Hill holding back local Democratic Party progress
January 12, 2017
OPINION by STEW JENKINS
Editor’s note: A column by Democrat Stew Jenkins will run in CalCoastNews every other Thursday, rotating with a column by Republican Mike Brown.
One of the local Democratic Party officeholders who has generated the most consistent respect is Leon Panetta. You might hold a different view on policy or law, but you always knew Leon would tell you the truth about what he thought and how he would vote.
Leon always demonstrated that what he thought and how he voted depended on what people here needed, instead of on what Leon needed. He let all those around him, and working for him, know that integrity and trust were the most important foundation for persuading voters or other officeholders on the merits of your cause.
Adam Hill never got the memo.
Mr. Hill’s anger at being passed over, again, as San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors Chair was misdirected, again. The tea party, COLAB, and the Republic Party were not the culprit. Hill has been his own worst enemy.
To quote the Tribune article of January 9, well written by journalist Matt Fountain:
Don Stewart, chairman of the Democratic Party of San Luis Obispo County, said the party has not organized any effort to speak at the [Tuesday Supervisor’s] meeting.
“To be quite frank with you, I’m not sure Adam deserves the chairmanship — the fact that he’s willing to turn this vote into a circus,” Stewart said.
When the County Democratic Party chairman can’t even quite bring himself to follow the advice of Thumper’s mother “when you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” you know a Democratic Party officeholder has lost many of the people who know him best.
Hill’s own actions have driven more and more Democrats to drop their support of him, or to oppose him outright. Hill has demonstrated to more and more of us within his own party that he is without principles or integrity. So much so, that his flaws persuaded a Democratic former Mayor of Grover Beach (Debbie Peterson), and a registered Independent to challenge him this last election. No Republican dared run in Hill’s gerrymandered district.
Peterson would go on to receive the highest number of votes to take a seat on Grover Beach’s city council; and likely would have won the supervisorial seat had she edged out the Independent in the primary.
A couple of years ago, Hill was reportedly shopping around with Democratic club members trying to generate support to make his own run at the open Assembly seat in 2016. He had burned too many supporters, changed positions too many times, made too many irrational public statements and so obviously overreached for his own sole benefit, that Hill was passed over.
Ironically, it was his overreach in 2011 that gave the supervisorial board majority to Republicans. In successive initiatives, California voters had taken away the power of the legislature to gerrymander assembly, state senate and congressional districts for their own advantage.
Heedless of this spirit of public reform, Hill spit into the wind; pushing a gerrymandered redistricting plan that balkanizing towns and diluted the Hispanic vote for the sole purpose of guaranteeing his own reelection in 2012, and to a lesser extent his District 5 ally on the board, Jim Patterson. The public’s predictable disgust at blatant gerrymandering ultimately put Debbie Arnold into Patterson’s District 5 seat, giving the Republican’s a majority in 2012.
Hill gave us another Republican majority with Lynn Compton’s election in 2014, reportedly recruiting Caren Ray’s 2013 appointment to the vacant District 4 seat in 2013. Ray was the Democrat (out of several) most divergent from District 4 voters.
But Hill doesn’t see that his problems are his own fault. Like a snake-oil salesman moving on to the next town, Hill has moved on to sweet-talk a new group. After years cleaving to his “big daddy” New Jersey style pay-to-play politics where money trumps principle and campaign promises, Hill is now peddling himself to the energetic new SLO Progressive Democrats as though he had been one of them all along. Hill even suckered these good folks into lining up to support him at Tuesday’s board meeting. He’ll open a few doors, funnel them a little funding, and try to say the right things for a while. But he can’t help reverting to form, and the romance won’t last once they get to really know him.
These good folks may have been surprised to see other Democrats, who know Hill all too well, speaking in opposition to Hill being put in a leadership position.
The tragedy is that the energies of local Democrats are being squandered digging Mr. Hill’s defensive trench deeper, instead of moving forward to build a whole local Democratic party bench committed to economic opportunity, real jobs, project labor agreements, freedom of speech and religion, expanded social security and health care, safe communities with equal justice, and a sustainable environment.
The merits, integrity and energies of Democratic Party candidates for city council, mayors, supervisors, and the real powers in any county, the sheriff and the assessor, should no longer be consumed by the ceaseless need to protect Supervisor Adam Hill from Adam Hill.
Stew Jenkins is a liberal San Luis Obispo County Democrat who supports the rights of working people to organize unions, the prudence of the cities and county growing the local economy through project labor agreements, the right of all people to health care and equal dignity. He is an attorney practicing in San Luis Obispo since 1978. Jenkins’ handles tax payer suits, municipal law, estate planning and family law.