SLO County staffers accused of bias in rating projects

May 29, 2017

Cement slab in Nipomo where children gather to skate


At a contentious San Luis Obispo County Parks and Recreation Commission meeting last Thursday, several members of the public accused parks and recreation staffers of employing subjective criteria to determine which projects to move forward.

Once a year, parks and recreation department staff review the county’s priority project list. The list is then used to determine which proposed and ongoing projects county staff should focus time and money towards accomplishing.

County staffers are tasked with prioritizing projects based on nine criteria including impacts to health and safety, community recreation needs and how a project will impact current services.

In this year’s rating, eight of the top ten staff-recommended projects are located in supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson’s districts. These include extensions to the Bob Jones Trail, coastal access in Cayucos and a bike path from Morro Bay to Cayucos.

On the other end of the ratings list, nine of the ten lowest staff rated projects are in Lynn Compton, Debbie Arnold and John Peschong’s districts. These include proposals for a multi-use sports facility in Nipomo, a skate park in San Miguel and a Santa Margarita Lake trail.

During public comment, multiple speakers questioned if staff was objective in their evaluations. Several speakers asked why projects such as extending the Bob Jones Trail were rated a five in regards to public health and safety, the highest evaluation, while creating sports parks in Nipomo was rated a two.

Several speakers said that in Nipomo, children play and skate board on the pad of a burned out building. Nipomo has the fewest parks per population base of any community in the county.

“No Nipomo projects are in the top ten,” Rudy Stowell said. “It is not a balanced use of funds. There is nothing in the South County.”

Of the 30 county residents who spoke during public comment, 20 asked the commission to prioritize projects in Nipomo. Several residents said that public schools charge for the use of their sports fields, which are often not available.

Following public comment, Bruce Hilton, Hill’s commissioner, said he has driven by Nipomo High School when it was not locked and appeared open for children to gather. Hilton also chastised those promoting the Dana Adobe in Nipomo for seeking the return of public facility fees raised in Nipomo but spent elsewhere.

“It is hard to have a positive attitude with the Dana Adobe,” Hilton said. “The emails about stolen money, I don’t feel like a partner anymore.”

During a Jan. 11 SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting, Compton said that more than $10 million in public facility fees generated in Nipomo had been spent in areas Gibson and Hill represent.

Developers in San Luis Obispo County are required to pay public facility fees before they can get development permits. These fees are dedicated for public facilities and parks that support the residence in the area of the development, according to county records.

However, county staff recently determined that public facility fees can be spent anywhere in the county, a finding that is likely to be challenged in court.

During the May 25 meeting, several attendees voiced plans to sue the county on behalf of the residence of Nipomo if the county does not appropriate more money to public facilities in Nipomo.

In the end, the parks and recreation priority list remained primarily unchanged aside from the Parks and Recreation Commission voting unanimously to move three projects — one in Cayucos; one in Avila Beach and one in Nipomo — from the inactive list to the active list.

Next month, the SLO County Board of Supervisors will have the opportunity to modify the parks and recreation department’s priority project list.

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Bike riding hipsters are much more important than teens who like to ride skateboards and play soccer.

I can fix this in one day. Term limits for staff.

I used to have a dream of enacting a law that limits government service to 10 years. Not a day more, at any level. One should NEVER get a check from the government for more than 10 years total. So take breaks between terms, head back to the private sector, whatever. No more than 10 years. Maybe have a single provision for a one-time extension of 5 years or something with an overwhelming vote of a governing body, etc.

This is exactly the type of shenanigans that go on when you allow one or two people to have power over a group of people and control over the staff that make decisions for multi years. This is not Gibson and Hill’s personal government, staff or money. We have a Republic and this requires all the players to cooperate for the best of the County taxpayers, not for a Party or a District or a person agenda! Shame on the staff for their limited views game playing at the expense of the entire County!

I want to know why Bruce Gibson is still allowed to employ as his ASSISTANT (maybe now his wife), the piece of FLUFF that broke up his marriage and the taxpayers are now required to pay her salary while working in his office. I don’t care that she works at the County but I seriously care that adulterous Gibson and his taxpayer paid Fluff are allowed to control the business of County District 2 working in the same office! This is not healthy for the County. Conclusion in the backroom!

We should never underestimate the political agenda of staff.

The main agendas of many government staffs, especially management personel, increase their size, increase their budgets, increase their salaries, increase their benefits, increase their pensions….

Can the board not give over-riding direction to the parks dept? Staff can recommend all they want, but board members need to be wise enough to know when to listen, and when not to.

The purpose of development impact fees, as well as school fees, are to offset infrastructure costs caused by the development. You don’t build a new school in Cayucos for developments in Nipomo. Hill and Gibson argue that Nipomo residents should be able to get out of their crappy town and enjoy a day as tourists in other areas of the county, to the extent they have the time and transportation. No park, no community center. The simple fact is Hill and Gibson saw a cash cow of money from areas with growth, Nipomo and Templeton are pretty much it, and associated fees and stole it for their upscale no-growth areas that are generating little impact fee revenue. The supervisors are elected by all county residents, but control only unincorporated areas with regard to the things that matter to the Joe/Jane on the street (no park!). I would be curious to see a breakdown of unincorporated vs. city residents in each district.

Folks, we’re missing what’s actually going on here. It’s not about Hill’s and Gibson’s districts, it’s about what government puts its money into and why. The thing they want to put their money into the most isn’t serving residents, it’s serving tourists. And where are most of those expenditures focused? On the coastal districts that happen to belong to Hill and Gibson. Bob Jones bike path? It’s not for us, it’s for tourists. The tourism clique is in 7th heaven over this. Kids in Nipomo and San Miguel? No tourists there, so who gives a hoot.

The other thing is that the bike lobby, and, yes, that’s what it is, is organized and well-financed, and have captured key positions both in the bureaucracy and on the various boards. So whatever they want goes to the top of the list. We see this in SLOCity where only 50% of transportation funds are now being spent on traffic, the rest on bikes, buses and whatever, because …. Well who knows why. So the majority, drivers, gets done over once again.

The part of the Bob Jones Bike Trail already built is the section that attracts tourists. The part that is up for funding is an expansion from the Avila Hot Springs area to the Octagon Barn on S. Higuera in SLO. That will serve mostly SLO residents wanting to get to the beach without contending with traffic on the roads.

Lynn Compton and others have legitimate beefs with the distribution of these funds. However, this project has been on hold for so long that it should be funded just to get it done. I have no problem with prioritizing local parks in Nipomo and other unincorporated areas after that.

Anyone who wishes to become more truly informed about the workings of our county government and how it works(especially the money) need only watch or attend a board of supervisors meeting and pay attention to “staff reports”.

That’s where the money goes without adequate public input or comment…

Examples please?

The consent calendars. Not even discussed, unless pulled by a member or the public. Hundreds of thousand dollars are expended just on the recommendation of staff with little or no discussion

Did you take your 2 mins, allowed under the law at any public meeting, to make your concerns heard about consent items?

The board reviews these expenditure’s individually, prior to the meeting, and if there is an item of concern to them it gets pulled. This is often done ahead of time and would become an agenda item–separate from other items.

Or they can pull it at the time consent items come up on the agenda. Requiring further discussion. This is where you came in handy during the public comment section. You can ask them to address an item on the consent agenda if you are concerned about it.

Making them go over every item would be a waste of time.

Consent items are usually things like the garbage bills, utilities costs, etc., and not issues of significance–like funding park projects. Those items are never in the consent agenda.

All consent agenda items are made public and could be reviewed, by you, if so chosen.

Should we really be discussing whether or not we’ll be paying our government’s power bill each month? Or just be paying the darn thing.

Just because they are not being reviewed line by line, at a time when you’re paying attention, doesn’t mean that they are not being looked at.

You are incorrect if you assume otherwise.

Maybe the project’s that were chosen were designed to maximize future tax receipts? Could that be the reason they were rated higher–and not crass politics?

Now I am not saying this is good or proper policy, but it most likely the driver force behind these decisions.

Everyone one that got a green light was in an area where tourists attract and spend money.

Sorry but San Miguel skate park–ball fields–and a trail around Santa Margarita (hot) do not

make the cut as top spots to visit in the county. They merely benefit the local population.

Personally, I don’t think we need to spend out tax dollars for parks and rec. to underwrite the tourist industry. As a local I enjoyed the north coast beach access in Cayucos just fine prior to the “open space” designation. I wish they would have left it alone instead of waiving the RV’s off the highway and onto the shore.

If the county wants to spend money to attract tourists they should do it by taxing the tourism industry (bed taxes) and leave the money in the coffers for small parks in every community so the local’s have a place to go.

Let those profiteering from the tourists pay for their goodies —if we want them to stop–but we should quit stealing park benches from old ladies in Nipomo to pay for those projects.