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Gone to pot 

There's a new boss around here, and I haven't even met him yet.

He sounds promising enough, but the proof comes in the trenches, so I'm withholding judgment. For now. I won't be able to keep my big mouth shut for long, but as a "welcome to the first day of the end of your life" present for his arrival, I'll be merciful and brief in this little tribute.

Still, I'll offer this advice, Editor Ed Connolly. You're going to find out in a hurry that New Times means something to people around here. Locals look to it as a paper that will right the wrongs, listen to all the things people feel need saying but nobody else will say, and give people who don't have power or influence or money or even a van to sleep under, a fair shake. Here's my advice to Ed: Go read up on every word New Times founder Steve Moss ever wrote. Ask people about their stories about him. Soak it all in.

And then forget it. Don't let the assholes tell you that you have to run the shop just like Steve did, or the way Ryan Miller has, or anybody else, because you won't be able to. Be yourself, make New Times yours, and don't fuck it up. Good luck.

Where credit's due

Our local paper of record has had a couple of good-looking stories in the last week or so. In one of them, they disclosed to the world that there have been questions about whether SLO Councilmember Allen Settle lives in SLO or not. Settle told the paper he lives there, but wouldn't say how often. They even worked up a little outrage on the editorial page over the issue.

In another story, they told everyone how the volunteers at the Animal Shelter have been muzzled, told they can't talk to the media or anyone else, apparently, about their complaints about the way the place has been run under director Eric Anderson and the control of Sheriff Pat Hedges.

It was a pretty good story, too.

Only problem is, they didn't break either one of them. As my gentle readers know, New Times broke the Settle story--broke it and beat it like a drum for a month before the daily staffers lowered themselves to cover the issue. And the website, run by two former New Times staffers, broke the other one.

See, it doesn't hurt a bit to give a little credit where it's due. The Trib should try it sometime, because the truth is they're not fooling anybody. This is a hell of a small place, and refusing to give credit--just like the big boys in the real media markets do--just makes you look dumb.

Seeing green

I'm not saying she was on anything more than a mission, but the chief of police of Paso Robles lost some prudent inhibitions while she was testifying about the possibility of a medical marijuana dispensary appearing in her town.

When Chief Lisa Soloman looked at Austen Connella--aka "the applicant," the guy who wanted to start a medical marijuana dispensary on Ramada Drive near her town--she saw one thing: a pothead. And she made that finding blatantly clear in her aggressive testimony.

Seems Soloman found her way onto MySpace, that never-ending virtual party, and found pictures of Connella looking all Cheech-and-Chong. She had a really amusing discussion with Supervisor Jerry Lenthall, explaining to him that people do this sort of thing on MySpace, which, she felt the need to also explain to him, is a website used for social networking. It's on something called the Internet. You get there with a computer.

Then she went on to flat out accuse the guy (Austen, not Jerry) of illegally using drugs.

I won't expect you to take my word for it. I'd hate to hear what she'd call me. Instead, here's what she said, word for word (and you can check the tape if you doubt it):

"I want to talk about Mr. Connella, your applicant," the chief said. "He calls the proposed dispensary a business. And he smokes marijuana, it would appear, for recreational purposes. Dispensaries offer lucrative opportunities for Mr. Connella. He's going to make big money and it offers an opportunity for him to support his own illicit drug habit."

Hear that? He's a reefer freak! And the only thing he wants to accomplish is to make enough money off the sick and dying to get more of his poison!

She said that she got the information from his MySpace page because he'd recently noted on there that his "mood for the day is: High."

She went on to show pictures from the site that showed him, among other things, smoking a monster joint.

It wasn't exactly stuff I'd put on my resume, but it turns out, as Connella explained, that all the pictures were taken in Amsterdam, where smoking pot is legal! Plus, he has a prescription for it. And he explained that he is, in fact, an advocate of legalizing marijuana.

So that's his excuse.

But aren't cops supposed to gather a few facts before publicly accusing someone of a crime? And couldn't she have figured out that this fundamentally conservative and election-year-nervous group of supervisors wasn't a threat to approve the dispensary anyway? And wasn't she aware that there's another thing that's at least as illegal as pot use--something called public slander?

Connella seemed to take it all in stride, maintaining a more even keel than the chief, but he did point out that the sheet that speakers get before they approach the speaker's podium informs them they're to keep their comments confined to the issues, and not direct remarks at individuals.

I guess it proves again that the rules don't always apply to the police.

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