Forbes Magazine notes SLO County as government run amok

January 20, 2014
Adam Hill

Adam Hill

In a Forbes Magazine article about relentless government bureaucracy, San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution District salaries and Supervisor Adam Hill are used as examples.

“Today, local governments in the U.S. are just as careerist, self-seeking, and mindlessly bureaucratic as any remote bureau in Washington,” Forbes contributor Steven Hayward says before using San Luis Obispo County as an example.

“I’ve been making a case study of my local home county in California, San Luis Obispo. Compared to California as a whole, the county has grown only modestly over the last 30 years. Its politics ought to be fairly simple, but they are not.

“The county government likes to boast that its budget has grown in line with inflation over the past decade while its workforce has not increased at all. But like much of government at all levels today, the real mischief is not to be apprehended on the ‘top line’ figures of general spending and number of direct staff. More and more of local government is being conducted by special agencies, indirectly and tenuously accountable to voters at best, with opaque budgets and complex legal authority.

“San Luis Obispo’s Air Pollution Control District (APCD) is a case in point. Just about every Larry Allencounty in California has one of these standalone bureaucracies. They make some sense in high air pollution areas like Los Angeles and Fresno. But air pollution is relatively low in San Luis Obispo County, and is steadily falling because of improving technology driven by national standards. If San Luis Obispo’s APCD were abolished tomorrow, there would be little change in the improving trends of air quality in the county. In fact, if the APCD had been abolished a decade ago, air quality trends would likely have been little different. A close look shows that the APCD exists mainly to perpetuate itself, and provide comfortable employment for its staff.

“Instead, as air pollution continues to fall, over the last decade the APCD’s budget has doubled. Its director, Larry Allen, is paid close to $250,000 a year (plus a car allowance). By contrast, Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, is paid $179,000 a year. Nearly all of the APCD’s staff is paid a six-figure salary. Allen’s chief accomplishment, according to his staff biography, is overseeing the ‘residential wood combustion rule,’ which is exactly what it sounds like: restrictions on the kind of fireplaces that can be installed or used in new residences. The APCD exists not by appropriations from the county or the state, but solely through permit and inspection fees and fines that it determines itself. The perverse incentives here are obvious. Right now the APCD is looking to fill $300,000 in lost revenues from permit fees on a power plant that is shutting down soon. Back in 2010, the APCD charged the state university $13,000 to re-inspect and permit a tractor.

“This kind of government is corrupt at a profound level: largely autonomous entities like the APCD violate the basic principle of the separation of powers, as well as basic understandings of just about any conception of democratic accountability. And this kind of rule is spreading like weeds throughout American government at all levels.

“If you pay attention and complain about this kind of rule, you tend to get the kind of response given last week by the incoming chairman of the board of the APCD, county commissioner Adam Hill. In a letter to the editor of the New Times, the local ‘alternative’ weekly, Hill makes clear that he views all critics of unaccountable bureaucratic rule as ‘conspiracy’ mongers.”

Link here to read more.

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Being a Government official or even an employee for that matter is a license to steal at all levels. Having worked for 2 Separate state governments, I witnessed first hand the daily theft from the taxpayer and had to quit befor I lost my own soul.

Before the next time we voluntarily raise our own taxes, remember, the money is not for the “poor, the children, the infrastructure,” the money is for the politicians, their power, amd their pensions.

Back to the days or tarring and feathering. Start with Obama and Boehner and work your way west.

Tar and feature?

That won’t do any good because the voters who elected Obama and Boehner will just elect the same kind of nincompoops in the next election.

OOPS. Posting from a kindle and it is like using a stylus and clay tablet…except it puts in entire words for the user.

Feature should have Benn feature.

Kindle, or kindling?

I love my kindle, but I only use it for books (e-ink one, not the tablet FireHD thing). It’s my 5th one owned and is awesome (PaperWhite, I think is the name/model). The only downside is books bought through Amazon (.azw files) are only viewable on Kindles/through Amazon. Silly archaic DRM schemes.

Anyway, to your comment:

The same voters who fell for Obama will fall for ANYTHING from the Democrat Party. In fact, the Democrats start 2016 with 246 electoral votes. Remember, it only takes 270 to win. This comes from a couple people tallying up the “solid blue” states to get the “guaranteed 91% needed to win” of 246 electoral votes.

That means whoever the big “D” is only needs 24 more votes out of the remaining 292 (of 538 total available).

How else can such a abject failure of a president be so cocky and confident going into his second term race in 2012? He knew the game was practically over before it began. Or, more likely, someone with actual intelligence did and informed him of it.

The 20 “solid blue” states that give us the “246” number above? Here:

CA (55), NY (29), PA (20), IL (20), MI (16), NJ (14), WA (12), MA (11), MN (10), WI (10), MD (10), CT (7), OR (7), HI (4), ME (4), NH (4), RT (4), VT (3), DE (3), DC (3)

Those states will likely never vote anything but “blue” again. This is why many conservatives and libertarians knew the country was over if people fell for the farce of Obama. They did. BOTH times, ergo, we’re doomed.

Really. You seem to forget the millions of GOP voters who voted for two presidential terms for Reagan and Bush Jr., as well as one term for Bush Sr.

I admit Obama is a bait-and-switch politician, but the fact that he is a Dem has less to do with it than does the fact he is a self-serving, me-first @sshole.

My computer is in the hospital =(

Larry Allen and his cronies rip off the tax payer every day. Their whole permitting program penalizes the legal so Larry and his band of pos henchmen and women can look for illegal polluters. Screwed up system by a bunch of blood sucking morons.

The linked article was an interesting read, that much I will give the author. Definitely written from a conservative perspective, with maybe just a little too much glee in finding a couple of prime examples of “government” types doing things non-elected, non-appointed citizens either don’t have a chance at (Mr. $250k a year) or would be totally ignored for doing (Mr. Hill kind of sounds like the opposite of one Mr. Otis Page who pens pretty far out stuff printed occasionally in the Tribune, most people just tend to ignore him.)

I was stuck though by a title of a linked article the author had written stating that “Obamacare will be repealed before the 2014 elections”; no matter how accurate his current article may be about Misters Hill and Allen, he seems to have a disconnect with reality. The House voted over 42 times to repeal or defund “Obamacare” and have failed each time; now that it is in effect, now that those who could not be covered before due to pre-existing conditions can buy any policy they can afford and many people who could not afford any coverage before can qualify for a subsidy, do most people honestly believe that the ACA (Obamacare) will ever be repealed?

Mr. Otis Page doesn’t hold elected office. Big difference.

Of course you are correct, which is exactly why I suggested the comparison; if Adam Hill were not an elected official, he would be the equivalent of Mr. Page, but from a 180 degree viewpoint. My point was, and is, if anyone else in our local area were to send letters to the editor with flaming, off-topic rants, he would be ignored, for the most part, exactly like Mr. Page is for the most part. Thank you for helping me to make my point.

Even a stopped watch is correct twice a day. Just saying…

So what’s the mechanism for canning wasted paychecks ($250K/year!) like Larry Allen? What’s the mechanism for closing (or drastically downsizing) SLOC’s APCD?

How is the SLOC APCD’s budget (including Allen’s ludicrous salary!) even formulated?

What would Allen do for a living if he was canned and what would be get paid?

This sort of stuff is so very wrong. Sadly it will continue until things get far worse.

The board or a ballot initiative are the only way I know? Anyone?

See my post below. An initiative does not apply here. An initiative may not hire/fire employees.

Can an initiative dismantle an agency like the APCD?

Can an initiative amend the state constitution? Of course it can. APCD (or rather it would be the parent agency, CARB, on the state level) gets dissolved, jobs disappear, no one gets fired.

But then we’ll get the EPA in its place.

Would you rather be able to have local elected officials overseeing the agency (even if it means the occasional dingbat) as we do now, or would you prefer air pollution be handled more like nuclear power issues are handled, with the NRC showing up once in awhile for “hearings,” and with no local access for citizens?

The cure looks much worse than the sickness.

Mechanism: Show up at 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning at the Board of Supervisors chambers. Mr. Allen’s contract is on the agenda. Alternatively (or both), write the APCD Board members.

Thanks for the response and information. Sadly one look at the APCD’s board makes it all too clear why “Larry Allen, is paid close to $250,000 a year (plus a car allowance).”

I fear that too many losers make-up that board to effect a real change.

Interesting article, I read the whole thing. The author mentioned some cities across the country that have shut down lemonade stands! We have way too much senseless regulation here in many arenas of life that should not be fiddled with by the govt. He makes a compelling argument.

We should have obvious health and safety concerns addressed but it is way too much now (such as invisible trash cans and how many days we can rent to others in our homes!).

The ‘residential wood combustion rule (rule 504), is barely being enforced because people with a lot of money build whatever they want, including large open fireplace that don’t meet the building code or the APCD rule.

These fireplaces are all over the county mostly in $1Mil+ homes, including developers, doctor’s and rich transplants.

Any wood burning fireplace installed after 1994 that is not clean burn is illegal. See a open (no doors) fireplace built after 94? turn it in.

Contractors and developers have been cheating on our air quality for years.

Right on. I know of a rich developer who put in a large ‘legal’ wood fireplace with airtight doors (in his multi million dollar mansion) with the intention of simply removing them as soon as the inspectors were gone. This guy is now developing all over town, tearing down old buildings in order to build fabulous businesses so he can make more money. Of course the city of SLO is slavishly sucking all this up and giving sweetheart deals to this person.

I’m trying to remember the last time I got a sweetheart deal from my city. Hmmm, I guess I’ll have to ponder that one for awhile…

That goes on all around the County. The developers spend a lot of money to get their people elected and in key staff positions so that they can do whatever they want.

That is what occurred in Atascadero during the Kelly Gearhart reign. There were several large developers that had our planning commission and CC in their pockets along with our city staff. As a result, prime commercial property was re-zoned to residential and we had almost no commercial growth during those years and were saddled with an influx of residents and no tax revenue to pay for all the added services. ‘Good Ole Boys’ can do a lot of damage to a community.

I don’t know anything about this but certainly you know that is not how rezoning works. The city attorney does not have that kind of say so.

Pete, you make accusations and statements WITHOUT names and you got nothing. Without names, what you say is no better than pure fiction.

A sad state to be sure. This SLO bureaucracy run amuck is also due in large part to our main town newspaper, the Tribune, being little more than a PR rag for those who wish to dictate to us what is good and not good for us. Fill in the blanks there, but for me it is Gibson, Hill, Marx, and increasingly Ray who get a pass from the Tribune when they should have their heads knocked together for their abuses and/or positions.

Thank God for CCN.

You’re absolutely right.

In other small communities the size of SLOC, this sort of crap simply doesn’t continue unabated. Sonner or later, local media digs in. Not in SLOC.

The Tribune has absolutely no journalistic integrity. Ray is nothing more than a bean-counter trying to keep the boat a float while kissing the backsides of those in power.


The correct word is ‘amok’. Do you have any English majors on your staff? Good grief.

It’s Malay not English, but perhaps a recent English major, one who is current in our evolving language could be helpful.

Also incomplete sentence above, for those who crusade, when there is something wrong on the internet .

Definition of AMUCK

variant of amok

Run Amuck, the Marine Corps Marathon’s messiest mud and obstacle event

Duck Amuck

Good grief, the year is 2014, understand?

My grandfather had a name for these folks, egg suckers.