Adam Hill fails to atone for leadership failure
July 10, 2016
OPINION by MIKE BROWN
On June 28, The San Luis Obispo Tribune posted a letter to the editor from 3rd District County Supervisor Adam Hill, who was obviously attempting to get out in front of the bad news that the Diablo Nuclear Plant must cease operation no later than 10 years from now.
The Tribune gratuitously supplied a headline on his behalf as if the letter were a scheduled commentary: How do we prepare for a post-Diablo economy?
The complicity of the Tribune in supporting Hill is obvious in the 5:28 p.m. posting, which came just minutes after the California State Lands Commission (State Lands) had approved the deal, which would allow the nuclear plant to operate until 2025 and which then requires that PG&E abandon any attempt to have the plant relicensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This action guarantees permanent closure.
No doubt some on the left are congratulating Hill in that he has clearly so co-opted the Tribune, that it functions as his personal on demand flunky publicist. You would think a real newspaper would be asking hard questions like, how did you and other community leaders allow this to happen? Or how, in the short space of nine years, are you going to replace the very high value career benefited jobs and the $1 billion in annual direct economic benefit to the community, which will start to decline almost immediately?
Instead, the Tribune prominently published Hill’s very vague and revisionist polemic about how the county and other jurisdictions need to work together to do something about the lack of housing and the cumbersome and costly permit entitlement processes which undermine economic development. To find a replacement industry or group of industries with PG&E’s high wage scales, high level consultant and contractors, and high demand for goods and services seems impossible.
A semi-astute reporter might have asked, given this profoundly negative circumstance, how do you think the county should approach the Phillips 66 rail spur application? What is your position in general, as we realize that you may have to vote on these someday, on the prospective expansion of the Freeport-McMoRan oil operation in Price Canyon (just to name few “bird in hand” opportunities for some homegrown economic expansion)?
Other than vague platitudes about SLO County becoming “a renewable energy hub” or a “specialized manufacturing and renewable energy” center, just what specific strategy and actions do Hill, the SLo County Board of Supervisors, and the various mayors and city councilors spread across the county actually have in mind?
It’s not as if all this hasn’t been warned about for years.
To comprehend how oozing with hypocritical slime all this is, one need only reflect on Hill’s testimony before the Lands Commission just a few hours earlier. The room was filled with both anti-nuclear and anti-Phillips 66-tankering groups (there is much overlap). Hill got up and supported the 9-year Diablo permit.
“I support the Lands Commission staff recommendation,” Hill said.
But in the next breath, he took credit for getting the plant shut down in the long term.
“I led the board (of supervisors) by asking PG&E to pause its application for license renewal to conduct more seismic studies…,” Hill added.
Failure of leadership
The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors failed to forcefully and boldly support the relicensing of the plant as a matter of public policy. In effect, their deliberate neglect undermined the relicensing effort and facilitated the ultimate closure.
Instead of proactively supporting relicensing, leftist majorities on both boards betrayed the interests of the working people and families in their respective counties and pandered to a variety of anti-industrial, anti-nuclear, and anti-private property activist organizations.
Every excuse to throw up hurdles was used to delay and to add costs. Fear of earthquakes, tsunamis (the plant is on a 70-foot high cliff above the ocean), and terrorist attacks were all bandied about. Furthermore, when the PG&E undertook seabed seismic studies, these same boards complained about the risk to marine mammals and fish. While the rest of the world is expanding nuclear power, local and statewide Luddite ideologues have created a politicized environment in which relicensing is too risky and too expensive.
Hill’s duplicity in this regard is manifested in the closing statement of his Tribune “guest” commentary:
So the choice is before us now: We will either make our future or surrender to fate. We can take bold actions to ensure our local economy keeps thriving, or we can sit on our hands and hope that tourism and its related sectors alone will save us — but they won’t.
Why didn’t Hill and his colleagues apply this same passion to the relicensing and retention of the plant in the first place? Why didn’t the county pass repeated resolutions demanding and supporting relicensing? Why didn’t the county conduct educational seminars and events for the public on the economic importance of the plant?
The dissembling supervisor excuses his own and his board’s lack of action by blaming the state and actually casting an oblique criticism on whatever those undefined policies allegedly contained. Well, state policies led to Diablo not seeking relicensing, and regardless of the merits of those policies, our community didn’t exactly have a say in the matter.
Did Hill ever ask his colleagues to include supportive policies in the county’s annual legislative program? Did the county ever conduct a legislative day (or better yet an annual and recurring legislative day) for State Assembly members and State Senators to present the positive aspects of Diablo and the board’s position (which it never had the guts to take) to have it relicensed?
Hill has certainly supported the weakening of Proposition 13 in the county legislative program – a matter over which the SLO County Board of Supervisors has no direct control. After all, Proposition 13 is a law adopted by the people of California.
Usually, when a city or county is faced with the closure or relocation of one of its primary employers, it pulls out all the stops. The prospective closure of a military base, factory shutdown, headquarters relocation, transfer of a major professional sports franchise, or other economic dislocation will usually result in a massive campaign led by the local chief elected officials, local and regional members of the state legislature, chambers of commerce, university presidents, the state’s governor and even the local newspaper.
A special commission may be created to privately fund and rally support. Sadly none of this happened in either San Luis Obispo County or Santa Barbara County. Instead, there was constant rhetorical handwringing over fish and earthquakes.
Those who will eventually lose their jobs, those whose homes may decrease in value, those who provide retail goods to them, and everyone else in the regional economy may well reflect on this total and deliberate lack of leadership as they consider the credentials of Adam Hill for reelection as 3rd district Supervisor and current Santa Barbara 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal to be their representative in the Congress.
Characteristically, Hill’s only specific recommendation at this point is for the voters to approve a new ½ cent sales tax for transportation. The Tribune even highlighted his wording in this regard as a live link to one its editorials supporting the tax.
Mike Brown is the Government Affairs Director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture. Brown worked in government for 42 years at the local, county and state levels. His last position before retiring was the CEO of Santa Barbara County. He was considered one of the top city/county administrators in the nation for his budgetary prowess, innovations and professional managerial skills.