The truth about COLAB

July 1, 2011

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.

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Andy Caldwell knew exactly what he was doing when he deliberately hired a performer for a fundraiser that he knew would be offensive to some “liberals”. And he felt like he was spitting in high cotton when Hill took the bait. And now Andy Caldwell is counting up all the free publicity. This is the type of stuff Andy Caldwell does for a living and, good for him, he’s been well rewarded for it financially and egotistically. He’s having a good year!

“Andy Caldwell knew exactly what he was doing when he deliberately hired a performer for a fundraiser that he knew would be offensive to some “liberals”. ”

wow, is it all about you, or what?!

No, its about Andy Caldwell. Please reread my postings if you sincerely want to understand what the deal is with that man and where he’s coming from, where he’s getting his funding, and what his goals are and why many people consider his Rush-Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Karl Rove style an infection that we don’t want to see spread in SLO County. It’s not necessary. Conservatives should be able to find a higher calibre of lobbyist to speak for them on the Central Coast.

Building a true work-together coalition comprised of representatives from labor, ag and business is a worthy goal. But that does not seem to be the goal of Andy Caldwell. Far from it, in fact. So it makes the whole concept of “COLAB” appear as a complete sham, despite the best intentions of some decent people who have affiliated themselves with the group.

Wiseguy sounding more and more like Adam Hill with each prosaic post.

Spin, parry & thrust. Deflect from the issues to innuendos. Instructing people on how they really feel. Just another lecturer that doesn’t know when to stop lecturing.

In fact, Wiseguy is the perfect foil to Andy Caldwell.

Wait….maybe Wiseguy IS Andy Caldwell.

COLAB would have “some” credibility (in my eyes, at least) if at least the acronym were honest. “Coalition Of LABOR, Agriculture and Businesses” ; I can believe that it is a “coalition”, I fully understand that most in agriculture would support the goals and tactics employed by COLAB and of course, the bulk of the conservative business owners would support COLAB. The claim that this organization has any possible support from any organized labor organization (other than a few law enforcement officers) is so laughable it is not even funny. When Mike Brown was on the Dave Congalton Show and I called in to ask him about the “labor” part of COLAB, he spouted off about some Sheriff’s Deputies being associated with the organization. My gut instinct is that this group is nothing more than a front group for the ultra conservative ranchers, farmers and business owners who want nothing more than to hold county government at arm’s length to keep them from interfering with their ability to make even more money, to keep county government for enacting any regulations that could reduce their profits, and to make sure that they can pay their workers as little as possible. I firmly believe also that while the “group” (whoever the hell they really are) may have subtle racist tendencies, but most likely are truly more bigots than racists. Don’t rock the Good ‘Ole Boys network, don’t confront them on their brand of “protectionism” and certainly don’t call out how they may treat those whose skin is a different color. Does COLAB believe that the United Farm Workers Union is an organization whose goals are just? Adam Hill may not be the best speaker but he said something that quite possibly is very close to the truth, he just didn’t say it in the best manner possible.

Right on, excellent post bob. COLAB does nothing but use thier (Andy Caldwell) power as a platform for extreme right wing politics. Many of thier members are certainly mislead as to what COLAB is really about.

Still waiting to hear who the officers are of the Santa Maria/Santa Barbara COLAB are.

Andy, what has the Santa Maria COLAB done for the AG community, what specifically? You worked at a local sugar factory for 11 years,,wow I’m impressed. I find it amusing that he uses that as a reference to his extensive work/labor experience. BTW what is the CEO of Santa Barbara? Just curious.

I wonder WHO WiseGuy is?

Is it Adam Hill himself?

In any event, Mssr Wiseguy is doing the classic political spin maneuver to ‘accuse’ the accuser, distract folks from the main issue. Adam Hill called COLAB ‘racists’… and exerted pressure on a State Senator to apparently avoid association with a group of farmers, business people and labor folks.

In any event, thanks for keeping the issue alive…


Roger, Roger. Please read my not about LOGIC below.

This “controversy” is EXACTLY what Andy Caldwell thrives on. He LOVES this and will try as hard as possible to keep this issue and the name ANDY CALDWELL in the media. This is what Andy Caldwell does for a living, Roger. For 20 years this is the krap that Andy Caldwell has been pulling in Northern Santa Barbara County.

Andy Caldwell is a LOBBYIST Roger. I though YOU didn’t like “Lobbyists” influencing politics, Roger.

Remember LOGIC, Roger?

There is no doubt that Andy Caldwell has used racist rhetoric and bigotry against “liberals” to draw in supporters and gather donations and spread his “brand” in his quest to be the unelected dictator of the extremist right wing faction of the local populace. Sure, he has sucked in decent folks, non-racist folks, many of them. I”ve never known Mr. Caldwell to refuse a “donation” from anyone (especially behind-the-scenes politicos and folks controlling Indian Casino purse strings.

So, on the one hand racist rhetoric and bigoted liberal bashing are not all of what Andy Caldwell is about. What is in his heart God only knows. But by his actions for these past 20 years in Santa Barbara County, many of us think we know enough about him to want to share what we know with those who care.

I really don’t expect to, nor am I trying to persuade anyone from the extreme right wing. I won’t convince you of anything. In fact, many of the characteristics of Andy Caldwell that I find despicable, may be acceptable to right wing extremists and the “end justifies the means” attitudes.

But it is for the others that I bother to post what I know.

ITA, Roger. If there is one thing more despicable than “playing the race card” by calling an act, material, or person “racist,” it is doing it in order to discourage the association of an elected official with his/her constituents.

Clearly, that was Hill’s intent: to cast COLAB in such a negative light that Mr. Blakeslee, and other politicians, would be reluctant to be publicly associated with them in any way.

IMO, playing the race card is, itself, a form of racism, and by using the charge of racist/racism inappropriately, when it is clearly not what is happening, weakens the heinous nature of racism and racist actions.

The little boy who called “wolf” so many times that, when the wolf came and he cried out “wolf!,” nobody answered his call perhaps learned his lesson. Let’s hope Hill learns his, and quits wasting his time and ours on his harmful political maneuvers.

Perhaps, with a little more time on his hands, Mr. Hill can get around to investigating why Pavvo Ogren and Maria Kelly failed to act responsibly, secretly taking advantage of their political/administrative offices and their own sexual relationship, to benefit themselves and perhaps others–including members of the SLO Co Board of Supervisors.

We are waiting, Mr. Hill.

Nice press release Mr. Caldwell, now would you be so kind as to respond to the issues people care about in regards to your controversial reign as dictator in chief of this “COLAB” lobbying group? See below.

Ah, Mr. Caldwell, I’m glad you checked in! This will give you a chance to peruse this forum and respons the myriad criticisms and attacks leveled at you on this website, a fair amount of it penned by me. Here’s a sample, although other comments of a critical nature can be found authored by myself and others. We would truly welcome YOUR candid responses and or clarifications. Heck, even a serious does yof your typical B.S. will be welcome for examination. So, please let us know what’s on your mind in the wake of all these accusations that have been aimed at you:

The problem is that most of Andy Caldwell’s most offensive, despicable, extreme, idiotic and ignorant public comments have been concocted and delivered on radio programs, and thus leaving very little documentation of his outrages available for review.

As far as his offensive and ignorant extremist paid advertisements, a bulk of them were published before the internet because so pervasive and thus have not be adequately archived to be available by “Googling.” Besides old “Advertisements” are usually not easily brought up in Google searches.

Bottom line, racist or not, Andy Caldwell has been deliberately offensive and has continually mislead the public about so many things.

I do not expect to disuade any of his supporters, but for the rest of us who abhor extremist right wing tyranny, let me assure you that Andy Caldwell is most certainly NOT someone who you want to be influencing local politics in any way.

As far as politics and community well-being goes, Andy Caldwell is an infection of the most virulent kind. And now with his sidekick Mike Brown helping him its more imperative than ever that decent people beware.

Reprinted from The Tribune website, originally posted by “Jazzman”:

Dear Mr. Caldwell, in your written statements you continually refer to “we” when referring to YOUR personal interests and YOUR “victimization.”

But who is this “WE” you keep telling us about? Are we talking about you and your hired hand Mike Brown? Who are these “leaders” who you CLAIM are also feeling victimized according to your statements?

I didn’t think I would ever say this to you Mr. Caldwell, but for once this IS all about YOU. COLAB SLO County is simply a murky concept with mystery members. How can anyone victimize such ghosts and specters?

And how could anyone be so upset about these mystery colleagues of yours? No, Mr. Caldwell, this controversy is not about your followers or sycophants or figments of your imagination. It is about YOU and your history and the baggage you carry with you and the divisiveness and publicity hounding that seems to follow YOU.

Rarely has SLO County enjoyed a more cohesive Board of Supervisors who have been doing what they have been elected to do in civil fashion with the support of the majority of the local electorate. Then YOU show up with your self-serving political gamesmanship and rancor. And suddenly we have a giant controversy, accusations, and, dare I say, a new facet of HATRED directed at the political leaders that WE (the people who live and vote in SLO County) have chosen to represent us. We’re talking about THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of voters who support our elected Supervisors. And then YOU show up from who knows where and start telling us that we are wrong and that YOU have a better way.

But I don’t see YOU having a better way. The era of Rush LImbaugh/Karl Rove style, in-your-face, antagonistic, blow-hard politics is coming to an end, Mr. Caldwell. People SLO County are SICK of it.

Please show some RESPECT to the locals, Mr. Caldwell, before you come into our realm flashing your wallet and organizing “fund raisers” that seem more about YOU than anything else.

Thank you.

Dear Wisest guy of them all,

Adam Hill was the one who was stirring up ‘HATE’ in case you didn’t notice. Calling folks racists when its undeserved is about as low and hateful — in my humble opinion — as you can go.

BTW, WiseGuy, you don’t represent everyone in San Luis Obispo county… folks like you are a tiny minority… and trying to tar folks with the old ‘right wing conspiracy’ crap is a distraction. Where is your ‘civility?’

I hope organizations like COLAB take a more aggressive posture in the county, back some real candidates and run the bums out.

Heh heh, is that over the top I can never tell?


Roger, your logic, as usual, does not hold up under the slightest scrutiny. For instance, if, as you claim, “folks” like me are “a tiny minority” then how do you explain that Adam Hill was elected by A VAST MAJORITY of voters in his district?

In fact, in case you didn’t notice, the Adam Hill victory over conservative Jerry Lenthall was a LANDSLIDE, it representing what seems to stand as the largest margin victory over an incumbent Supervisor in SLO County history.

So, Roger, you can spin it your way, but thinking people, people who respect common LOGIC and common sense, see things differently than you claim to see it.


Again, you try to make a point but you just argue… logic escapes you. You just spin. You miss the point by trying to move the conversation to other issues and trying to blame other people… Adam did WRONG! You

BTW, Jerry Lenthal was not a conservative… moderate at best. Adam Hill was elected, however, getting reelected is the key… let’s see how stupid people really are next time around?

As I said, Adam hill and you represent a small minority of county opinion… and from what I hear… getting smaller day by day. Let’s see who we can find to run against him?


OK Roger, forgive me, but I don’t know if it is a matter of twisted logic or twisted sanity, that inspired to you jeopardize all your credibility entirely when you have the nerve to tell us that Jerry Lenthall is “not a conservative.” That statement, Roger, is beyond ridiculous. I think even Lenthall would find that mischaracterization objectionable..

Roger, do you imagine the readers of this forum to be stupendously naive? You’ve outdone yourself this time, Roger.

Or perhaps the fact is that even Jerry Lenthall is not “conservative” enough from the right wing extremists point of view.

The fact that Hill was elected by a “vast” majority in his district doesn’t speak to the whole county by any means. Lenthall was on the way out and Hill filled the gap. If he has worthy competition this time, it may be a different story. But for you to suggest that you represent any kind of COUNTY majority would be questionable as far as support for Hill goes.

“For instance, if, as you claim, “folks” like me are “a tiny minority” then how do you explain that Adam Hill was elected by A VAST MAJORITY of voters in his district?”

I guess one could argue that we’re served mostly by Republicans in our county right now, and Roger stated “county.” Those would be Achadjian, Meachum,Texiera, Blakeslee, McCarthy. i remember when it was O’Connell, Panetta etc. Never ending change…….


What took you so long? I think you need to take a deep breath and remember who started this altercation and that many of us in the county DO appreciate watchdog organizations and yes, some of us are of the party opposite to yours. I think you’ve used this and the Trib site to express your hate for COLAB leadership and basically the GOP, and have lost sight of the fact that this was about false accusations of a very serious kind, made at a group of people, many of whom are unknown to Adam Hill. He was completely out of line in his method of attack, and frankly, so are you.

Your rants are heard by your choir, but are a turn-off to the civil and fair-minded amongst us.

I’m perplexed as to why you would think you’re impressing anyone that knows neither you or Caldwell, as is the case with me, with your hate-filled assertions that make you seem out of control, as compared with the calm presentation from Caldwell. You may make good points, but your delivery prompts skepticism and certainly not RESPECT. You do Hill no favors.

Dear Disgusted, I’m not trying to “impress” anyone, least of all people pushing an extremist right wing agenda on the folks of SLO County. Why in the world would I ever want or need to impress you or people like that?

But thank you for the complement about my “good points.” And the truth is, I don’t really know where you stand politically, so if in fact anything I write does impress you, that’s fine with me. But that’s not my goal.

WiseGuy, although I’ve had about enough of Adam Hill, this isn’t the first thing that Hill’s done that rubs me the wrong the way, I do agree with the rest of your posts regarding Caldwell/COLAB. You are 100% spot on.

“Dear Disgusted, I’m not trying to “impress” anyone”

When you write phrases such as “what we know we want to share with those who care,” “But it is for the others I bother to post what I know,” “decent people beware,” “for those who abhor extremist right wing tyranny don’t want this influence,” I have to believe that you’re attemptong to impress, as in have an impact upon, those who are reading.

Politically, I’m quite happy with the BOS, except for Hill’s accusation of racism. To me, that’s a big deal with significant repercussions. On the national scene, I dislike them all. I have to assume that the disdain several of you have for Caldwell is deserved, but I have to wonder if it’s the same disdain the GOP would have for members of the opposing party, or is he really the scoundrel you portray. I guess I should listen to his show. However this is not really about Caldwell or even COLAB to me. It’s about Hill making unfounded accusations about a group being racist, and I question his real intentions. If I knew it was to silence others or hurt Blakeslee, I’d really be disgusted.

Wiseguy and everyone do not copy and paste comments or other content from other publications. Use your own words or don’t push the button.

Repeated violations and personal attacks will result in deletions and account banning.

Well said Andy Caldwell,

Adam Hill’s very obvious political viewpoints can be seen every Tuesday at the BOS meetings…

With all the clamoring from Dave Congleton to the Tribune, to your opinion piece in the Trib yourself, Mr. Colab, to XYZ asking for Adam Hill to “Let it Go!!” who then like you hypocritically CONTINUE this themselves, I told my wife if there one more piece on the subject, I would not shush and I would speak up.

So, here we are. Mr. Colab will not let it die. Tell Adam to shush, but you continue it. More tactics from the unethical is how I see it. By the way, I did not read the article. I’ve read enough and heard enough to know that you in particular, and your organization in general while maybe trying to do some good on the one hand, does it poorly. Pot calling the kettle black?

By the way, I support what Mr. Hill did. If leaders do not their peers, other corral leaders, when they stray, if leaders are not afraid to be anything but “Yes Men” with others in power, then we get this kind of corrupt government everyone says we have in abundance in SLO county.

It’s right to speak up, and I’m proud of Adam for speaking up.

I do NOT like the way he spoke up – not one whit. It was poorly executed and some may wish to use that as a reason not to vote for him again.

So, mad at him for speaking up? Or mad at him for how he spoke up? Two different things, in my mind.

I don’t like the way he spoke up. I like that he spoke up.

Thanks for speaking up, Adam. Please get some training so you can do a better job of it next time.

” … By the way, I did not read the article…. ”

And therefore, your comments on the article are germane because … ________________.

a) The entire issue is full of misinformation, and you want to add your share.

b) You don’t understand the issue, but “know” that Adam Hill is a better person than Andy Caldwell.

c) You supported Adam Hill’s run for supe, and are trying to justify to yourself that you did the right thing.

d) All of the above.

e) None of the above.

Frankly, Adam Hill did wrong. You don’t make wild accusations about any group… a lot of fine hard working people make up COLAB.

Adam Hill deserves to have his actions and words haunt him… what he said was despicable. He represents the worst bullying aspects of government.

Allow me to ask, Adam, what have you don’t for us lately? How’s the budget going for you? We’ll see if you can fool the voters one more time?

As for the Tribune… well, I wonder how low their numbers will fall before they either drop out completely or take a good look in the mirror and reorganize. There are some big changes needed there as well.


Good post Anthony, well said.

I could probably take him a little more seriously if he didn’t look like a fundamental christian version of Jimmy Buffett or Gene Wilder.

That said, I believe we all need a watchdog to keep the public’s business in public. The Trib used to fill that function, sort of, but now they’ve reduced the Governmental Affairs staff to just Bob Cuddy. And one guy can’t be everywhere at once.

I am pleased to have The Public watching over The Government. Between COLAB, Eric Greening, Mike Winn, Sierra Club and whomever else, the watchdogs are performing a necessary and valuable service.

” watchdogs are performing a necessary and valuable service.”

Absolutely. The BOS is always tilted one way or another. It takes people that are willing and able to speak up at the meetings to convey opposing or affirming opinions, especially since the meetings are televised. And when one sees the outrageous accusations hurled at those that do, as evidenced right here, it also takes courage.

What “outrageous accusations” are you referring to, “Disgusted”?

I would refer to claims that Caldwell has used racist rhetoric against libs (examples?), that the purpose of the Bridges’ function was to offend liberals, that COLAB is more bigotry than racist when he doesn’t KNOW “who the h*ll they are, suggesting that our ag community doesn’t treat people of different skin color well, that COLAB SLO CO. is a “murky concept with mystery members.” I consider those to be outrageous accusations.

Wow, I actually agree with you racket!

I like the watchdog aspect as well.