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Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee 

The election is still a couple of months out, but, with the deadlines for candidates filing closed, we already know our choices in the local city council and school board races. I’m not as excited about these races as I am about races in the Olympics—USA! USA!—but they bear at least some attention. I happened to catch a few names of people who’ve filed—or haven’t filed—between watching athletes struggle through the soupy Chinese air and President George W. Bush trying to figure out how to turn slapping a bikini-clad volleyball player’s butt into a photo op safe enough for the leader of the free world. Awkward!

Here are the results from the very early returns (I’m talking about local elections, not the Olympics, sadly): Atascadero is losing Mayor Mike Brennler, the cop-turned-good-government-reformer in Atascadero. After dealing with FBI investigations, nasty council meetings, and a mean-spirited recall attempt—all in the span of two years, no less—he apparently decided he’d had enough of Atascadero politics and the public life. I’ll be anxious to learn more about the folks running for his seat. Can someone around here do a story on them? And maybe get them a helmet?

It also doesn’t look like San Luis Obispo is going to get a serious challenge to Mayor Dave Romero now that Stephan Lamb decided he wasn’t quite mad enough about the parking lot destined for Mitchell Park to launch a political career based on it. Is mayor-for-life an official title?

Terry Mohan, the water-rate-fighting truck driver, may surprise us all, but I doubt it. In fact, I doubt I will find many surprises when I finally pull myself away from the TV and actually peruse the details of who’s actually running.

Until I turn to politics as usual, you’ll find me cheering for the Olympic athletes. Even the badminton players.


Off Target …

Well, there’s bad news for the Monarch butterflies. They were so looking forward to Ernie Dalidio’s plan to build a small butterfly preserve on his SLO ranch, as part of his bid to build a shopping mall. You could say they were positively aflutter with excitement. Someone would probably slap you if you said that, but you could.

But now, alas, the poor butterflies will be crushed, if not physically under the grinding treads of farmland-devouring bulldozers, then emotionally under the weight of recognition that they will no longer necessarily be part of the window-dressing that helped get the Dalidio Ranch Project past county voters but not, alas, alas, past a judge who struck down the measure.

Dalidio’s people have recently sent a trial balloon up the flagpole, so to speak, to see how folks would react to his selling the property to other developers. Would the terrain be friendlier for a different owner to build a shopping mall?

Well, the terrain for them certainly couldn’t be much worse than it has been for Ernie.

For about 15 years, Dalidio somehow has managed to be just a half step ahead of popular and legal opinion when it came to developing his ranch. When he first proposed to develop the property, the SLO City Council said they’d go along if he only developed half of it. But Dalidio decided he wanted more, so he said he’d take it to the county. The city convinced the county to leave it up to them, however, so Dalidio took his plans to city voters, who narrowly rejected his advances.

Undaunted, he took a different plan to county voters. County voters—an apparently easier lot than SLO city residents—approved his plan, maybe as a way to stick it to what they see as a stuck-up town, but once again Dalidio overreached. A judge struck the measure down, as I might have already mentioned. Dalidio then turned around and sued his opponents, and the whole thing’s been pretty well just sitting fallow ever since, just like the land. Go drive by. There’s dirt. There’s weeds. There’s air.

Each time Dalidio proposed a plan, it seems, people tut-tutted and stalled him just long enough for the Madonnas and others to slip in there and build the whole damn area up into another mass of ubiquitous national chain stores that make the town look ugly and cookie-cut from the highway.

Anyway, the final straw for Ernie may have been when Target broke away from his project to cozy up with the Madonna’s latest planned mall, across Los Osos Valley Road from the Costco and Home Depot.

But most readers will care not a twit for Dalidio. They want a Target already, ferchristsakes! And as for the butterflies? Maybe Michael Graves will design a new butterfly-shaped toaster. Then everybody will be happy.

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