SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon calls for $100,000 in racial equality funding

June 3, 2020

Mayor Heidi Harmon

Amid a pandemic and ongoing protests, San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon has called for the city of SLO to set aside $100,000 to fund the promotion of social and racial equality. [KCOY]

Harmon said she would request that city council members approve the funding and that the money should be used toward meaningful efforts to create a city in which tear gas will never be used again.

“In my position of leadership, and in my privilege as a white ally, I will be advocating for funding to go directly towards policy and efforts to better serve our communities of color and create more equity here in San Luis Obispo,” Harmon said.

San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell also addressed this week’s protests, though she defended her officers’ use of tear gas.

Cantrell said it is incredibly dangerous for protesters to march onto a highway with vehicles traveling 70 or 80 mph. Cantrell said it creates danger for the protesters, as well as for drivers and law enforcement.

On the standoff that ensued, Cantrell said a police captain spoke with the leader of the protest. After authorities declared the protest an unlawful assembly, some protesters tried to push through the police line.

Police responded by firing pepper spray balls into the ground. Then, some protesters turned violent and bottles, rocks and fireworks were thrown at officers. So, officers fired tear gas, Cantrell said.

SLO City Manager Derek Johnson said he was considering whether or not to impose a curfew, as authorities have done in many jurisdictions across the country.

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We will talk about Mayor Harmon and the $100,000 Thursday at 5:05 p.m. on Join in the conversation.

As I’ve remarked elsewhere, the police work for the mayor. If she doesn’t want tear gas used, then Heidi should talk to the police chief. Maybe they can have lunch at El Pollo Loco.

The City Charter is set up so that the City Manager, Derek Johnson, directly oversees the Police Chief. The Mayor does not have any specific power to do anything. All members of City Council have equal power. The only difference between a Councilmember and the Mayor is that the Mayor leads the meetings and represents the city at ribbon cuttings. This is outlined in the City Charter.

The City Manager and the City Attorney, Christine Dietrick, make most of the decisions about budget, policy, etc. for the city. Those items are then ‘recommended’ to City Council and voted on, with input from the community.

The City Council appoints the City Manager and City Attorney, then the City Manager appoints all the Department Heads, including the Police Chief.

In 2016, when Heidi Harmon unseated incumbent, Jan Marx, it was partly due to the frustration of the SLO community who felt that the City Council was not listening to the SLO residents. There was a perception that Mayor Marx’s relationship with City Manager Katie Lichtig was too cozy and Lichtig was running the show. Harmon promised to bring the power back to the people: “Your voice, your vision, your SLO”.

Katie Lichtig left the City in 2017 and Derek Johnson was appointed City Manager by the City Council. Mayor Harmon and Mr. Johnson have developed a close friendship. I’m not sure how much that friendly relationship affects her votes on policies brought forward by Mr. Johnson, but it seems that is would be difficult to avoid bias (even if subconscious) when a friend is recommending you approve his recommendations. This goes both ways. Mr. Johnson is probably somewhat influenced by Mayor Harmon’s agenda, based on their friendship. The City Attorney also has a role in decisions for legal reasons, before they are made policy.

My point is, Mayor Harmon can speak to Chief Cantrell, but Derek Johnson has ultimate power over the Chief.

Great synopsis on Cityhood pecking order. My guess would be the Mayor, elected by the voters of the city, has a much larger personal opinion than everyone else and that is what affords the elite stance of this figure head. Thankfully personal opinions, no mater how large, do not trump the laws that regulate the operatives employed by the City.

You are absolutely right. Dave stands corrected!

Since when does the city manager, Derek Johnson, a NON ELECTED, have the authority to impose a CURFEW?

The City Charter gives the city manager this power.

Form of Government: The municipal government provided by this Charter shall be known as the “Council-Mayor-City Manager” form of municipal government.

Organization of City Government: After obtaining and considering the recommendations of the City Manager, the Council shall provide by ordinance or resolution…

Heidi needs to hold on to that 100k. Cheyne Orndoff will be getting millions from SLO city for the warrant-less search by SLO PD outside of their jurisdiction and the DA withholding discovery from Orndoff’s lawyers. Despite Morro Bay PD giving a bogus tip on Cantrell’s lost gun last year that started this mess, the Morro Bay PD decided to make things worse and look for an opportunity to hassle Orndoff again this year in February. Now the DA wants to blackmail Orndoff with those new charges to withdraw his lawsuit against SLO. This is what the protesters should be protesting rather than the Floyd thing. That and officer Walsh shooting the poor dog that was less than 1/2 block from the SLO police station, which a good neighbor wouldn’t do.

Mayor Harmon is just playing up to the Cal Poly students who by their votes keep her in office. She could care less that the rest of SLO is being ruined by her actions. No wonder the city council is fighting a change to council by district, this would dilute the Cal Poly influence since they would likely only get to elect one council member and finally the rest of the city would get real representation.

Racial equality funding?…what on earth is that?….

Maybe Heidi can go to East LA and see how they do it. They may have great examples for SLO to follow. On a serious note, look around, this area is not a robust racially diverse culture. Most here are welcoming to others and most people are color blind when it comes to being civil. Just like the affirmative action program of the early 70’s, I believe that we are engaging on labeling again and the problems will stem from that. Save your money, be kind to others and elect the most qualified. To be of choice is to discriminate and sadly the word discriminate has taken a negative definition. The word that should be used is elitist. If we can be honest, we do have an elitist problem that spews entitlements, selfishness and results in that elitist mindset of, you know what.

100k? That’s all it will cost to stop racism and violence? Sign me up!

Mayor Harmon can stop racism and inequality on the cheap. Give her the money! What are you waiting for?

If Minneapolis had about 1.1 million in funds to “……to go directly towards policy and efforts to better serve our communities of color and create more equity……….,” none of this would have happened!

Give the mayor more money. We’re all in this together. Let’s end racism and inequality once and for all…..and cheap too!

Freedom of speech is a cherished right in this country and steps to preserve and permit that through peaceful protects is a goal shared by all. But, when a march goes out on the freeway to disrupt traffic, it is no longer speech but a dangerous play for motorists and protestors alike. Then to follow with the throwing or rocks, bottles and fireworks, it turns into a riot. When a peaceful demonstration turns to violence, it is a sign that the party is over and all good demonstrators should vacate. Unfortunately that is not been the experience in San Luis Obispo.

With the law enforcement officers taking a stance and responding to the violence thrown at them, the use of pepper spray and tear gas is a welcome alternative to using a batons or hand to hand combat. It looks like an awful job for law enforcement to stand on that line and be battered with flying objects. The only thing worse for the police is the lack of support from the mayor.

The position of outlawing teargas in San Luis Obispo, letting the riot gear rust and to throw money at a perceived problem is the fantasy of a spineless and unrealistic mayor. For her to not support the police officers who are risking so much for our safety is totally inappropriate and even dilutional.

A classic and ineffective tool used by government is to purchase the love of the opposition. In this case, throwing money alone will have no effect on the relations between government and the black community. The working relationship between the various communities in SLO was actually fairly good before Minneapolis, but of course there is always room to improve.

My final comment is on the city finances. The COVID resulted in a nearly complete loss of City revenue during the first quarter yet spending has been over the top. While most of us were laid off from our jobs, your City closed its doors to the public and paid staff to stay home without a single employee being furloughed. Madame Mayor, you have overspent and do not have the monies available to fund $100,000 on your pet project. Besides, this horror ride is not yet over.

How are them $150 million in unfunded pension liabilities workin’ out for ya, Mayor?