Eric Michielssen: “I’m not an ideologue?”
May 27, 2016
OPINION by T. KEITH GURNEE
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines ideologue as “an adherent of an ideology, especially one who is uncompromising and dogmatic.” In his recent Viewpoint article published by the Tribune, District 5 supervisorial candidate Eric Michielsson stated “I’m not an ideologue” while accusing Supervisor Debbie Arnold of being one.
Just saying that does not make it so. In fact, his statement was remarkably similar to a famous quote by former President Richard Nixon when he said “I am not a crook” when in fact he was.
Debbie Arnold is about as pragmatic and salt of the earth as you can get. That Michielssen would call her “an ideologue” borders on the delusional, especially when one of his key supporters and financial backers is Supervisor Bruce Gibson, the ideologue of all ideologues in San Luis Obispo County.
That being said, Arnold is a true believer in protecting property rights. The recent disclosures by CCN revealing a string of lawsuits against Michielssen for trespassing and violating the property rights of others in Santa Margarita and Los Osos tells me that his “ideology” on this issue does not belong on the Board of Supervisors.
In his call for making “policy based on evidence,” let’s consider the “evidence” on the Las Pilitas gravel quarry that was proposed east of Santa Margarita. The evidence is this: the specific area in question for trespassing and violating other’s property right has long been designated by San Luis Obispo County and the state of California as a rock resource of “statewide significance.” Part of this designated area has already long been used as a rock quarry.
People who purchased their rural home sites in the vicinity of that area did so with full legal disclosure in their deeds that the rock resources in the area would likely be extracted at some point in time. Further, one of the primary reasons that state Highway 58 was built in the 1950s was to provide access to these rock resources for construction of the state highway system along the Central Coast as well as in the Central Valley.
Were it not for rock quarries, Mr. Michielssen would not have been able to pour the foundation for his house or to pave his driveway. Neither would the residents of the town of Santa Margarita. Don’t forget that quarries must be established where the resources exist. East of Santa Margarita is where those resources exist. That’s the evidence.
Knowing that there would be strong opposition to the quarry, despite the deed disclosures to nearby residents and the extraordinary mitigation measures agreed to by its applicants to address the traffic issues, Debbie Arnold had a tough decision to make. While it certainly wasn’t popular, she had the courage to make the decision she felt was right.
Ultimately, the applicants lost by a 3-2 vote at the Board of Supervisors and she has accepted that defeat. By contrast, it seems that Mr. Michielssen would be more inclined to side with the emotional NIMBY-ism of the opponents rather than with the truth of “the evidence.”
As for the Phillips 66 rail spur project, neither candidate appears to have made up their minds. Yet Michielssen alleges that Arnold “is impervious to evidence of the threat” of that project. A conversation with Debbie Arnold will quickly reveal that she is very cognizant of the evidence of threats posed by all forms of oil transportation and that she is very committed to keeping the people of this County safe.
Then there is the water issue, where Michielssen argues that Debbie Arnold “stuck her head in the dry ground.” While Supervisor Frank Mecham at least gave North County voters a chance to decide on forming and funding a special district to manage the Paso Robles groundwater basin, the voters overwhelmingly rejected that measure by an stunning margin of nearly 4-1.
Yet almost right after those votes had been counted, who else but Supervisor Bruce Gibson—Michielssen’s biggest supporter on the board– made a motion to invite the state to come into the county and take over management of the basin.
Thankfully that motion failed, but to think that Michielssen might back Gibson’s position would be a huge slap in the face to the voters of the district he proposes to represent. As it stands now, just last week the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to have the county manage the Paso Robles groundwater basin.
If you really want an “ideologue”, someone who is a political windsock who will only make decisions based on what is popular versus what is right– one who is currently backed by the biggest ideologue on the Board of Supervisors and who cares little for property rights—then Michielssen is your man.
On the other hand, if you want someone who has the courage of their convictions, who is committed to protecting our county’s agricultural heritage, and who is not afraid to do what is right, then vote for Supervisor Debbie Arnold.
T. Keith Gurnee is a retired urban designer and a former member of the San Luis Obispo City Council.