The Morro Bay Elite Can’t Stop Attacking Our Community

Morro Rock Twilight

I wasn’t going to respond to Morro Bay resident Carol Swain’s utterly strange letter to the editor in the Nov. 30 – Dec. 13, 2023 edition of Estero Bay News. But her letter perpetuates a troubling pattern of local elitists thumbing their collective noses at the community at large for no good reason.

Swain starts her letter by stating that elected officials and their knowledge of ordinances and regulations is “greater than those of us in the general public.” Swain, who happens to be a citizen, goes on to lecture the community on how to express their opinions at government meetings. And when citizens do speak at meetings, Swain laments that “airtime is taken up by a few names,” as if to say that anyone who actively participates at meetings – as they absolutely should – are somehow performing below her standards of civil discourse. She dismisses the opinions of these speakers as often being “repetitious and predictable.”

Swain then demands the public should be “brief and business-like” in their comments and that the vast majority of citizens understand that public officials are doing their due diligence on topics of vital public interest, therefore they understand how a functioning representative democracy works.

Swain is one of several esteemed individuals who co-signed a letter penned by former Morro Bay City Councilwoman Marlys McPherson that called a local citizens initiative measure as “deceptive.” In October, McPherson wrote another letter that attacked the community as being uninformed because they’re simply too busy living their lives to be informed on the issues.

There is no legitimate purpose to Carol Swain’s letter other to divide the community.

Swain makes no mention of the issues that she feels our elected officials know a lot more about than us peons. And she doesn’t have the courage to name names. How cowardly. There are a lot of issues the City of Morro Bay does wrestle with. For example, there are community discussions about homelessness and what we can do to help the unhoused population while safeguarding residents and businesses from situations that arise from ever-growing encampments alongside Quintana Rd. Residents have also expressed concerns they have about the proposed Central Coast Offshore Wind Project. Some of those residents formed an organization called REACT Alliance, which opposes the project. Unlike elected officials, common citizens can come together to form organizations and take stances that council members cannot. They can raise money to support the causes they believe in and organize their own meetings to inform the community of their positions. Elected officials, who are bound by duty to California open meeting laws known as the Brown Act, can’t engage in those grassroots efforts.

With the noted exception of closed session agenda items, residents have the same access to staff reports and documentation that elected officials have. They also have the ability to communicate with city staff and make the same qualitative decisions about the issues that the City Council has. There is nothing that bars our community from obtaining knowledge and being informed, whether or not they’re busy. In fact, in a functioning representative democracy, the citizens are just as informed as the people they elect into power. The beauty of a representative democracy is having residents participate and stay engaged in the public process, giving elected officials information they need to make an informed decision.

In 2016, I expressed concerns on the social networking platform Nextdoor about local cannabis mogul Helios Dayspring and his potentially criminal influence on government officials. I was personally attacked by Swain and her husband Bob for expressing concern — and out of odd deference to Dayspring himself. While Mr. Swain took the liberty of personally insulting me in a series of poorly received Nextdoor posts, Ms. Swain declared that my activism was “not valuable” after allegedly evaluating the extent of my participation in local government. In 2022, Dayspring was sentenced to nearly two years in federal prison for bribing former District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill.

In 2018, I was also personally accosted by Mr. Swain and was called a “clown” for educating residents on their right to submit written protests to the City Council regarding proposed rate hikes for the Water Reclamation Facility. The right to submit written objections to rate hikes is enshrined in Proposition 218, which just so happens to be a citizen-led initiative that was amended into our state constitution in 1996.

We’re more informed about the issues than they give us credit for.

People like the Swains and Marlys McPherson have every right to weigh in on the issues that matter to them, but they should not demean an entire community in the process.

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