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Letter: Proposed charter for SLO County a ‘Pandora’s Box’ 

letter to the editor

To the editor, 

– If the April 5 San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors special meeting to discuss the proposed charter for SLO County 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. This behavior 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, which 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-fifths vote by the BOS to pass an amendment. Correspondingly, however, a two/thirds supermajority is required by both legislative houses to amend the CA 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 Hall
Templeton, CA

Editor’s note: Opinion pieces and letters to the editor are the personal opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paso Robles Daily News or its staff. We welcome letters from local residents regarding relevant local topics. To submit one, click here.

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