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Like oil and water, together at last 

I never thought I’d live to see the day. Not because heart disease or skin cancer or a rabid mountain lion would get me first, but because I never thought it would happen. Not really.

Such a union just doesn’t seem natural. There’s something odd and unsettling about it. And I think that the Bible even expressly forbids it.

Yes, SLO City council members Paul Brown and Christine Mulholland presented a united front on an issue facing the city.

Oh? You thought I was talking about same-sex marriages? Well, for your smug information, I wasn’t, but now I am, but not with that intro. This subject gets its own treatment, so pretend like you didn’t read the last 79 or so words.

While the social and emotional benefits of allowing men to marry men, and women to marry women, are numerous, I can’t help but wonder whether this recent ruling didn’t damage at least one or two relationships out there. I mean, there are a lot of commitment-phobes, right?

There has to be some guy, somewhere, who’s been telling his partner all along, “Oh, sure, I’d marry you in a heartbeat, but, you know, the law says no. Now I’m going out to get a beer.” And now that the law says yes, he’s already set himself up as being ready for matrimony and has to come up with a new excuse: “Oh, sure I’d marry you in a heartbeat, but, you know, November’s not that far off, and that initiative on the ballot could overturn everything, and then we would have gotten our hopes up for nothing. Now I’m going out to get a beer.”

Tension and relationship drama ensue, and it’s all oh-so predictable. Men, huh? And by that, I mean men who continue to act like gender-specific stereotypes of guys afraid to settle down. Are you with me, ladies? And are you also with me, men who don’t conform to that rigid sexual ideal and just want a guy who will love you for you and not stay out all hours of the night, without even a simple phone call to say when he’s coming home, all the while growing more distant and more disconnected until you wonder how something that seemed so fresh, so promising when it started could feel like such a burden and a trap now? Or something.

So anyway, back to my original point: those 79 or so words I asked you to forget. Remember them now.

I’ll admit, I used a little bit of hyperbole for dramatic effect. Council members Paul and Christine aren’t as diametrically opposed as I first made them out to be. They both breathe air. They both eat food, and, I assume, digest it and get rid of the waste. They both, um, live in SLO and speak English and blink to moisten their eyeballs, and I think I’ve seen both eating ribs at some point.

And, yes, they sometimes fall on the same side when it comes to voting, but you have to admit that they tend to polarize to opposite ends of several ideological spectra. Except in the case I’m about to tell you about.

The two of them are cooperatively mad that, back at the dawn of the new millennium, city voters banded together and decided that cops and firefighters should be able to take concerns over pay and stuff to an arbitrator, effectively taking city leaders out of the decision-making process when it comes to raises and such. So now, eight or so years later, the folks in blue convinced an arbitrator that they all needed more money, and the arbitrator agreed and basically told the city to empty its pockets into big bags with dollar signs on them and chuck it all onto the steps of the police department.

I like the police. No, I love the police. They keep me safe and alive. They do it for other people, too. I’m not a special case or anything, but I don’t hold that against them. They risk their lives to serve and protect, and they should be compensated accordingly. But this new deal has all of the city’s officers basically getting a bunch of cash dropped into their laps, with promises of more to come. That’s the part that worries Paul and Christine and probably the rest of the eyeball-moistening, rib-eating council members. And my eyeball-moistening, rib-eating self, too.

See, all of that money has to come from somewhere. The upset councilfolks are worried that the pay hikes are going to decimate the city’s budget, which technically means to reduce it by a tenth, but not many people besides ancient-Roman scholars know that. Suffice to say that they’re worried—the council members, not the scholars, at least as far as I know—that while SLO’s finest will be in fine fettle, the rest of us will be making do with less.

What does that mean? More, bigger potholes? Canceled city events? Hey, if enough local activities get canned, like Mardi Gras did, maybe there won’t be as much of a need for peace officers. That’s a long shot.

A shorter shot is what Christine and Paul are suggesting. They’re nudging locals—practically poking them in the ribs, in fact—to get rid of the whole binding arbitration idea. Voters created it and unleashed its awful power on the city, they say, so voters should be the ones to pick up pitchforks and torches and trap it in a windmill and burn it to ashes.

Even if that happens—and I doubt that it will—a lot of money will already be out of city coffers and in cops’ hands. They can’t just take it back. Plus, if the whole arbitration dealy gets overturned, the firefighters will be left wondering why police officers get all the breaks. And firefighters are people, too. They blink and breathe and eat ribs just like the rest of us.

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