Come home Sam—We need you

August 17, 2011


Sam Blakeslee


I begin by making a statement that I have offered repeatedly on the radio these last few weeks. I have been part of this community for nearly 25 years and I’ve never seen San Luis Obispo, a town I love deeply, so torn apart. This special election on Measures A and B, regardless of outcome, is destined to only increase bad feelings on both sides of the binding arbitration debate.

Most people assume that both measures will pass easily. Perhaps. But then what? What happens when we wake up on Aug. 31st? What kind of morale will we have among our police officers and firefighters after beating them into the ground over salaries and benefits, repeatedly suggesting they are not worthy? What kind of relationship may we realistically expect between our public safety personnel and City Hall, especially when we continue to lavish high salaries and benefits on managers? How many years will it take these wounds to heal?

A couple things to keep in mind. (1) Mayor Jan Marx has been weak and ineffectual in providing leadership, standing by helpless (and hopeless) as Andrew Carter seized the spotlight and pushed his agenda; (2) I suspect there are police and firefighters who would rather take their chances in Compton than work under Mayor Andrew Carter, a likely scenario for 2012 if A and B pass; (3) Abel Maldonado has already announced his intention to challenge Lois Capps for Congress next year; and (4) Sam Blakeslee, who has never lost a race, is heading for certain defeat, pundits say, if he chooses to run for re-election in 2012, facing a stiff challenge from Democratic Assemblyman Bill Monning in a newly-redesigned state Senate district that leans heavily to the left.

For about a week this summer, Sam told friends and colleagues that he would challenge Maldonado and try to go to Congress. Wisely, he changed his mind and avoided a bruising primary bloodbath against the former lieutenant governor. That doesn’t leave Sam with many options. He could try and take on Monning and hope for some kind of political upset. It is unlikely that Democrat Jerry Brown would offer him an appointment. With his Ph.D., Sam would be ideal to be president of Cuesta College, a school where he launched his political career as a trustee, but that would mean sticking it to Gil Stork and Sam won’t do that.

So what does that leave for Sam Blakeslee?

To me, it’s simple. Come home, Sam. Come home and run for mayor of San Luis Obispo.

Hear me out.

Given the weakness of the current mayor and the collective egos of the four remaining council members, it is not far-fetched to picture an election where Ashbaugh, Carter, Carpenter, and Smith all decide to challenge Marx. Just tonight, on my radio show, Dan Carpenter, who was appointed less than a year ago, announced that he was considering running for mayor. Can you imagine the circus?

No, the next mayor should be an outsider, someone who has not been tainted in the current debate. Someone who might serve one, or possibly two, terms and focus on getting San Luis Obispo beyond the nasty binding arbitration issue.

Sam Blakeslee is the ideal choice. He brings a veteran politico to the job at a time when his knowledge, experience, and political skills are needed the most. Only someone like Sam can reach out to both sides in this bruising debate and try to nudge the city forward. Even if they lose, police and firefighters have no reason to blame Sam. His connections to Sacramento come as an added plus in these tough economic times.

Lois Capps will retire soon enough. Then Sam can make his move, having done his part for San Luis Obispo. And I suspect his wife and children wouldn’t mind having Sam home for dinner more.

So come home, Sam. Run for mayor. San Luis Obispo needs you.

Dave Congalton serves as Contributing Editor for CalCoastNews.



When Sam took his blood oath to Grover Norquist, that told me he was 1) an unprincipled opportunist who would do anything to get elected and 2) unfit to govern. The only “oath” politicians should be taking is to the constitution (not some guy named Grover) and the only swearing they should be doing is to do the best they can for the good of the state or nation.


Grover’s corruption index profile


I agree with Dave that a divisive and polarizing election tends to have ripples into the future; but not all conflict is bad… and sometimes it brings resolution.

Let me just say it, I voted FOR BOTH A & B. I did it holding my nose. I will also admit that I voted FOR binding arbitration when the city was acting like jerks the last time around. I don’t think I am alone in believing that the city council has failed to live up to the expectations of any of the residents… they are not gridlocked… they are just petrified of making any decisions.

On the ballot, the thing that turned me off the most was the implication that money was being diverted from ‘open space’ projects to pay for police… and that’s why we should SUPPORT the measure. These are the same folks who just hired a new manager for more money than the Governor gets. So why did I support both measures? It is my hope that a new ‘slate’ will come in and make decisions that will actually make San Luis Obispo a better place to live and not just support their friends.

So, don’t tell me WHO should be the next Mayor… tell me WHO you think should be on the council to help get the city moving into solvency. It takes a majority to make things work.

Roger Freberg

Kevin Rice

Roger, Before dismissing the entire council I suggest you look harder at the votes of the current council on the budget. As you say, “It takes a majority to make things work” — so who was the majority and who was the minority? I think you’ll find one or two members that fit your requirements are already on council.


You have got to be kidding, Dave!! Why would Sam run for Mayor of SLO??? He has his eyes on MUCH, MUCH higher office than Mayor of SLO! No way, no how would he EVER consider THAT scenario!


Sam needs to come back home and bond with his family and get away from the political “insane” asylum.

It is a tsunami every where you look, nothing anyone can do to restructure until the flood settles.

Just come back home, the hell with all of it.

Just come home.


I would definitely vote for Sam. Hope he considers it.


I wouldn’t vote for Maldonado if he were running for the Dog Catcher position. I’d much rather see Sam in a Congressional position.

Kevin Rice

bobfromsanluis, You’re not going to get strong/polarized answers ON PUBLIC RADIO about the state of sensitive labor negotiations ESPECIALLY when there is a current lawsuit, concern about revealing closed session information, a city attorney and city manager sending out emails cautioning about the lawsuit, and an ongoing emotional election with strong opinions on both sides ready to jump down throats.

The other call that made me LAUGH was the woman who wanted the councilman to openly castigate the city manager ON PUBLIC RADIO!!! LOL!!

One person’s strong answer is stepping on someone else’s toes and you’re not the one that takes the heat for it or has to work side by side with the city manager. Instead of public radio, try a personal conversation where a guy doesn’t have to fret about a possible slip of the tongue becoming a front page news flap (i.e., think “POTATOE”).


I didn’t ask Councilman Carpenter a question that required a “strong/polarized answer”; if you remember my exchange with him, I asked if there were negotiations starting up with the employees and the city, a question that only required a “Yes” or “No” answer, which I pointed out to Mr. Carpenter after he slipped and slid all over the place trying to NOT answer the question. Councilman Carpenter is practicing the age-ol adage of “CYA” when what he could have done is either say “Yes, we are currently starting negotiations” or he could have simply said: “I cannot answer that right now, sorry.”; but he took the political route of trying to justify his non-answer. As for him or any other of the council members working side by side with the city manager, please remember that she works for them, not the other way around. Sam Blakeslee has always been very diplomatic when I have spoken to him either in person or when he has been on Dave’s show, and although he too is a politician, he is much more personable and I think he would keep our city manager on a much tighter leash.


I disagree about Sam not being ‘able’ to beat ‘Abel’. I feel that he would smoke Abe out of the race. Abel isn’t really that bright, it’s amazing that he’s gotten as far as he has. Lois beat Abel in the debates and believe that Sam could as well. Sam has more intelligence in his pinky than Abel could have in his entire life, Sam could spin circles around Abe.

Kevin Rice

It will be truly embarrassing if Abel ever gets elected again. If that happens, we deserve him.


Interesting suggestion, Dave. I was dismayed at the non-answers I got from Dan Carpenter when I called in to ask him about current contract negotiations; he really really sounded like a politician wanna be. I completely understand how many in San Luis are angered by the salaries that our police officers make and want to reach out to try and change the whole binding arbitration situation, BUT, let’s not forget all parties need to be in touch with reality when it comes time for new contracts with all city workers. I for one am ready to vote on pensions for city workers and more importantly, city managers and those in supervisory roles, but if we pass measure A, we will be removing our direct ability to vote on those pension issues and let the city council politicize the whole issue. Perhaps if we did have a mayor like Sam Blakeslee who is used to the political dealings that go on in the arena of Sacramento, he would be able to control and keep the process open for the citizens of SLO to see what is happening. Of everyone on the current city council and Sam Blakeslee as potential candidates for Mayor, I can tell you that I would vote for Sam in a heart beat. Dave, I certainly hope Sam considers your suggestion seriously.


That’s interesting. I spoke to Councilman Carpenter after stopping him on the street and he was very direct with his answers to my questions So direct I rather doubt he has aspirations to becoming mayor. If he actually ran I suspect he would easily make the best mayor out of the four.

Carter is an able guy but he lacks people skills and he’s upsetting people because he is doing so much of the heavy lifting required during these tough times. In many ways he and to a lessor degree Carpenter are doing some fairly heroic work right now that a political lifer wouldn’t go near.

I think Sam would make a good mayor too.


I agree, and I think they represent the stockholders of this community coming in and using brute force to get things under control, because obviously the ceo, cfo and most of the board aren’t handling business in a way that doesn’t reflect the down to earth hard working values of the economic conservatives who have dominated this area for many years, though mostly well behind the scenes.