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Exciting and new 

Bored of supervisors? Not anymore! Barack Obama’s winds of change blew all the way from St. Paul, Minn., and brought a whiff of the Mississippi River with them. And the Mississippi River smells like change. And change smells like Frank Mecham, and Adam Hill, the two fresh faces we’ll see shining on the Board of Supervisors each week once everything is finalized and confirmed and their terms start. Heck, as I write this, Debbie Arnold’s race is still too close to call, so there might even be a third new supervisor.

But when it comes to clinchers, Frank is replacing Harry Ovitt, and Adam is replacing Jerry Lenthall: two guys I’ll really miss. The incumbents had their own charms and their own ideas for running SLO County, and the county is still standing, so they must have been doing something right.

Still, they were so predictable, weren’t they? Everybody knew how they’d vote. Now it’s all up in the air. County voters went with the devils they didn’t know. Frank and Adam are unknown quantities when it comes to the board. Enigmas wrapped in riddles and deep-fried in mysteries. Gorillas in the mist.

But I’m looking forward to this coming era. Who knows what’s going to happen? Not me. The new bodies on the board will combine and interact in some sort of bizarre alchemy to create something new and bizarre.

Mostly, I’m interested to see whether the new guys will do what they said they wanted to do while they were campaigning. I read somewhere that Frank wanted to roll back the recent raise the supervisors voted themselves. And Adam is into creating more head-of-household jobs, whatever those are, and building a remarkable future. Ah, such lofty dreams.

I like supervisors best when they’re at this stage, still so bright and shiny and full of hope, as-yet unbroken by the soul-crushing bureaucracy and the drudge of weekly meetings that drag on, hour after hour. They haven’t yet slogged through the complaints, the threats. They haven’t swatted at many gadflies, haven’t seen their names here in this column too often.

This county will break them. Just give it time, though maybe we’ll get a couple of good changes out of them—expanded public transportation or safer streets—before they’re transformed into the plan-stamping husks of their former selves we’ve come to expect.

Otherwise, things are probably going to stay pretty much the same. Jim Patterson may stick around on the board—again, as I type this, his competitor, Debbie, was very close, but still behind him. And—no surprises here—the higher-tier politicians, like Abel Maldonado, are still in place, either unchallenged (as in the senator’s case) or facing off against other familiar names in November, like Lois Capps and Matt Kokkonen. It’s comforting, as a columnist, to know that I’ll have some reliable politicians to fall back on for material.

Oh, and apparently some elections happened in Morro Bay, too. I’ve been paying so much attention to the supervisor races, I completely forgot that there were city council and mayoral races going on there. I’m sure that whoever got elected there or picked to go on to more decisive elections in the future will do the job that the voters expected they would do.

Birds of a feather
Eco-hooligan and Nipomo resident Bill Denneen recently announced that he has led his final group of hikers into the dunes. The man is in his 80s and has been taking sand-seekers into the wilds for what seems like at least that long, maybe longer, so I wasn’t surprised to learn about his de facto retirement. I plan to be retired by the time I get to my 80s. Actually, I plan to be dead by the time I get to my 80s, which actually isn’t too long now.

So Elder Bill’s proclamation didn’t really strike me as odd, until I noticed that he seems to be pouting more than winding down. He reported that a ranger wrote him up in the Nipomo Dunes toward the end of May. Bill was apparently treading less than lightly into an endangered species zone with a group of elementary school students in tow. He got a citation for hiking where he shouldn’t have been hiking, and instead of nodding and deepening his respect for the subtle and sometimes hidden fragilities of the natural world, he’s taking his walking stick and going home.

Bill is claiming that this incident reveals how he’s failed in his efforts to educate the masses about ecology and such. He argues that park rangers care more about handing out citations than leading nature hikes themselves. Maybe that’s true. Or maybe they first got into the job because they love trees and birds and sand and rocks, but the harsh realities of the system and the sad truth of trespassers who may tread on tender grasses or plover eggs—even accidentally—have forced them to be paper pushers more than they’d prefer.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Bill Denneen. We have a lot in common, and I’m not just talking about the Moses/John Muir/ZZ Top beard. He tells it like it is, like me. And he says things like, “Copulation, not population,” which is okay in my book.

Backing out on hikes, though? Come on, Bill. Stick around, why don’t you? There are some new faces on the Board of Supervisors, and who knows what they’ll come up with for the future of the dunes? Maybe you should take the new guys out and show them around. Just stay away from fences.


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