Supervisor Adam Hill must go
September 28, 2016
OPINION by KEITH GURNEE
With Nov. 8 rapidly approaching, all of the elections—national, state, and local– seem more contentious than ever. Such is the case with the local race for District 3 Supervisor where incumbent Adam Hill is facing San Luis Obispo Councilman Dan Carpenter and it is that race that seems to be generating the most attention.
In seeking a third term, Adam Hill must think he owns the seat. Yet after garnering less than 42 percent of the vote in the June 2016 primary, apparently the voters have other ideas. Despite his massive campaign war chest that has been filled with thousands of dollars by his cabal of big developers, Adam Hill is in trouble and he knows it.
In the beginning
When first elected, Hill initially impressed me. He joined Supervisor Frank Mecham in founding the County’s Economic Vitality Commission that has done some good work over the years. In 2012, he cast the deciding vote not to gut the county’s award winning agricultural clustering ordinance, the most powerful open space preservation tool in the county’s arsenal.
That he did so against the fervent pleas of then allies supervisors Bruce Gibson and Jim Patterson, was no small act of political courage. Yet despite these promising signs, his wheels seem to have come off some time ago.
Who can forget that article that Hill wrote a few years ago in the New Times, “Who is susceptible to conspiracy theory thinking?”
Remember its opening line, “Not only the superficially educated and narrow minded, not only bumpkins with bad breath and worse teeth…” That was just a snippet of a rant that revealed a troubled mind starting on a downhill slide into a series of gaffes.
Whether it was insinuating himself into the debate over the management of CAPSLO homeless services after his wife had been discharged by the organization, or his tantrum in 2014 over not being appointed vice chair of the SLO County Board of Supervisors, his actions signaled he was losing it.
Hill’s shrill attacks against Cal Coast News and his attempts to blackball the publication and its advertisers have also been disturbing.
Add in 2014’s FPPC $2500 fine levied against Hill for failure to properly maintain his campaign records for his 2012 race and one would think that Hill’s chances would be a shambles were it not for the huge infusion of campaign cash from his cronies. Indeed, it is that cash from the political machine funding his reelection campaign that is most disconcerting.
Why has it taken so long for the public to hold Hill accountable for taking so much money from so many powerful interests who have so much to gain with Hill on the board?
Meanwhile, even liberal Democrats have begun to abandon Hill.
Self-proclaimed “leftist” Tom Fulks, an opinion writer for the Tribune and a key political backer of Supervisors Hill and Gibson who is apparently partially funded by Hill’s war chest, wrote of his laments in the Tribune on “Where have all the liberals gone?”
Fulks need look no further for an answer than a letter published in early 2015 by liberal attorney Stew Jenkins who stated that “Liberal Democrats increasingly find Hill’s actions so embarrassing that he can no longer be supported.”
Later in 2015, troubling disclosures revealed Hill’s involvement as a consultant to local developers John Belsher and Ryan Petetit in advocating approval of their projects in the city of San Luis Obispo. Reports by CCN that Hill was the “sole proprietor” of San Luis Consulting with an office in the same building as Belsher and that he has apparently been helping these developers who are facing serious legal challenges is eye opening.
That Hill sits on the San Luis Obispo County Council of Governments (SLOCOG) which funnels transportation grants from the state to local governments begs the question: What kind of pressure might that exert on those San Luis Obispo City Council Members whose elections were partially funded and supported by Hill?
Would they be reluctant to turn down city development projects advocated by Hill out of fear that the reprisals of such an action might result in the loss of grants from SLOCOG with Hill on its board?
While Hill successfully advocated the board’s adoption of a resolution backed by the League of Women Voters calling for civil discourse in matters before the board, he was the first to violate it before the ink was even dry. At an opening event for an affordable housing project in Pismo Beach, Hill physically threatened his opponent, San Luis Obispo City Councilman Dan Carpenter.
Grabbing the councilman’s shoulder as witnessed by other attendees, a seething Hill confronted Carpenter telling him that he would “kick his ass” if he dared to talk to Hill’s financial backers. So much for the “civil discourse” he resolved to honor.
Then comes his most recent indiscretion: his caustic emails sent to members of the business community demanding heavy financial “pay to play” contributions to his campaign, or else. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. And it’s got to stop.
Approaching the Finish Line
Having started this piece back in late 2015, I have held back on publishing it out of fear of offending a powerful “ruler” of our county. After all, Hill and his henchmen like Fulks excel at making the lives of his opponents miserable. But I’ve concluded that it is a risk that I and other voters must be willing to take.
On the cusp of the Nov. 8 elections as we await the anticipated flood of Hill’s false and malicious advertising against Dan Carpenter, where do we find ourselves? It is high time for the voters of District 3 to stand up and be counted, fear of reprisals be damned. We can wait no longer.
While we can’t take the bully out of the bully, it’s time we take the bully out of politics.
Hill’s lapses in judgment have relegated him to an embarrassing political cartoon. That he has had to publicly apologize so often speaks volumes of his intemperate outbursts. Recalling one of those apologies when he said “You can’t take the Jersey out of a Jersey boy” should tell us that come this November, now is the time “to send the Jersey boy back to Jersey!”
T. Keith Gurnee is a retired planning and urban design consultant and a former member of the San Luis Obispo City Council.