In the world of San Luis Obispo County politics, we've got some stuff happening.
On the one hand, we've got a mayor leaving mid-term—that'd be SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon, for those of you who can't keep up—and a SLO City Council opting for the pragmatic cost-effective approach of appointing her replacement.
Say goodbye to the red, red progressive rose of county politicking and say hello to a new lovely leading lady: Will it be moderate yet still liberal City Councilmember Erica Stewart or liberal but progressively so City Councilmember Andy Pease?
Rumor has it, they both want it. Will the appointment be politically fraught or decisively civil? I guess we'll find out as soon as they get things figured out.
Councilmember Jan Marx seems very worried that once Harmon leaves, the four remaining liberal elected officials will have trouble agreeing! What if they align 2-2 on an issue? Who will break the tie? That would only happen if something like night hiking came up again? But I do get it. Even liberals disagree.
Usually, though, it's liberals disagreeing with conservatives for ideology's sake! As is so clearly happening on SLO County's other hand, where we've got a vacancy at the tippity-toppity of the county elections office, and filling that spot has already made for a spicy conversation. With clear lines being drawn in the ideological middle.
And, on that side of the county line, conservatives clearly take the cake! Instead of simply appointing the deputy clerk recorder to replace former Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong, the majority of the Board of Supervisors decided it would be best to appoint someone from a pool of applicants that will be narrowed down by a special selection committee.
"This is a politically fraught time. There are a lot of politics," committee member and former SLO City Manager Ken Hampian said in the understatement of the year during the committee's Sept. 8 meeting.
With 44 applicants to choose from, it appears that only four are "qualified"—as in, have some clerking experience—and one is the deputy clerk-recorder, Helen Nolan, who is currently the county's acting clerk-recorder. It's good to know that most of the people applying to run the county's elections are just as unqualified as the people who apply for almost any other job.
Being the vice president and CFO at the Boardwalk Auto Center in Redwood City doesn't qualify you to run elections, David Evans. And neither does being the mayor of California City or failed runs for state controller and secretary of state. We've also got Sean Nolan, the general manager of the Apple Farm Inn; Miriam Shah, who served as a Grover Beach City Council member until she abruptly resigned from office earlier this year; and Santa Maria Police Sgt. Alfredo Ruiz.
But let's not forget my personal favorite: lawyer Stew "I Like to Stir the Pot" Jenkins, who listed Hometown Radio host Dave Congalton as a reference. Last I checked, being a longtime radio voice doesn't have anything to do with navigating the legal, logistical, and operational traditions of local elections.
Lucky for us, these special committee members have been directed to screw their heads on straight: "This isn't a time to learn on the job," county Chief Administrative Officer Wade Horton said.
Here, here! Committee members seemed to want to stick to the traditions of nonpartisanship and elections integrity in choosing the candidates for the Board of Supervisors to vote on. And that seems pragmatic, given the atmosphere surrounding our most recent election and the allegations of impropriety that followed it—even here, where everyone agreed (at one point in the distant past) that the election was conducted on the up and up.
But who knows? Things can fall apart so quickly in this county.
Let's take the Lucia Mar Unified School District as a great example of how wackadoo the politics in this county can be. Things in district politicking have devolved so far that a couple of handfuls of folks felt the need to show up outside of a school board member's house to protest during a Zoomed board meeting.
According to a Tribune story, the Arroyo Grande police showed up to watch the evening progress on board trustee Colleen Martin's sidewalk, protesters pepper-sprayed one of her neighbors who need EMT treatment, and random book author Allan Stevo (is that a real name?)—who claimed to have organized the whole thing—accused the board of Brown Act violations for having a Zoom meeting and cutting him off mid-statement. WTF?
Stevo, who's authored books about Bitcoin and masking, is a "health freedom advocate," and isn't from around here, seems to have taken the recall effort against three Lucia Mar school board members (including Martin) under his wing. Why? I have no idea why someone from somewhere else decided to start attending local school board meetings. But I'd sure like to know. Because it sure is weird.
It's almost as weird as seasoned attorney Robert Sanger believing that his subpoena for Your Own Backyard podcaster Chris Lambert's notes, emails, and raw interview recordings in the Kristin Smart case would fly with the court. It didn't. SLO County Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen dismissed the motion, citing shield law and First Amendment protections for journalists and their sources.
At least there's nothing wacky to see there. Δ
Correction: The Shredder spelled the name of seasoned attorney Robert Sanger incorrectly in the original version of this column and apologizes for being a sloppy piece of office equipment.
Shredder lives in wacko land. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.