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Don't feed the animals 

I think I'm allergic to cats. Not cat hair. Just cats in general. Even just looking at a picture of one makes me break out in hives.

But I love cats. Seriously. And I'm not going to follow that up with some pithy bumper-sticker catchphrase like "They taste just like chicken." I can't get enough of the rambunctious little balls of fur, which is why my eyes are constantly swollen and puffy. And you thought I was always crying.

Why the sudden waxing sentimental about four-footed felines? I've got all creatures great and small on my brain. Not literally. That would be problematic. Anyway, Atascadero's Charles Paddock Zoo the one with all the assorted flamingos and meerkats and stuff with fur or feathers or scales announced that National Zookeeper Week is July 15 through 27, which actually sounds like two weeks to me. Whatever. They regularly brave carnivorous predators and huge reptiles, so they can call all of August a week for all I care.

We're smack dab in the middle of this appreciation time, and while the zoo folks certainly deserve their accolades for jobs well done (those meerkats have never eaten anyone that I can recall), there are some people who deserve a couple of kudos for their work in the wilds of the cities and towns in the urban jungle that is San Luis Obispo County.

Like SLO Mayor Dave Romero. Put a whip in one of his hands and a chair in the other, and you've got a lion tamer. He even looks the part, doesn't he? Can't you just see him bounding into some ring, costumed in a glittery cape, flashing his winning smile, and wowing the crowd? I can. But I've always had a great imagination. You, not so much.

In fact, I can see Dave hacking through vines and creepers with a machete, forging paths through snarly undergrowth in search of rare and exotic creatures. Creatures like Ernie Dalidio.

Okay, maybe that's a stretch. Ernie may be rare there's only one of him, as far as I know but exotic? I guess it depends on your point of view.

The SLO City Council voted at a recent meeting to equip Dave with a pith helmet and butterfly net and other metaphoric safari equipment and send him out on a hunt for a way to get Ernie and some county leaders to help wrangle and corral his project and any money that might happen to come with it into the city's territory. Such a move could give the Prado interchange effort a boost. Dave's taking along fellow councilmember Andrew Carter, maybe as backup, or maybe as bait. I dunno.

Their job might not be too hard, though. Ernie seems willing to bite. Dave and his people just need to be careful and not make any sudden moves that could spook the whole group and keep the whole Prado thingie floating in theory land.

And these aren't the only negotiations on Dave's plate. At least, it seems like Dave hopes they won't be.

See, those rascally Copeland brothers, developers to the core, are looking to buy a chunk of the city for a little more than $3 million so they can build their Chinatown project. No word yet on whether SLO's own Little Italy is next in the works. I'm seeing a Leaning Tower of Pisa somewhere over by the Fremont, or maybe Michelangelo's David standing all buck-naked and marble where Puck is now.

Anyway, the price tag for the city property up for sale where the Oriental addition would go was apparently set by an assessment from 2000. Check out the story on page 10 if you want to know more. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't mind getting my hands on some land for what it was worth back then rather than what it's worth now. I couldn't tell you how much property values have gone up, but you'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind like the Who's Tommy to not have noticed how the stuff we all walk on seems to get more expensive, practically by the minute. I put my foot down, and I hear a little cash-register ka-ching! when I pick it up again. It's like I'm walking around on piles of loose change. Or bells. Or some sort of weird metal grass that rings. Forget it.

So everything seems to be going along all nice and well and good and all for Chinatown, but Mayor Dave seems to think that the Copelands might have some trouble getting all of their Peking ducks in a row by a building permit deadline that locks the 2000 numbers into place. He hopes to look into new negotiations, staring ahead into the future with big green dollar signs instead of eyeballs, but who knows what tomorrow brings? Besides land values going up even more?

SLO councilmember Christine Mulholland has dollar signs for eyes, too, at least in regards to this project. It's not like she had them permanently surgically grafted over her standard pupils or anything. That would just be weird.

So what's really in store? More money for the city? Smooth sailing for the Copelands? I can't really say. I'm no prognosticator. I'm not even a guesser. I don't like to make guesses. If pressed, I'd probably say that we haven't seen the last of any negotiations for Prado or Chinatown and that this isn't the absolute best time in the whole history of history to be a developer hoping to scoot a project along on the Central Coast, but like I said, I'm not into that.

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