Eric Michielssen: “I’m not an ideologue?”

May 27, 2016
T. Keith Gurnee

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.

Supervisor Debbie Arnold

Supervisor Debbie Arnold

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.

Eric Michielssen

Eric Michielssen

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.



  1. mej says:

    “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.”

    I like the style of this writing as well as the content.

    (-6) 20 Total Votes - 7 up - 13 down
  2. obispan says:

    Debbie Arnold is the environmental candidate, not creating unnecessary waste with unnecessary campaign signs.

    (-5) 17 Total Votes - 6 up - 11 down
  3. Jon Tatro says:

    Normally I like to add my two cents but the article was so well written and the point so well made I guess “yeah what he said ” works.

    (10) 46 Total Votes - 28 up - 18 down
  4. ratherbefishing says:

    Michielssen, you do not have my vote

    (14) 48 Total Votes - 31 up - 17 down
  5. Pelican1 says:

    Welcome to SLO POLITICS 101.
    During the course you will experience the meaning of uncivil discourse, examine the reality of political pandering, favoritism, lying, cheating, and stealing.
    At completion, you will be required to submit a 3 word or less essay that best defines SLO Politics.

    (8) 16 Total Votes - 12 up - 4 down
  6. RealityBytes says:

    Michielssen appears to enjoy the pleasures of being in the position to instigate others and must therefore never be elected into a public position dedicated to serving others; BOS or otherwise.

    Instigator (Merriam): “a person who stirs up public feelings especially of discontent”

    (22) 50 Total Votes - 36 up - 14 down
  7. SloHeadInTheSand says:

    Arnold for property rights is about as hypocritical as you can get. Arnold is for people with money who own property.

    Her total disregard for the community of Santa Margarita trying to shove 200+ quarry truck trips a day down the throats of those property owners shows who her true colors.

    Arnold’s primary mission as District 5 Supervisor is for the people of her district first. She is for the P66 project as clearly evidenced by how her planning commissioner voted. Throwing the citizens of D5 under the bus again.

    You know what’s so great about Eric…
    He’s not Debbie.

    (-22) 88 Total Votes - 33 up - 55 down
    • Pelican1 says:

      Pull your head out!

      (4) 34 Total Votes - 19 up - 15 down
    • wolfhound says:

      ‘Soft in the head’

      You state “Arnold is for people with money who own property”.

      I’m 87 years old & have a few bucks in the bank & own a home.

      What’s your problem with democracy

      (14) 42 Total Votes - 28 up - 14 down
  8. NorthCountyGuy says:

    Michielssen displays the M.O. of an Adam Hill #2.

    (19) 67 Total Votes - 43 up - 24 down
  9. south says:

    Well said Keith.

    (19) 73 Total Votes - 46 up - 27 down
    • mary margaret says:

      Keith Gurnee sold out SLO city and county many years ago. What happened to the idealistic young man? He became cozy with developers and elected/appointed officials and together they sold us out for the almighty buck. What a shame. You look like Citizen Kane these days.

      (10) 48 Total Votes - 29 up - 19 down
      • ratherbefishing says:

        Kinda like Adam Hill, Bruce Gibson? I think not

        (-7) 9 Total Votes - 1 up - 8 down
      • south says:

        What a pocket of rot. Gurnee was a principal at RRM. He proudly was a developer’s advocate and planner. He has remained true to his roots and continues to understand that carefully and well planned development is the heart and soul of a thriving, organized community.

        (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
        • south says:

          I’ll add to that. Gurnee would make a hell of a better Planning Director than the ones who currently occupy those offices in SLO County and SLO City.

          (-4) 10 Total Votes - 3 up - 7 down

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