Waller’s mayoral candidacy versus Mayor Hill
September 8, 2016
OPINION by OTIS PAGE
Retired school teacher Richard Waller is from a well known Arroyo Grande family with deep roots. His mother, now deceased, was active in the South County Historical Society and was a prominent voice in establishing the present agricultural policies of the City of Arroyo Grande, hence, the society’s support of Waller.
The society is made up with serious and good people who admired past Mayor Tony Ferrara and were very disappointed when he lost in a close and surprising election to write-in candidate Jim Hill.
Waller’s candidacy benefits from this backing. But he may also suffer its burden. Ferrara as Mayor did many positive things but he also had a record of substantial controversies, many being the result of scars accumulated after a 16-year tenure.
“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones,” William Shakespeare wrote. So be it with Ferrara.
It is a foreboding reality that the city is divided on the Ferrara matter because of the incident leading to his defeat, the “cover up” of the former city manager Steve Adams incident. If Waller prevails and is elected mayor he will have won under the cloud of political division that led to the write-in election of Jim Hill two years ago.
Both Waller and Hill are excellent individuals where the weight in this election favors Hill. Why?
It is a fact mayor candidate Richard Waller has no formal elected background in city politics. Where Jim Hill’s is extensive as proven by his outstanding initiative on the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District issue, his leadership in challenging the Brisco Interchange matter and his past experience as a member of the Oceano Community Services District Board. His two year experience as Mayor exemplifies why he deserves another two years given his willingness to serve.
Because of his inexperience, it appears Waller’s main tactic is to criticize the performance of incumbent Mayor Jim Hill. In an article published Aug. 15, 2015 announcing Richard Waller’s candidacy for mayor of Arroyo Grande, “Waller said he’s running for mayor to bring back true transparency and civility in city government, while working to ensure the economic vitality of the city into the future.”
This opinion piece offers a critique of Waller’s candidacy considering Waller’s arguments on transparency, civility and ensuring economic vitality:
Given that Waller’s use of the word “transparency” means being “open and frank” as it pertains to disclosures by the City of Arroyo Grande or any council member, including the mayor, the following facts apply:
First of all, the city’s web site – that I believe was developed and sustained by Kelly Whitmore , the city clerk — is excellent. The web site provides substantial facts regarding the city’s administration, meeting agendas, minutes of meetings, video recordings of meeting, and detailed financial information all placed in current and historical contexts. No lack of transparency here.
Second, through the city’s legal counsel, the AG City Council as a whole and individual council members closely abide by the Brown Act and other state administrative provisions. Again, there is no lack of transparency here.
The major exception – provided for in law – is the practice of closed sessions which typically apply to personal matters, legal matters, and union negotiations. Limited transparency limited by state law. See California Code 54957
The city’s business is transparent to its citizens. To construe that transparency does not prevail may be the complaint of certain citizens during public comment at city meetings following the Brown Act. This may occur where citizens making comments are limited to three minutes, a meeting procedure instituted by Ferrara.
The practice of three minutes is considered enough time to make one’s point with some exceptions based on the discretion of Mayor who presides over the meeting. Otherwise, some people tend to “bloviate” making their points.
Because of his obvious lack of political background as a candidate, Waller exercises “ad hominine” attacks criticizing Mayor Hill. This is a tactic that he ironically professes to reject. But, in a contradiction they are applied by him to bolster his candidacy.
Richard Waller’s statement posted on Facebook Aug. 22:
“Ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself” Attacks on the various persons running for City Council have already started. Each one of these attacks demonstrates clearly why I am running for Mayor. For that, I thank the attackers.
“They are demonstrating clearly the lack of civility that brought me to the race. My platform includes this position; Ensure that all persons, including, city council, city staff and residents are respected.
“Reading the Ad Hominem attacks is like listening to the mean girls in ‘Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion’, and we know how that turned out! Disagreeing with policy, or the ideas that a particular candidate has is a necessary part of our political system. Attacking an individual is a cancer that will destroy our democracy. My request to the attackers, to the commenter’s on the various online media, to those who appear at our City Council meetings, is to be civil (POLITE, COLD AND FORMAL), to avoid attacking any person, to respect all. Each ad hominem attack on any candidate is a strong statement for my candidacy.”
Again, this statement is a contradiction in Waller’s candidacy. While professing to be civil and advocating civility Waller attacks Hill based on allegations that appear to be politically contrived and unfounded.
Ensuring economic vitality
Even in good times there are economic swings of ups and downs. But in the present phase of the area’s economic vitality the city is subject to the drought implications of California’s flowering desert. Economic vitality is impacted by the present water drought.
The specific manifestation here is that while farmer’s wells go dry, resident lawns turn brown and drastic measures are made to conserve the drying puddle that serves Arroyo Grande at Lake Lopez, the consequences of a development moratorium, and its effects on retarding economic vitality, is both real and necessary. Otherwise this small Ship of State, the Arroyo Grande, will sail onto the rocks made obvious by the declining waters that sustain it. Economic Vitality bows to Mother Nature with the absence water.
Waller’s allegation asserting Hill is demoralizing the staff, concluding the staff has a morale problem, ignores the cause of the real problem. It was the new city manager that was the issue, Mayor Hill in fact responded to staff concerns to correct the recent city manager situation.
Waller’s allegations of transparency, civility and economic vitality issues miss the mark as stated above. Waller’s candidacy misses the points on the real problems facing the Arroyo Grande City Council including issues regarding water, excess development during the draught period, traffic and budgetary concerns because of union actions.
The political challenge facing the citizens of Arroyo Grande is to preserve the momentum of change and quest for good government as instituted in the last election. Hill should be reelected with the election of other candidates to the city council that will acknowledge Hill’s leadership such as council candidates John Mack and Leeann Akins. Without that the city faces continued controversy and a real demoralized staff. It is time to move on!