Forbes Magazine notes SLO County as government run amok

January 20, 2014
Adam Hill

Adam Hill

In a Forbes Magazine article about relentless government bureaucracy, San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution District salaries and Supervisor Adam Hill are used as examples.

“Today, local governments in the U.S. are just as careerist, self-seeking, and mindlessly bureaucratic as any remote bureau in Washington,” Forbes contributor Steven Hayward says before using San Luis Obispo County as an example.

“I’ve been making a case study of my local home county in California, San Luis Obispo. Compared to California as a whole, the county has grown only modestly over the last 30 years. Its politics ought to be fairly simple, but they are not.

“The county government likes to boast that its budget has grown in line with inflation over the past decade while its workforce has not increased at all. But like much of government at all levels today, the real mischief is not to be apprehended on the ‘top line’ figures of general spending and number of direct staff. More and more of local government is being conducted by special agencies, indirectly and tenuously accountable to voters at best, with opaque budgets and complex legal authority.

“San Luis Obispo’s Air Pollution Control District (APCD) is a case in point. Just about every Larry Allencounty in California has one of these standalone bureaucracies. They make some sense in high air pollution areas like Los Angeles and Fresno. But air pollution is relatively low in San Luis Obispo County, and is steadily falling because of improving technology driven by national standards. If San Luis Obispo’s APCD were abolished tomorrow, there would be little change in the improving trends of air quality in the county. In fact, if the APCD had been abolished a decade ago, air quality trends would likely have been little different. A close look shows that the APCD exists mainly to perpetuate itself, and provide comfortable employment for its staff.

“Instead, as air pollution continues to fall, over the last decade the APCD’s budget has doubled. Its director, Larry Allen, is paid close to $250,000 a year (plus a car allowance). By contrast, Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, is paid $179,000 a year. Nearly all of the APCD’s staff is paid a six-figure salary. Allen’s chief accomplishment, according to his staff biography, is overseeing the ‘residential wood combustion rule,’ which is exactly what it sounds like: restrictions on the kind of fireplaces that can be installed or used in new residences. The APCD exists not by appropriations from the county or the state, but solely through permit and inspection fees and fines that it determines itself. The perverse incentives here are obvious. Right now the APCD is looking to fill $300,000 in lost revenues from permit fees on a power plant that is shutting down soon. Back in 2010, the APCD charged the state university $13,000 to re-inspect and permit a tractor.

“This kind of government is corrupt at a profound level: largely autonomous entities like the APCD violate the basic principle of the separation of powers, as well as basic understandings of just about any conception of democratic accountability. And this kind of rule is spreading like weeds throughout American government at all levels.

“If you pay attention and complain about this kind of rule, you tend to get the kind of response given last week by the incoming chairman of the board of the APCD, county commissioner Adam Hill. In a letter to the editor of the New Times, the local ‘alternative’ weekly, Hill makes clear that he views all critics of unaccountable bureaucratic rule as ‘conspiracy’ mongers.”

Link here to read more.


76 Comments

  1. IronMan says:

    Good evening local government employees (City of SLO leaders and County Leaders) and elected officials – this is just the beginning of accountability and transparency. 2014 will be a stellar year of holding the local corruption to national attention – 20/20 is a great perspective and program. After this your names will be synonymous with mud nationally which is well deserved. So much for the fleecing of the local economy for personal gain, engaging in self dealing acts, commit crimes in the course of your official duties.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 40 Thumb down 3

  2. Shocked in MB says:

    Just as an FYI, SLO has a huge amount of non-profits and Public agencies. The county is not overly “business friendly” so large companies never had a presence here and instead employment is made up by small businesses, non-profits and government agencies. Non-profits are a great source of employment since a % of each dollar can be used for salaries. So when employment is scarce-start a non-profit and use some of the money to pay yourself. Believe me, some of the SLO non-profits do have exceptional pay and benefits. They do try to stay under the radar of publicity.

    SLO county from Tax Exempt World
    2,310 agencies $624,603,903 reported income $1,142,637,038 assets

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 4

    • bobfromsanluis says:

      “The county is not overly “business friendly” … um, citation? Evidence? Corroborating backing of your assertion? Perhaps we don’t have a large manufacturing footprint due to a either a lack of resources or a large labor pool, or both? But apparently, in your mind, we have too much regulation, period, so that is why we are not perceived as “business friendly”? Uh, sure.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 19

  3. Pelican1 says:

    Forbes is simply confirming what we’ve known for years. Low level, self seeking, mindless bureaucrats (some with medallions) are at the helm of our county (RMS Titanic) doing nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs as the band plays on.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 2

  4. mbactivist1 says:

    I read the whole Forbes article and noted that it has a direct link to Hill’s letter to the New Times. Now everyone, nationwide, will have a chance to read his wacko ramblings.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 48 Thumb down 2

  5. falconbh says:

    Interesting article from outstanding national publication on many of the problems with County Government and Local Agencies.

    I just wish Forbes Magazine had visited the Oceano Community Services District and our
    “Cost Saving” 5Cities Fire Department Agency. The New Fire Tax is just another example of how these agencies and unions undermine the democratic process on the local level.

    Payback will come when residents are allowed to Vote on rolling back excessive State Pensions and Health Benefits.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 33 Thumb down 3

  6. taxpayer says:

    I can see it now. Adam Hill will put in his resume that he has “written” for Forbes Magazine. He truly is an embarrassment for the people of his district.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 41 Thumb down 1

    • mbactivist1 says:

      He is an embarrassment for the whole county. Do you suppose any psychiatrists read Forbes? I wonder what they would have to say about that letter.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  7. Silcad says:

    No one wants to propose abolishing the Air Pollution Control District for fear of being labeled “anti environment.” This is article but one small example of how bureaucrats show little regard for the money we pay in taxes. It happens from the local to the national level. We could put a stop to it, but we won’t.

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  8. shelworth says:

    $250,000.00!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 38 Thumb down 4

  9. mollypj says:

    And this county is known for low wages – I know way too many people that really struggle to live here, where they were born and raised. Actually, most of the people I went to school with have moved away because they can’t afford to live here anymore.

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