal Poly and Ground Squirrel Hollow in her district, claimed she would do what was best for the county and all future supervisors: "I will be looking particularly at making it more efficient, I guess I would like to say, that it would be reasonable for each supervisor ... to not be spread so thin so they can get it all done."
I guess that means she'll be supporting the chamber's map, because the Patten map doesn't prioritize efficiency. One district would include the Carrizo Plain, the Edna Valley, Nipomo, and most of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area—but not Oceano. Another includes San Miguel, San Simeon, Atascadero, and Cayucos—but not Santa Margarita or Paso Robles. Neither of those districts equals supervisors who aren't stretched too thin, while the district including only Morro Bay and most of San Luis Obispo (minus Cal Poly) enables a supervisor to kick their feet up while they make a cool $90,000 a year of taxpayer money.
Have I said enough to make it into Peschong's next speech? Stay tuned for less about maps and more about rhetoric. Δ
The Shredder is specific. Send comments to email@example.com.