Mecham opens supervisors’ meetings to more public comment
First District Supervisor Frank Mecham took the reins as the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors chairman on Monday, Jan. 5 after new and re-elected members — Bruce Gibson, Second District, and Lynn Compton, Fourth District — and other county elected officials were sworn in.
His first actions as chairman — which did not need to go to the board for a vote — were to rearrange the supervisors’ seating positions, remove the sheriff’s deputy present at the meetings and allow for more public comment. These decisions can be made by the sitting chair at any time and holds unless the board takes issue with them, Mecham said.
For public comment, Mecham is no longer requiring that all speaker cards be submitted prior to the start of the meetings and will allow the speakers to have their full allotted three minutes.
“I think if they want to speak, they should have the opportunity,” Mecham said, adding that some people are not able to arrive to the meeting before it begins and are unable to get their cards in early enough. “I’m hoping to make the atmosphere more welcoming.”
Mecham, who was last year’s vice chairman, was nominated to be chairman by Third District Supervisor Adam Hill. “It’s a privilege. It’s a pleasure to do this,” Mecham said. Hill was then appointed as vice chair.
Fifth District Supervisor Debbie Arnold asked to discuss the rotation for chair, but Gibson said it was a conversation the board has had before and that it wouldn’t be productive to have it again at the Jan. 5 special meeting.
“The presumed rotation we follow, I believe we’ve veered off it quite significantly,” Arnold said during discussion of Hill’s appointment as vice chair. “You all are disagreeing with my mathematics. I just want to let you know why I won’t be joining you in the vote.”
Arnold told the Paso Robles Daily News that she just wanted to discuss the supposed rotation because when the vice chair is chosen, the board is effectively choosing the chair for the following year because the vice chair then moves to chair. With the selection of Hill as vice chair, Arnold is likely to not be appointed as chair during her four-year term. Gibson took over as chairman in 2013 after Fourth District Supervisor Paul Teixeira died suddenly. He finished out 2013 as chair and then continued as chair for 2014.
For the seating arrangement, Arnold and Hill are seated on either side of Mecham, with Compton next to Hill and Gibson next to Arnold.
The previous chairman, Gibson, opted to have a Sheriff’s deputy stationed at each board meeting at a cost of approximately $36 per hour. Something, Mecham said, is a waste of the deputy’s time and taxpayer money.
“I think some folks felt intimidated by it,” said Mecham, who was elected to the board in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. “In my opinion there wasn’t much disruption. This eases the tension there. … I’m not worried about having a disruption, so it’s not necessary to have someone there.”
Arnold said she is happy for the changes Mecham has made in the meetings.
“I’m really glad that he’s made the tone more welcoming to the public,” Arnold said.
The Board of Supervisors meets every Tuesday starting at 9 a.m. in the County Government Center Board Chambers located at 1055 Monterey St., Room D-170, in San Luis Obispo.