Incumbents must be held accountable

May 6, 2012 | John Allan Peschong

It is a familiar refrain nowadays that government is broken. The latest CBS News/New York Times poll shows that 61 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. The feeling that government is failing us is also reflected in poll numbers that show high disapproval of elected leaders from President Barack Obama and Congress to our own state Legislature.

The genius of the founders lies in the creation of a political system that allows citizens to hold elected leaders accountable by voting them out of office.

While we don’t always get it right, and perhaps too often we re-elect the incumbents, our system has worked pretty well for more than 200 years.

Nowhere is it more important to hold politicians’ feet to the fire than on the local level, where as citizens we can attend local government meetings and petition our elected officials on issues we care about. That is why the election of our county supervisors on June 5 will be one of the most important choices local voters make.

In full disclosure, my company, Meridian Pacific Inc., works for two of the candidates for supervisor, Debbie Arnold and Ed Waage.

I’m sure all the candidates for supervisor would agree that the quality of life we enjoy in San Luis Obispo County is unmatched anywhere in the state.

However, the lack of long-term vision on the Board of Supervisors has led to decisions that hurt our local economy and impact the services people need.

Incumbent Supervisors Jim Patterson and Adam Hill have served a combined 12 years on the Board of Supervisors.

In the past eight years, unemployment has nearly doubled, spending has increased more than 30 percent despite recent cuts and the county has vastly expanded regulations that harm small businesses and control people’s lives.

Some will say Supervisors Patterson and Hill are not responsible for our local economy and that spending would have risen regardless. However, if these elected officials are not accountable, who is? Let’s examine some facts.

Within the past six months, Supervisors Patterson and Hill voted to ban businesses from offering customers free grocery bags. A short time later, Scolari’s grocery store announced it was closing its Central Coast stores.

Did the bag ban force Scolari’s to close? Probably not entirely, but it easily could have been the regulation that broke the camel’s back.

It’s foolish to think that the cost of compliance, in addition to a six-month jail sentence and hefty fine per violation of the bag ban didn’t factor in to Scolari’s decision. Regulations like the bag ban have real impact, and cost real money, and in all probability played a part in Scolari’s decision to close down its stores.

There is also the case of Patterson’s support for, of all things, regulating “wine barrel emissions” by taxing our local wineries. The wine industry in California is extremely competitive, and Patterson’s wine barrel emissions tax puts San Luis Obispo County wineries at a competitive disadvantage, which hurts local businesses and jobs.

Another job-destroying vote. Patterson and Hill voted multiple times to raise permit fees for building a single-family home — a nearly 300 percent increase in just eight years.

Then, there is the ridiculous. Patterson and Hill led the effort to raise property taxes to purchase mosquito-eating fish — even going as far as to spend more than $250,000 of taxpayer money to run a campaign to approve the property tax hike. Not surprisingly, San Luis Obispo County voters overwhelming defeated the tax.

And let us not forget Patterson’s famous effort to regulate backyard bird feeders.

These are just a few examples of how our supervisors’ lack of long-term vision and desire to score short-term political points can have real impacts on our local economy and the county’s bottom line.

When politicians take credit for the good, they also have to be accountable for the bad. Unfortunately, San Luis Obispo County is not in great shape. The buck stops with Supervisors Patterson and Hill.

I believe our county would be better served with Arnold and Waage on the Board of Supervisors. They both have extensive education and experience in business, and have served within local government.

Arnold owned and operated a local small business in Atascadero for 17 years, and Waage had a successful career in academics and business. Arnold and Waage are thoughtful leaders who would bring vision and balance to the Board of Supervisors.

On June 5, it’s time to exercise our most important right as citizens, and vote for new leadership on the Board of Supervisors.