Morro Bay residents can do better than resorting to misleading anonymous postcards and personal attacks to get their positions across.
Around July 19-20, residents complained about receiving an anonymous postcard from a group called Morro Bay Water Future (MBWF), which supports the city’s position to move forward with their Water Reclamation Facility. The postcard, which arrived in the mail around the same time as the city’s Prop. 218 notice, failed to disclose their independent expenditure committee number as required by law. According to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), mass mailers advocating a political position, even if it’s not specifically advocating for or against a California candidates or ballot measure, need to disclose who they are.
After residents went on neighborhood social network Nextdoor.com pushed for MBWF members to identify themselves, the group scrambled to update their website with an FPPC application pending status. Save Morro Bay reached out to the California Secretary of State’s office and obtained their application, which is now available online. The phone number they listed in their paperwork is the same phone number on record for the Morro Bay Open Space Alliance, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. A representative for the MBOSA says the organization, which is supposed to be nonpartisan, has remained neutral on the Water Reclamation Facility.
MBOSA’s board chair is Glenn Silloway, who is the partner of active city councilwoman Marlys McPherson. Presented as “positions by the city [of Morro Bay],” McPherson’s 2016 campaign website published content and materials that have also appeared on MBWF’s website. According to her voting record and council meeting minutes, McPherson has aggressively supported the controversial project.
Silloway is also an active supporter of the project. On Nextdoor, Silloway has repeatedly and personally attacked opponents of the project, at one point accusing members of the Citizens for Affordable Living (CAL) of electioneering: an allegation that appears ironic now. Save Morro Bay heard from several Morro Bay residents who claimed Silloway and other purported members of MBWF reportedly harassed them at local events that allow political campaigning at tables. Harassment reportedly included screaming matches and being aggressively followed into Spencer’s Fresh Market, a local grocery chain that’s graciously allowed residents to table outside their business to advocate positions on the WRF.
Silloway, who is also board president of the Historical Society of Morro Bay, should recognize the historical significance of why anonymous mailers and personal attacks in Morro Bay are completely unacceptable.
In 2010, residents were inundated with multiple-media attacks on then-mayoral candidate Betty Winholtz. SLO Coast Journal thoroughly documented the attacks on Winholtz, who is currently a member of CAL. An anonymously produced flyer called “Seagull Sentinel” was delivered to Morro Bay residents. The flyer, which had the appearance of a newspaper, criticized and mocked Winholtz. The flyer published claims about Winholtz that were considered misleading and false. The flyer was accompanied by anonymous YouTube videos that remain online.
Save Morro Bay won’t dignify the MBWF postcard or website content with a response until the entire MBWF board membership steps forward, provides a mission statement and promises to hold a more respectful dialogue in the future.
Save Morro Bay strongly prefers to discuss the issues and maintain an issue-oriented dialogue, but the lack of civility and transparency as exhibited by residents — with connections to the city — cannot be ignored. This post places us in an uncomfortable position to address the conduct of private citizens who have contributed to the community in unmistakably productive ways. But in the context of the Water Reclamation Facility controversy, we believe they’ve crossed the line into various legal and ethical issues that perfectly embody our long-standing issues with the City of Morro Bay.