When in doubt, just let go

October 2, 2010

Photo by Dennis Eamon Young


Whether it’s your family or town, knowing your history helps you to understand where you came from, what you are made of, and how not to make the same mistakes over and over again. You make a better future when you learn from the past.

So I’d like to share a little history in hopes of doing just that. I’ve lived in Morro Bay since 1981. I got involved in politics in 1989 because of a giant shopping center proposal that was all wrong for Morro Bay. The hillside to the east of Highway 1 at the entrance to our beautiful city has always been used for cattle grazing and sold through the years from family to family while zoned agricultural. The current owners, Tri-W Inc. led by members of the Williams family, tried two times to rezone part of the 177 acres within the city for commercial and visitor serving uses through a ballot initiative in the 1980s. They won on the second try.

However, when the plans came to light to reveal a 32 acre shopping center, larger than the entire downtown of Morro Bay,that would cut a massive hole in the hillside requiring tons of earth to be removed, I got involved in city politics.

In 1990, Measure H was born to rezone that 32 acres back to 13 gross acres of commercial only use and return the balance to agricultural. Ben Luna led the fight along with a great group of volunteers. In the summer of 1990, we both ran for city council. In November we won and Measure H won. We also campaigned for Rose Marie Sheetz for Mayor and she won. We now had a three person majority to fight the shopping center.

This was my first lesson in politics – be careful whom you help because they may just use you to win and then turn their backs on you. This is exactly what Rose Marie did to Ben and me. She changed her position on the shopping center once elected and Ben and I had to fight to get measure H enacted into city law. We fought for two years through the city process, the courts, and the Coastal Commission. It was a long and hard battle and after two years we still hadn’t secured what Measure H had promised. At the same time this was going on, we were also being sued personally by the developer in what is known as a SLAPP  (Strategic Lawsuit against Political Participation) suit in federal court in Los Angeles. Our personal time and resources were being exhausted on purpose in hopes that we would give up – but we didn’t.

So in the spring of 1992, with too much on my plate to even think about running for Mayor, I met Bill Yates and suggested he run for Mayor after hearing his support for me and Ben and his liberal political beliefs. I promised to help him and I did. He was elected and the night he was sworn in, we voted to rescind all actions of the previous council and effectively killed the out-of-scale 32 acre Tri-W project. That was the beginning of a two year friendship.

With the shopping center battle over and the SLAPP suit thrown out of court, I now had time to work on more pressing city issues. I thought Bill was a good mayor and we were a good council. If you look back at that two year period between 1992 and 1994, you would see the Vision 2000 statement, a reworking of the zoning rules, low interest loans for business signage, roads being paved, high schools students having a day as the council and city staff, a water management plan, balanced city budgets and new twin bridges among the many accomplishments.

None of this was done by one person alone, but by all of us working together. One very important action was to direct staff to give us options and pros and cons – not direction so that we directed staff – they did not direct us. We increased methods of communication to the citizens – especially around the harbor plan and had many meetings discussing how to set goals and have more people in the city participate in their local government. There were a lot of 5-0 votes. On a personal level, I had many lunches with Bill and dinners and parties at his home and got to know his family too. I thought we had become good friends. I even agreed to jump parties and support him as a Republican if he ran for assembly.  That’s how much I liked him.

But history repeated itself again in 1994. I was ready to run for Mayor but knew I would not run against Bill. I don’t run against my friends. So when he came to me in early 1994 and made it very clear he would not run again no matter what, I took him on his word and started a campaign for Mayor. Bill told me he was not spending enough time with his family and the city work was just too much. He told me he would endorse me for Mayor and was happy that I was running. I believed him. My term on council ended that year so my political career would be over if I didn’t win. I was sure I would win with Bill’s support.

My campaign started early. I raised money, bought signs, printed brochures, and did all the things one does to start a campaign. I was happy and excited and looking forward to a summer of campaigning. All that changed on the last day to file for office, when Bill called to tell me he had changed his mind and was going to run again for Mayor.

I knew I couldn’t beat him and my political career was over for now. I limped through that election like a wounded soldier. I did the best I could knowing it would not be enough. What hurt the most was finding out that he set me up and had been planning to run all along. And that everything he had told me to get me to run for Mayor was a lie. He had done it on purpose.

At this point you might say that this is all about sour grapes and losing but it far from that. It’s not easy baring one’s soul to a city after all these years. It would be much easier to be quiet. But history is important and this story needs to be told. And I know Bill will respond by saying he had too many people asking him to run again but don’t be fooled. I have had too many people confirm the setup to believe anything different.

So this story is about a friend betraying your trust. It’s about how politics has become a bait and switch game where someone will tell you they will do something only to make a complete change once elected. It’s about the loss of a friendship that can never be healed. It is also a warning to watch out for Bill because he apparently does not have a core that guides him, only an overwhelming desire to win at all costs.

I write this because I believe this goes right to his character. How can anyone trust Bill,if he can so easily betray a friend? Who will he betray next?  I believe it will be you, the voters. Will he do what he says he will do? What agenda does he really have and what plans does he really have in mind if elected.

Obviously, I’m not going to vote for Bill Yates for mayor and if you are thinking about voting for Bill, I say you should have second thoughts about this decision. I don’t trust what he says and neither should you. The city is in too bad a financial condition to have someone at the helm that you just can’t trust.

Susan Mullen is a Morro Bay resident and a former Morro Bay city councilwoman.


Wow politicians lie??? Go figure. I thought about being in politics YEARS ago right out of high school. Then the more you see and saw, I decide I couldn’t debaste myself to become this camelion called a politician. Lady you are a grown women. The fact that you chose to trust a politician??? Well get over it.

Kevin Rice

Actual Betty Winholtz quotes:

Jun 26, 2006: “We make decisions all the time that we don’t understand.”

Feb 14, 2006: “I came with problems, but no ideas.”

Sep 11, 2007: “It matters who you are talking with on whether it matters.”

Mar 9, 2009: “I want to get more input, but I don’t know what that means.”

Jul 14, 2008: “I know that there are other considerations, but I don’t know what they are.”


Wow, these sound like the last clown in the white house. Did she really say such lame things/

Kevin Rice

Why, yes, she did:


This kind of trick does not fool any intelligent person.

Clearly, statements taken out of context do not always seem to make sense. For a more intelligent look at what Betty is about, check out the endorsements on her Web site at http://winholtzformayor.org/page10.html There, you will find comments like this one: “Betty takes her responsibility to residents seriously. She doesn’t just rubber stamp recommendations made by the City staff. She studies every issue, asks the tough questions, and often points out things others have missed. She doesn’t just say she is committed to this town. She walks the talk.”

Want to see how taking things out of context works when Yates is the one being quoted? Check out these gems from his comments at a recent meeting:

“Here we are 7 years later, and now things are coming along that may or may not – we should take a look at. The other group, and I don’t know them and I don’t know what they do”


“And then you listen to that one, and I think that most people up here can relate to this if you just look at our history. OK, we change the corner, and then there’s going to be something else and it goes on and on and on”

Reading those out-of-context statements might cause some to take very seriously a statement he made just before the ones above. Referring to himself, he said,

“that goes back so many years now and the dementia is – a – kicking in.


How refreshing! A pol who admits that she doesn’t know everything there is to know about a thing.


Another BY crony comment .

We know your MO more lies and misinformation.


Bill Yates goes way beyond being corrupt! Only vote for a scumbag like him if you DON’T WANT TRANSPARENCY in Morro Bay! He’s only looking after HIS own interests, not the taxpayer’s.


I lived in MB when Sue was a council member and when Yates was mayor. Our city politics was so disfunctional, we became the joke of county politics.

Yates came in, acknowledged that everyone was tense, and that the meetings were a joke, and instituted a policy wherein every council meeting started someone sharing a joke.

He diffuses hostility and gets work done. Yes he has a big ego, if you get over that, you find that he really has that town’s best interests at heart, all the time, without question.

If I still lived in Morro Bay, I would vote for him without question.


You got beat that’s the bottom line. Obvioulsy Bill was more popular and a little more egotistical. Same thing happend in San Luis Obispo. Allen Settle “convinced” Jan Marx to run for Mayor instead of running for her council seat again. She got beat. Bad decision. You should have run a better campaign with better ideas.

It seems a little late to start slinging mud now. Probably ought to have done it when you were up against Yates. It also looks like you aren’t too good at picking your friends.


Sue Mullen, like Betty Winholtz, was one of the worst City Council people that Morro Bay ever had. Bill Yates will be a great Mayor again. We need someone who understands that jobs and business are the number one issue. Wake up and vote for someone who truly cares about the people of the town.


Ah Yes, spoken like a hard ass developer.


My Goodness, this an excellent and interesting story. Unfortunately this is all too common a problem with politics and I think you did well to reveal your experience. If I lived in Morro Bay I would not vote for Bill Yates after reading what your eloquent and heart felt story. What a scoundrel, what a dirty dog he is, that’s exactly what I felt while reading this piece.

P.S. Great photo, it’s endearing.


Eloquent, yes.

Heartfelt, yes.

True? No. One of the reasons Susan’s career in politics in Morro Bay was curtailed was because her version of reality, and reality as seen by the rest of the world were so divergent.

I urge you to look further into her Susan’s motivations, as well as Bill’s history, before passing judgment.


Get Sue a hanky, then call the waaaaambulance.


Good story, and unfortunately repeated in many communities. The small town I grew up in in the San Gabriel Valley, with the same population as Morro Bay, is enduring foul governance due to several lying council members, collusion, and with only the interests of developers in mind. Friends still there say there are copies of a ‘guide book’ circulating that is provided by the developers to their cronies that outlines strategies to corrupt the system. After all, it’s big bucks, and that seems to be what makes these snakes tick.


Sounds like the Santa Margarita Area Advisory Council run by developer minions…supposedly representing the whole community!


Foul governance abounds everywhere, doesn’t it?