Is San Luis Obispo County censoring the public?
February 16, 2015
By KAREN VELIE
An Atascadero man who attempted to voice his opinion in an email to a San Luis Obispo County planning commissioner had his correspondence commandeered by planning department staff who determined it to be a “personal attack.”
San Luis Obispo County Planning Commissioners do not have public emails. So, constituents wishing to correspond with their commissioners have to go through Ramona Hedges, secretary for the planning commission.
Last week, Hedges censored an email Tim Haley had sent to District 5 Planning Commissioner Don Campbell. In a return email to Haley, Hedges said the Atascadero man’s email would not be tolerated, published or sent on to the intended recipient.
“This person could be injecting their bias by throwing these email away,” Haley said. “This person could discard emails directed towards the commissioners that are in favor of a project she is opposed to.”
Article 1 Section 3 of the California Constitution gives people the right to address and instruct public officials. Commissioner Campbell said he should be provided all correspondence sent to him regardless of its content.
“I should be able to make my own decisions on email sent to me – good, bad or indifferent,” Campbell said. “I don’t think there is any reason for the county to censor emails.”
Following is the email Tim Haley attempted to send to Campbell:
“It is beyond comprehension as to why you would vote for the approval of the Las Pilitas Rock quarry project. You stated you favored the property rights of the applicants. What about the property rights of the remaining citizens of the neighborhood? Everyone has the right to expect to enjoy their property without intrusive activities of their neighbors. These are called nuisance laws that go back to common law established in England at the time of the Magna Carta. You state that there is or will be a demand for the product yet the two existing quarries in the area are not operating at capacity and all data presented proved the opposite other than fabricated data from the applicant. You also stated that the negative impacts of the quarry could be mitigated. Are you living in a dream world? How do you mitigate 285 trucks traveling through town? How do you mitigate the noise? how do you put back a mountain once torn down? how do you mitigate any of the issues YOUR staff pointed out to be unsolvable issues? You don’t….. You should NOT be on any planning commission because you are not in touch with the constituents of the community nor reality. Thank goodness common sense prevailed and the rest of the commission listened to the will of the people.”
The planning department responded, “Personal attacks such as the one emailed to our department below will not be tolerated, published, or sent to the commissioner you intended this to go to.”
Planning department staff originally stood behind Hedges decision to withhold the email.
However, County Council Rita Neal said Friday that the department made a mistake and that the email should have been sent to all five commissioners.
Late Friday afternoon, SLO County Planning Manager/Environmental Coordinator Ellen Carroll apologized to Haley.
“Your letter should have been sent to the Commissioner upon receipt,” Carroll said in the email. “This was an error that has now been corrected. The Planning Department welcomes respectful comment and input. We understand that there can be many different viewpoints on any issue and remain committed to ensuring open communication and full public participation in the planning process.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
Don’t miss links to breaking news stories, like CalCoastNews on Facebook.