San Luis Obispo County proposed charter is a Pandora’s box

April 17, 2022

OPINION by KYLA WORTHEN-HALL

If the April 5 San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors special meeting to discuss the proposed charter was a glimpse of what’s to come, should our county adopt a charter, then the future seems distressing.

A frequently voiced concern during public comment was the ability for county charters to be continually amended. That concern was validated as supervisors from both sides of the political aisle, the League of Women Voters, and the public, were all expeditiously vying for the chance to influence the board to address their issues by the proposed charter. Behavior that seems destined to exponentially proliferate should the charter pass and be subject to amending.

The conservatives desire the ability to call for a special election should another seat become vacant. Currently, as a General Law County, any midterm vacancy of an elected public official is filled by appointment of the governor. Dawn Ortiz-legg’s seat on the board was a result of a governor appointment.

The progressives objected to the proposed charter because of the estimated cost for the county for special elections, but only if they don’t get to attach it to an independent redistricting commission.

The League of Women Voters opposed the proposed charter because people are less likely to turn out for a special election, therefore a lesser percentage of the public would be voting and determining the outcome. Seems a bit of a self-inflicted ailment.

During public comment, certain individuals asked for safeguards to be added to the proposed charter. They cited examples of charters from around the state, some that have reduced the authority of their sheriff, others that had incorporated additional administrative offices or committees, all of which were appointed and all of which would compete with the direct relationship between the supervisors and the electorate.

County counsel didn’t seem to share the public’s concerns as they rebuffed the requested safeguards. County counsel didn’t see a need to mention the role of the sheriff and voiced doubt as to the legality of adopting a four-fifth’s vote by the board of supervisors to pass an amendment. Correspondingly, however, a two/third’s supermajority is required by both legislative houses to amend the state Constitution.

The coming May 17 meeting will be significant to the fate of our county. Will the benefit of sidestepping future governor appointments outweigh the risks of opening up the county to a train of special interest-driven amendments from all sides of the political spectrum, for years to come? Will our county be set on a course of whiplash as we perpetually rewrite the rules to suit whichever party holds the majority?

Hopefully, people will express concern to their supervisors before the next meeting. May the first line in the forward of San Bernardino County’s Charter serve as a warning: “The story of San Bernardino County’s Charter before 1913 was the campaign for its adoption. The story after 1913 has been one of campaigns for its amendment.”

Kyla Worthen-Hall moved to SLO County eight years ago. She currently lives in Templeton.


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kayaknut

If you believe this you probably also thought legalizing marijuana wasn’t going to create any problems and solve all of government’s money problems.


Niles Q

In’t the cost of a special election paid by taxpayers, paid to the County Elections Office, a taxpayer funded agency? So whatever money they pay for a special election goes back to the County Elections Office. Why would they worry about costs? It’s like taking money out of one pocket and putting it in another pocket, isn’t it?


Jorge Estrada

Sacramento is avoiding accountability to County wants and wishes, to the extent of promoting the term, “Self Help Counties”. The State wants less fiscal obligation to it’s Incorporated Counties and expects that each county will generate new revenue streams to fund themselves. Yes, we pay state taxes and they want to keep it, all the more reason to never allow our local government to be compromised by state appointments. This reasoning has nothing to do with partisanship, this is about maintaining our ability to have upward oversight.