The San Luis Obispo Tribune published their endorsement for Erik Howell but overall it was lackluster.
For starters, the Tribune states they like what Howell has to say about water and that he supports focusing conservation efforts on the biggest users, such as hotels, schools and city facilities. But what about the fact that he was the only city council member to vote AGAINST a building moratorium? The reason Howell stated he was against it was because there were other ways – “we still see in public spaces a lot of green grass.” Our guess is that Howell was actually against the building moratorium because his supporters and donors include developer Gary Grossman as well as Christopher Hulburd, husband of Noreen Martin of Martin Resorts. So our question is does Erik Howell really have a policy on water conservation or is he waiting for the highest bidder to tell him what his policy should be?
The Tribune then goes on to talk about his FPPC investigation regarding a $1,000 contribution from Antionette DeVargas. Let’s all give a nice shout out to the Tribune for finally reporting on this, it only took them seven months to actually write this even though Steve Lopez of the LA Times reported on this March 11 and New Times published a copy of the complaint on March 30th, which can be found here.
Here is the biggest issue with the Tribune endorsement. Howell’s explanation, and first statement on the FPPC filing, was that he just simply didn’t realize the women were partners when he accepted the contribution. How could he not know of their connection? A simple google search will tell you that they have been together since at least 2002 according to the LA Time piece on their Marina Del Rey home. This of course only matters if you believe Erik Howell is negligent enough to overlook that her occupation is Operations Manager at McCabe & Company. Are we also supposed to believe that Howell isn’t friendly with McCabe? Does Howell expect us to forget that he was out to dinner the night before voting to approve one of her projects?
Howell’s other explanation on why the $1,000 donation doesn’t matter as reported by the Tribune on October 7th- Howell said that McCabe was not involved with the Pismo Beach project at the time of the donation. Even if that was true, McCabe was representing other clients in front of the Coastal Commission – making the donation inappropriate. The donation was made on September 10, 2015 and the vote on the project was not even two months later. Additionally, since Howell accepted a donation, he should have recused himself from the vote on the Pismo Beach project. According to the Coastal Commission’s chief legal counsel Chris Pederson, in the case of a campaign donation of $250 or greater, a commissioner must recuse himself for up to a year from voting on any matter involving the donor. There is also Government Code Section 84308. From the date of the donation until four months later, McCabe represented clients in front of the Coastal Commission 5 times.
It is difficult to believe Howell wouldn’t recognize the name “McCabe” or wonder why someone from Marina Del Rey would give him his biggest campaign donation when he is running for a city council seat in Pismo Beach.
Experience as a city council member is not a good enough reason to endorse a candidate, especially a candidate who lacks the ability to uphold the appearance of a civically responsible elected official . Pismo Beach deserves better!