The truth about COLAB
July 1, 2011
OPINION BY ANDY CALDWELL
COLAB has recently been attacked in the media by County Supervisor Adam Hill, because in our opinion, we threaten to expose and oppose policies that are not beneficial to county residents. We firmly and categorically deny his accusations against us as well as the aspersions he sought to cast upon state Senator Sam Blakeslee.
We perceive Hill had two main goals in mind when he called our organization and members “hate-mongers” and “racists” and in a similar vein, sought to cast aspersions upon Blakeslee via guilt by association.
First, if you know Hill, then you know he is the most politically motivated member on the Board of Sups. It is no coincidence that Hill sought to embarrass Blakeslee at this time for two specific reasons. First, he believes Blakeslee is vulnerable because of the proposed new lines for his senatorial district.
He wants to cast Blakeslee in an unfavorable light with “moderates” so as to ensure his defeat in the next election. Second, Hill was serving the progressive political machine in Sacramento who want to create problems for Republicans like Sam who would not agree to tax hikes without real reform. Hill conveniently used COLAB as a means to attack Sam by inference, innuendo and defamatory speculation.
Having said all that, I would appreciate the opportunity to tell you about myself, my colleague, and the organization I work for in order to give you some context regarding the recent controversy prompted by Supervisor Adam Hill as to why he chose to attack our particular organization.
I have served as the Executive Director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB) for the past twenty years in Santa Barbara, with concurrent duties for the past two years here in SLO. I have been a SLO County resident for the past 15 years. I am joined in my endeavors by Mike Brown, Government Affairs Director of COLAB.
Before working for COLAB, I worked for the oldest factory on the Central Coast, Union Sugar, for eleven years. I started as a seasonal laborer and ended up becoming the Industrial Relations Manager. I have lived on the Central Coast for over 40 years.
Mike Brown worked in government for 42 years at the local, county and state levels. His last position before retiring was the CEO of Santa Barbara County. Previous to that, he worked in Tucson, Hartford and Berkeley as an executive in government. He was considered one of the top city/county administrators in the nation for his budgetary prowess, innovations and professional managerial skills.
Mike and I bring some 62 years of combined experience before the County Boards of Supervisors in the two counties each and every week. Our main purpose is to serve as a government watchdog, as business and private property advocates, and as a resource for politicians and bureaucrats who are interested in efficient government.
Our goal is to see that government demonstrates more responsibility, accountability, and transparency with respect to its use of taxpayer funds. We are a private organization, we receive no public funding. We are not running for office or trying to win a popularity contest. We tend to be perceived as conservative, we are certainly fiscal conservatives. We are non-partisan.
What do we do and what do we stand for? Well, we dissect county budgets like no one else. We maintain the fundamental duty of government is to provide for public health and safety, infrastructure and a safety net of last resort for the poor, elderly and disabled.
We support free enterprise. We contend there is no quality of life without a job. We want people to be able to prosper. We consider it is incumbent upon government to allow the residents and communities to prosper in such a way as to be able to generate the tax revenues necessary for government to be able to pay for the provision of services the citizenry expects.
In other words, if government policies prohibit the growth of the economy they will no longer afford to be able to deliver the services we should expect. Our opinion is that our local government and the State of California are in just that state of failure as we speak.
We serve to expose regulatory failures that only serve to decimate our economy while accomplishing nothing for the environment. We are convinced that the best way to help the poor among us is by creating economic opportunities in the form of jobs that pay livable wages. We value property rights but we do not want to see ag lands converted to other uses, so any charges that we are a front for developers is patently false and misleading.
Specifically, Hill is concerned that we have exposed the fact that the County Board of Sups failed miserably in their attempt to borrow their way out of their pension obligations to county employees. We have served to expose that the County is spending more money per capita on planning department programs than any other county in the region, in spite of a recession in the building industry. We have vigorously opposed land use and regulatory programs that will serve to make farming and ranching economically untenable. We don’t believe Smart Growth is the right fit for SLO.
Hill does not like any of this exposure.
COLAB is a true coalition with nearly 2,000 members from all walks of life here on the Central Coast. A new chapter has just been created in Ventura County and there is a fourth chapter in Imperial County. All of the groups are independently organized and distinct.
The Santa Barbara group is so well established that our annual meeting is the largest event in Santa Barbara County each and every year. We typically average upwards of 950 guests. We enjoy the support of organized labor, farmers, ranchers, industrialists, and mom and pop businesses owners. We have extensive media outreach in the form of a daily radio show that broadcasts from Ventura to SLO and we are regular opinion columnists in several papers throughout the region.
COLAB will continue to do what we have been doing for the past twenty years, regardless of the threats and character attacks against us. We also trust Sam Blakeslee will continue to be the moderate, independent and well respected representative he has always proven to be.