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Trimming the fat 

My Nana is a hardheaded old goat with a feeble voice and a penchant for calling people she needs a favor from “deary.” Once you’ve performed said favor, her thin voice swells like crashing waves and you’re back to being “the no-good slob who crashed the vintage Model A while your grandfather and I were on vacation in Palm Beach and you were supposed to be house-sitting the King Charles spaniel. Who, by the way, was never the same after that trip. What the hell is wrong with me?”

She’s a tough cookie, and rightfully so. You couldn’t survive the Great Depression while raising four kids without developing some backbone. She says that’s where my parents went wrong with me. I never had any obstacles of significance to overcome. I never had to really fight to survive. Personally, I think hard liquor during the third trimester is probably where they went wrong, but my Nana may have a point. I know a lot of people who are really good at bemoaning their dire financial straits, but she’s the only person I know who can turn a single turnip into a four-course meal for her 13-person family. The baked turnip entrée is delicious, but it’s the turnip brulee that usually provokes a family brawl over the last morsel.

So you can imagine my surprise when, out of the clear blue and in the middle of a recession that has everyone’s bowels on edge, Nana suddenly started showing up to meetings sporting an iPad.

Then I remembered that Nana doesn’t go to meetings and I was really thinking of the Board of Supervisors. The word on the street—at least the one that the city is putting there—is that they want to go paperless to save money. And something about the environment. I know when I’m trying to balance my budget the very first thing I do is go out and buy a baker’s half-dozen of iPads—five is a baker’s half-dozen, right? Never mind, I don’t care. It is now. Anyhow, Apple products aren’t exactly the type of thing you pick up at the dollar store. Looks to me like supervisors wanted some flashy new tech bling, so they went out and bought some expensive toys under the guise of cost-savings—toys they didn’t really need. Case in point: There are plenty of e-readers available for well under half the price, and I’m willing to hazard a guess that the supervisors are in possession of functioning laptops, devices that would actually allow them to watch video footage of their own meetings, unlike the iPad which is not terribly unlike a trophy husband: pretty, but not all that substantial.

The city of Morro Bay should probably consider hiring Nana as a financial consultant. She’d be happy work for a mere $250 an hour, which is a drop in the bucket compared to what the city is paying Sacramento resident Susan McCabe and her assistant Anne Blemker, who receive $650 and $325 an hour, respectively, for serving as consultants to the city. Every city has overpaid lackeys, but at least those lackeys typically live locally and are pumping their fat wads of money into our own economy. McCabe and Blemker don’t even pay their own expenses when working for the city because, apparently, $650 an hour is insufficient to cover a rental car and a night at a hotel.

Just to put this in perspective, from Feb. 22 to March 21, McCabe billed the city $27,137.50 for 41.75 hours of her time. That’s one work week for a salary many people don’t even make in a year. And all she has to do is get Morro Bay and Cayucos in good with the California Coastal Commission, which is kinda funny considering her contract with the city of San Diego was canceled after she was caught bragging about “spoon feeding” a coastal commissioner information. The scandal hit the pages of the LA Times, and the city that hired her issued an apology to the Coastal Commission. You’d think someone who was raking in as much cash as McCabe would at least have the good sense not to ensnare her employers in a gaffe of those proportions, but hell, what do I know? The rich have always done things a little bit differently.

Apparently the city of Morro Bay was unaware of this when they originally hired her, despite the fact that a simple Google search was sufficient to turn up the scandal. My 12-year-old nephew has a stricter vetting process when hiring a dog walker for his sheltie; I know this because I lost the job to our 14-year-old neighbor after my nephew ran a criminal background check on the applicants. But, to give Morro Bay credit, they don’t seem to care now that they do know, considering the fact that they’ll be renewing her contract at an April 12 City Council meeting. They’re sticking by their man, er, woman, consultant. And if they have to throw out another $100,000 in consultant fees to prove that they don’t care that the rest of us are sitting on the sidelines scratching our heads and calling them dumbasses, well, so be it. Let’s just hope the city’s residents don’t decide they’re putting their hard-earned cash in the hands of a small group of buffoons. Because if they do, well, my Nana has a saying: “Get the hell off your couch and mow my lawn, you lazy commie!” ∆

Shredder’s Nana can kick your nana’s ass. Send challenges to [email protected].

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