Waller’s mayoral candidacy versus Mayor Hill

September 8, 2016
Mayor Jim Hill

Mayor Jim Hill

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.

Richard Waller

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:

Transparency

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.

Civility

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”[1]), 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.

In conclusion

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!


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StakeHolder

A bit confused. Is this a rebuttal?


kayaknut

Can you call Mr. Hill and actually talk to him….. Yes.

Can you email Mr Hill and expect a reply……. Yes.

Can you go to a council meeting and speak without fear of being cut off or worse……… Yes.

Three things you could never do when Ferrara was mayor.


concernedagcitizen

That doesn’t have anything to do with him being a public figure and having closed social media, especially for his re-election campaign. Not at all inviting to the public to learn more. This is not about Ferrara, everyone needs to let that go.


SCHS

For the record. The South County Historical Society DOES NOT endorse or support any candidates.


As a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation, the South County Historical Society

(SCHS) is prohibited from directly or indirectly supporting or opposing

candidates for public office. The SCHS will neither publish

nor distribute written statements nor make oral statements on

behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.


Under the First Amendment, however, individuals who are

affiliated with the SCHS have the right to express their personal

positions concerning candidates for public office. Anything

that they may express concerning a candidate is their personal

position and not that of the SCHS. They may not state nor imply

that their support for or opposition to a candidate is the position

of the SCHS. In addition, they may not express their

personal position at an SCHS event or in an SCHS publication.


The prohibition against political campaign activity by nonprofits

does not, however, apply to lobbying or legislative

activities. Consequently, the SCHS may express its support or

opposition to legislation, ordinances, propositions or other

matters that may relate to its public purpose or mission.


SLOBIRD

Just read Waller’s facebook page. I am a little surprised that someone that has been around and as connected by the family ties as long as he has been does not have an experience in being involved with any City Committees (Planning, Historical, Recreational, etc.) or districts (sanitation, etc.) did not chose to run for a council seat but instead wants to run for the No. 1 position of Mayor but claims this is not about Jim Hill. I think Mr. Waller should show us some of his abilities and ideas and not just talk. He got that with Adam Hill, John Shoals and Kris Barneich, Caren Ray, etc. who just followed the chain gang under the direction of Tony Ferraro.


I have been to City Council meetings as well as Wastewater Sanitation and under the leadership of Jim Hill there is no question that during these challenging times people have a voice and there is a display of civility and I for one do not want to go backwards.


Julie

I too read Waller’s Facebook page and learned that his step-daughter is an employee of the very city he wishes to serve. This conflict will disqualify him from voting on wages and benefits for all Arroyo Grande City employees — about $11.5 million of the city’s expenses are associated with its employees. Waller will be OUT of all discussions that relate to these expenses — about 1/3 of what the city does. Does Arroyo Grande want a Mayor that is only able to participate in 1/3 of what the city does? I would think that most Arroyo Grande residents would prefer to have what they have had for the last two years — the hardest working public servant Arroyo Grande has ever seen.


concernedagcitizen

Have you corroborated what you are claiming? I think someone running for Mayor would have checked on this before deciding to run. Can you please provide the official documents you are citing to make this claim?


Also I believe that if 1/3 of the City’s business is spent on wages and benefits, that still leaves 2/3 for all other business, your math was wrong above.


Julie

http://www.arroyogrande.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/359


Page 37 of the report linked above shows 32% of the cities budget going to salaries and benefits.


As for the conflict with the step-daughter and wages and benefit packages to all city employees. My only reference with that relates to that of Supervisor Gibson and his legislative assistant/girlfriend. He does not vote on benefits or wages anymore citing a conflict.


So whether or not it’s necessary for Waller to step down from those votes, he should recuse himself based on appearance of conflict.


concernedagcitizen

Thanks so much for pointing me to that document, it was very insightful. I agree that the appearance of conflict can be detrimental, so it will be important that perception is aligned with reality.


And, when it comes to any legal obligation to recuse himself, I say we leave that to the City Attorney to sort out.


I looked at page 37, the pie chart showing the 32% of City budget going to salaries and benefits. I have a few notes on that…


I agree that 32% of the budget is 1/3 of the whole budget. I do not agree that this equates to 1/3 of the total City business. In fact, I think the actual time spent on salary negotiations probably is far less than time spent on all other City business. But, I will admit I don’t have an official document tracking time spent on salary negotiations.


My next thought is on exactly how the 32% of the City’s budget going to salaries and benefits breaks down. Page 39 of the document you referred to has the total dollar amount spent on salaries, which is $11,388,160 for FY 2015-16 and $11,742,750 for FY 2016-17. Totaled together for the 2 year budget, you get $23,321,186 spent on salaries and benefits. I found this supporting document for uses of the General Fund (which, as I understand it, funds the positions in full that are detailed below):


http://www.arroyogrande.org/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/360


This document provides an Overview for each department with a breakdown of dollar amounts for salaries. Here are some figures:


Of the 32% budget spent on salaries and benefits, about 4.5% ($1,044,180 for FY 2015-16 & FY 2016-17) is spent on our administration (Mayor and City Council, City Manager, and City Attorney – see pages 26-32). Another 5.1% ($1,180,180 for FY 2015-16 & FY 2016-17) is spent on Legislation and Information Services (see pages 33-42).


I checked Mr. Waller’s website, and he quotes that his step-daughter is the “Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Technician for the City of Arroyo Grande.” I looked at the City’s Salary Schedule posted here:


http://www.arroyogrande.org/DocumentCenter/View/3400


The aforementioned positions are all managerial level positions according to the City’s Salary Schedule, and therefore would not be effected by Mr. Waller’s step-daughter’s position.


Additional to the 4.5% and 5.1%, 44.5% ($10,289,080 for FY 2015-16 & FY 2016-17) is allotted to the Police Department salaries and benefits, which is also mutually exclusive of Mr. Waller’s step-daughter’s position. Combined, 54.1% of that 32% budget for salaries has absolutely nothing to do with anyone who may be perceived as a conflict of interest with Mr. Waller as Mayor.


These are just a few examples, but my point is that Mr. Waller would not have a conflict of interest except for dealing with the class of position his step-daughter is in, and that class of position constitutes a small percentage of the entirety of City positions.The perception that he should not be involved with any salary negotiations, therefore, is corrected by the break down of the salary budget in conjunction with the City’s Salary Schedule.


Julie

Good analysis. Thanks. I agree on the police salary and benefit carve out. But, are you suggesting that employee negotiations should be handled separately by class so Waller could recuse himself? I would disagree since the perk or benefit being negotiated would likely include all staff.


The relationship puts Waller in a compromising position where he should be hands off.


This is all speculation, of course, he would have to win the race for any of this to be a concern. Waller’s misrepresentation of the facts will hurt his chances. Some of what he’s asserted on the Mayor’s voting record is patently false and laughable in his interpretation.


Jim Hill is a man of integrity, works hard for the city and is extremely intelligent. Arroyo Grande is lucky to have him.


concernedagcitizen

I am suggesting the employee negotiations are already handled by the class of position, as seen by the grouping of positions in the Salary Schedule and the existence of the AGPOA, SEIU, FCFA, and Management job classifications.


Each of these classifications negotiates separately, and records their agreements in their respective Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or contracts.


Skip Riley

Julie, not accurate, a step child is a “legal stranger” to a step parent, there is no legal connection. & check your math.


SLOGrower

I too was at the forum last night and was hoping to learn about Mr Waller’s experience and qualifications to be Mayor, and was disappointed.

Arroyo Grande has some serious issues, and I would like to see someone with some business acumen.

He may have deep roots, being raised here, but where has he been his entire adult life? He’s a relative newcomer as an adult. He hasn’t followed the city’s politics much, or at least he admits he can not recall any position Mr. Ferrara advocated for in the last ten years on his FB page.

I read his response to this article on his Facebook page, and about being in the back pockets of developers, he says “I wish” What? I hope he’s being sarcastic, or can he be bought? He also describes getting buckets of money by a fat bald man with a seegar. Is that how he views developers?

I don’t know what to think, it’s not very Mayoral.


aft50s

“Retired school teacher Richard Waller is from a well known Arroyo Grande family with deep roots…”


What well known family is he a part of? I’ve lived here over 50 years and until reading this article had never heard the last name Waller, except in reference to a park in Santa Maria.


Can someone enlighten me please?


concernedagcitizen

I went to his website and read his About Me section, it has good detail on his family’s agricultural history, and it appears that Waller Park is named after his family.


SLOBodan

Mr. Waller left Arroyo Grande in 1969 when he graduated High School and went to college in Nevada. He then taught in Nevada as an elementary school teacher, and returned to Arroyo Grande when he retired in 2008.


I would not vote for someone whose qualifications are that he is a “local boy”. I would rather see experience in the political arena. Mr. Waller needs to stop being “uncivil” in how he is attacking Mr. Hill, and start standing on his own merit.


P.S. Waller Park is in Santa Maria, not Arroyo Grande.


concernedagcitizen

Yes, Waller Park is in Santa Maria. I don’t believe anyone tried to claim it to be in Arroyo Grande. That does not change that it’s named after the Waller family, who have been farming the Central Coast for 100 years, which you left out of your previous synopsis of Mr. Waller.


Again, can you cite Mr. Waller attacking Mr. Hill?


doglover

I watch the meetings. I do not understand why Mr. Waller keeps bringing up raucous City Council meetings.


They seem fine and actually Jim Hill has a quiet tone about him.


Not like the old days when T. Ferrara would shut down the tape!


Josey Wales

Ladies & Gentlemen,


I too attended the candidates forum, and it is clear that Richard Waller is NOT the right choice to head up city government in Arroyo Grande.


Not only are many of Mr. Waller’s claims false, but his judgement in arriving at those claims speaks to someone who must not be near power. Mr. Waller is closely associated with the ‘Ferrara Crowd’, and this is simply a candidate hoping for retribution.


Perhaps Mr. Waller would do better by involving himself in Santa Maria politics.


Reject Caren Ray.


Reject Kristian Barneich


Reject Richard Waller/ Ferrara Clone.


Just saying,


Josey


StakeHolder

Early on, when Richard Waller first said he was going to run, I looked at his facebook page, and learned alot about him. When he filed his papers to run, I noticed that he deleted much personal information. I don’t find this very transparent!


Interesting to now learn on CCN that he really was gone all of his adult life, and just returned in 2008!


Skip Riley

Josey, every comment you have ever made on Cal Coast News is negative, as are most of the other posts by the various posters.

Happy people don’t post negative posts. People in relationships where they feel loved don’t post negative posts.

Unhappy people post negative posts.

Consider your relationship with your husband, or boyfriend (or both) consider if they make you happy.

If they do, your posting negative posts reflects a deep personal unhappiness.

If they don’t, get a new one.

Jesus said, “love one another”

Jesus said, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

Jesus did not say, “do unto others things that reflect poorly upon you”

And, you spelled Judgment wrong..


sharshofar

Otis I was at the forum tonight and what you are saying is correct. Waller was only interested in criticizing Mayor Hill, really nothing else he said had substance. I was very surprised, being a person with such deep roots in Arroyo Grande his vision was very shallow.