Emails reveal Hill’s battle with COLAB and Blakeslee

June 29, 2011

Steve Bridges as President Barack Obama

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill’s continuing battle with state Senator Sam Blakeslee and the Coalition for Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) came to light Tuesday following the release of emails under a California Public Records Act request by Andy Caldwell and then the Tribune.

Hill initially attacked Blakeslee for scheduling a fundraiser with the executive director of COLAB Andy Caldwell as master of ceremonies. Blakeslee promptly postponed the event, saying it had become overshadowed by Hill’s dispute.

Hill accused Caldwell and COLAB of racism for bringing comedian Steve Bridges to a Santa Barbara County event. Bridges, who impersonates politicians, darkens his skin to play President Barack Obama.

In similar fashion, he uses makeup to appear as former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and others.

One local politician is supporting Hill for criticism of COLAB. Nipomo Community Services District board member Mike Winn emailed Hill after the supervisor attacked Blakeslee.

“I appreciate your standing up against racism in all its forms. This is a problem worldwide, but it has not been eradicated in our country — and certainly not in our county,” Winn wrote.

The released emails revealed Hill made comments vilifying COLAB, Caldwell and the group’s new director of governmental affairs, Mike Brown, the Tribune said. Hill said he was attempting to sway local leaders away from any associations with COLAB.

The emails show a comment made by the senator’s wife, Kara Blakeslee, criticizing a member of COLAB, San Luis Obispo County Parks Commissioner Deanne Gonzales, for using the phrase “the Jap authorities” when referring to officials in Japan allegedly minimizing the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

In a previously released email to Blakeslee, Hill called some members of COLAB “hostile, secretive and racist”, but later apologized for those remarks.

Following the release of the emails, Hill told the Tribune he was done fighting publicly with COLAB. His goal had been to bump Blakeslee, known as a moderate, “back towards the middle.”

Steve Bridges as Bill Clinton

Steve Bridges as George Bush

Steve Bridges as Arnold Schwarzenegger

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Anyone who buys into Hill’s charge of racism using Bridges’ impersonation of Obama needs to look at some blackface photos. Then tell me racism was involved. There’s no comparison.

Changing physical appearance to match the person they are impersonating is something impersonators routinely do. Hill’s real target was COLAB who he wanted to make a political pariah such that no one with any power in SLO would associate themselves with COLAB. Blakeslee and Bridges (the impersonator) were collateral damage.

I suppose Hill would think my chosen nick is rascist


I think Hill might CLAIM it was racist if there was some way he could connect you to COLAB. From his emails, it’s clear that Hill’s real target was COLAB. Everyone else, while potentially damaged by Hill’s campaign of race-cardism, was collateral damage.

I think the lesson to be learned from this whole sordid affair is that when a Supervisor rotates into the Chair position that it is not that person’s opportunity to punish his political foes. What if every supervisor used the Chair position to go after his enemies and knock off the opposition by any means possible. We would have chaos at the County BOS level.

Maybe Steve Bridges should have used facial “make-up” to make himself look like a White-faced Obama man instead of a Black-face Obama man…Would that be construed as being racist? Just asking…

I don’t understand, was Winn’s opinion in his email speaking as a member of NCSD’s board, or as a individual?

If he was speaking for the NCSD board, that is making quite a statement on the behalf of the CSD.

Winn is an instructor at Cal Poly. Adam Hill was also an instructor at Cal Poly in the English Department where one instructor works for both Cal Poly and New Times. They are likely all friends, but it sounds as if Winn was speaking as part of the NCSD Board.

I am surprised that an instructor at Cal Poly and an NCSD board member would make such a false claim of an impersonator’s impersonation of President Obama as being racist when there is no indication of racism in the impersonation, and especially when such an accusation can cause a lot of harm to the impersonator, Blakeslee and COLAB.

Then Winn evokes Abraham Lincoln and his association with freeing black slaves to bring credibility to Winn’s own use of the race card in falsely accusing Bridges’ impersonation of Obama as being racist.

The fact that Winn then tries to link it all together by his statement that he and Lincoln are of the same political party (implying that, therefore, his own opinion carries more weight) just makes it more illogical.

This whole mess is just strange and not a good reflection on Hill and his supporters.

I think it’s time for Adam Hill to go back to his classroom at Cal Poly and spread his venom. Obviously Mr. Hill has brought his little man image along with his self proclaimed complete authority in the classroom to our local government.

Racism? Come on Mr. Hill give us a break. With Obama being 1/2 white and/or 1/2 black, whichever way is the “proper” way to approach it, there appears to be no way for anyone to impersonate the President.

Let the rest of us approach the impersonation with an open mind and accept it as entertainment, which it is, and quit bringing every issue that you have into the political arena. Government, please get out of our lives.

COLAB’s reluctance to openly post a list of it’s leadership and staff bothers me. Their claim that they also represent labor interests is, in my opinion, a misstatement if not an outright deceptive claim. I like some of the issues that COLAB addresses, but in my opinion the group fails on honesty and transparency. I’d be more comfortable with a group that is more open.

The fault in this mess lies with Hill. He had issues with COLAB and used Blakeslee and an entertainer/impersonator to attack COLAB. In the process, Hill may very well have harmed COLAB, Blakeslee and the impersonator.

Please don’t blame one of the victims, COLAB, for the potential harm caused to COLAB, Blakeslee and the impersonator by Hill’s actions.

It is beocoming more obvious why Hill says he is done fighting publicly, he can’t defend what has been made public and we have just seen the tip of his iceberg

Great observation.


The allegations of racism are because of this impersonation? Are you kidding me?

I think it is more racist to say there is a different allowance for impersonating Obama because he is black than Bush or Clinton. The idea of racism is treating differently because of color.

In this regard, Adam Hill’s assertion that Steve Bridges cannot change his appearance to look like a black president while it is OK for a white president is racist. At some point Mr. Hill you need to look beyond color.

Or was this a chance to smack someone with different political views than you?

I saw Steve Bridges act on TV. It actually made more fun of Bush than Obama.

I think Hill’s goal was to make COLAB a political pariah so that no one with any political power would want to be associated with him. This is based on my interpretation of Hill’s released emails.

“The emails show a comment made by the senator’s wife, Kara Blakeslee, criticizing a member of COLAB, San Luis Obispo County Parks Commissioner Deanne Gonzales, for using the phrase “the Jap authorities” when referring to officials in Japan allegedly minimizing the nuclear disaster at Fukushima.”

Wow, ‘Jap’ authorities, people still use that term, that’s a pretty racist thing to say. So according to this Blakeslee’s wife also feels that there racism in this org.. Hmm not sure what to think of all this.

Then wiithhold posting until you figure out what to think of it.

What I think is that you are grasping at straws to sully Hill’s opponents.

What I think you should think is that your guy opened his big fat mouth inappropriately, and has yet to apologize. What I think is that it is chicken-squat of him to unilaterally declare that he is done fighting publicly with them. He sucker punched them and now is hiding from his lumps.

“What I think..” You don’t.

Unless Karen pops me out of here then I’ll post when and what I want.

Chill, take a Valium, take up pot do something but take it easy. I haven’t come out strong on this topic yet because unlike you I’m not sure that I have all the facts. You haven’t seen me defending Hill as a matter of fact I believe that Hill is a loose cannon and I’ve never had strong feelings of support for the guy. I don’t like COLAB but I’m not saying that they’re a racist organization. I do wonder what the real reason is for their secrecy regarding who their officers are. I haven’t seen a group that secretive since the KKK.

@ Citizen, maybe you are correct, maybe Gonzales wasn’t acting as a member of COLAB. Orgs. such as this one can’t control everything thier members say. It would be more fair to judge that comment if we knew the context of when and how she was saying it. Did Gonzales say this in an email while working, while working with COLAB or just to a friend? Not enough facts yet but she is someone that I wouldn’t associate with and wouldn’t want in my camp.

How about the Masons?

BTW, the officers of COLAB were disclosed on this web site.

I looked for the officers, can you please let me know who they are? I have asked and asked but no one will provide a link that can tell me who the COLAB officers are. Who’s the Prez and who’s the VP. of the Santa Maria COLAB?

But COLAB’s membership, at least on its board, is no secret to local politicians. And here they are, at least according to COLAB of SLO County’s 2009 tax filings, which were the most recently available:

• Alan Volbrecht: V.P. and senior aviation consultant at Aero Tech GeoSystems, Inc., in San Luis Obispo.

• Jamie Kirk: founder of Kirk Consulting.

• Todd Smith: associate planner with Cannon Associates.

• Steve Arnold: past president and current director of the SLO County Farm Bureau and owner of Pozo Valley Vineyard.

• Chris Darway: also a past president and current member with the Farm Bureau.

• Mike Fuller: former Arroyo Grande city councilman and current financial advisor and branch manager of Raymond James Financial.

• Ken Dewar: president of J.B. Dewar, Inc., “the Central Coast’s leading distributor of highest quality fuel and lubricants.”

• Jeanne Helphenstine: a Realtor with South County Realty.

• Alex Alexiev of Templeton.

Again, I was asking about the ‘Santa Maria’ COLAB. That is the chapter that seems so secretive, that is the one that Caldwell represents. I rarely hear much about the SLO COLAB. The Santa Maria COLAB comes down to the SLO BOS meetings and gets involved in SLO politics. So far no one has been able to find out who their officers are.

Here Typo…..

you can make them a facebook friend and get the info you seek

The KKK isn’t on facebook, at least I couldn’t find them

There is no Santa Maria COLAB. There is the Santa Barbara County COLAB and the San Luis Obispo COLAB. The Santa Barbara COLAB does not function in this county. They do not come to SLO County meetings or get involved in SLO Politics. Andy Caldwell is involved because of Adam Hill’s accusations and Mike Brown is the “whatever they call him” representative for SLO County COLAB.

Okay, Zap, thanks for making me waste at least 15 minutes getting lost at neat-o-rama. =)

That’s my hometown, I grew up four blocks from there, the KKK were protestant and jealous of the local KofC

That picture has to be the most odd content and context mashed into one I’ve ever seen. I absolutely love it–not that it is the KKK, but that they had their picture taken on a ferris wheel! WTF? LOLOLOL

I don’t think she attempted to use her position to advance a racist agenda, or to falsely accuse anyone of acting in a racist manner in order to discredit COLAB and discourage those with political power from associating with them.

Hill is quite a piece of work. Raising a strawman argument /red herring does nothing but give cover to Hill.

I respect your voice, but I am confused by your approach to this subject.

@Mary, at first I over reacted. When the first story said that this guy performed in black face I thought that it meant true black face so I was on Hill’s side. But I’m not to big to admit when I’m wrong, when I saw the video I realized that I over reacted. Hill has done a few things that have turned me off but I don’t hate the guy, we could have someone worse ie Lenthal but I wouldn’t mind seeing someone that’s a bit more together in Hill’s place. So I’m not on Hill’s side on this topic. That being said I don’t like COLAB and I don’t like Andy Caldwell. I can understand Hill’s frustraion with them but I do believe that he went too far when he threw in the race card.

We all overreact from time to time, especially if it hits a hot-button issue (at least for me).

I’m not that familiar with COLAB, but I just don’t like the unethical way Hill went about getting at them.

When you have a few minutes, I would very much like to hear your opinion about COLAB and why you’re not a member of their fan club (LOL).

I keep thinking about the impersonator. A BOS member saying his act is racist could do damage to his ability to get future gigs. I just think that stinks, especially since Hill’s real target was COLAB.

I wrote above what my beef is with COLAB. It’s not the SLO COLAB it’s the Santa Maria COLAB. They misrepresent themselves as advocates for AG and farm labor but the SM COLAB is nothing more than an extreme right wing political activist org.. I don’t even care if they are extreme right it’s that they mislead people as to what their game is and unless you listen to Caldwell’s show or get his newsletter you wouldn’t know that. I would bet that many of their members don’t even know what they’re really about. I have a few family members that are members of the SM COLAB. Unlike me they don’t listen to Caldwell’s show and they don’t get into to politics so they have no idea what his game is. I haven’t gotten into it with them as we have a firm rule at family parties,,, ‘no politics’.

COLAB doesn’t represent labor you say? Here you go:

COLAB SB counts as it’s members the SB County Deputy Sheriff’s Assoc., & the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

COLAB SLO counts as it’s members the SLO County Builder’s Exchange more than 750 tradesman, contractors and material suppliers.

Basically both organizations are being joined by the labor groups that “get it”. That is, they are waking up to the chronic dysfunction of this (SLO) county’s government and the core ideology of its leaders. They (we) feel unrepresented by this current board.

Let me ask you this, why has there been no mention of the questions being asked by Mike Brown, COLAB SLO’s Government Affairs Director? Because Adam Hill has chosen to deflect everyone’s attention with his racism accusations. Time will tell whether his ploy will work.

I’ll put my money on COLAB SLO. They’ll still be here long after Hill has been sent packing.

What has the Santa Maria done for those orgs? I read the newsletters, I’ve listened to Caldwell’s show. At the risk of being redundant I’ll say it again. The SANTA MARIA COLAB is nothing more than political activism group that does nothing for labor or AG. but uses COLAB as a political platform. I’m not sure if like me Hill just has a problem with the Santa Maria COLAB, I can’t speak for him nor do I want to.

Maybe Hill should have gone after Deanne Gonzales for the comment. She was not acting as a member of COLAB, but in her appointed position (by Frank Mecham) as Park Commissioner.

Thanks, Citizen for connecting the dots. It is now abundantly clear that Frank Mecham, too, is a racist.

Agreed it appears to be racist.

Please explain how that comment has anything to do with Hill’s false accusations of racism as a means to defame COLAB, and, in the process, potentially harming the careers of Blakeslee and the impersonator, Bridges.