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Money, money, money, money 

I finally finished Pat the Bunny. Talk about a tome! I started it a few years back (I didn't want to read War and Peace or some other cliche novel), and just last night wrapped up the gripping narrative of a small and verifiably fuzzy rodent-like animal, some kids, a dad who doesn't shave very well, and other characters with tactile enhancements.

Fresh from my literary endeavor and eager to tackle something farther up the challenging scale, I sat down with the City of SLO's budget book, and I can authoritatively tell you a few things about it. First, it's really impressively large. Also, it has many words in it. But more than that, it has a lot of numbers in it. Many of the words and numbers relate to the way the city is spending all the new money it's getting because city voters voted themselves an increase in their sales taxes. Suckers.

One problem I had with the document, however, was that it featured some blank pages that were not marked "this page intentionally left blank," as I find in many of the other hefty budget documents I peruse in my free time, just for fun--when I'm not reading books about soft animals, that is.

There were blank pages, but they didn't have any words on them. They were blank. It's impossible to say whether they were intentionally left that way or left so unintentionally. It simply didn't say. The three or four of you who read budget documents like I do will find this observation hysterical!

Another and more serious problem I had with it is that it doesn't have a section marked "boondoggles" or "frauds on the taxpayers" or just plain "graft."

This oversight made it excessively difficult to flip through and find the wasteful spending that I'm hoping it contains. Yeah, I often mix business with pleasure, Shredder snooping with leisure reading.

In fact, one of the only items I found outrightly worth mocking is the nearly $1 million the city is planning to spend to install synthetic turf at the baseball stadium at Sinsheimer Park. I mean, how about a joke about that? Wouldn't that be funny? If somebody thought of one, I mean? Fake grass? Never mind.

Since the budget was a black hole of both items of investigative interest and compelling plot, I'll talk about something else for a while.

New Times staffers recently heard that a local media notable--who shall remain nameless for the sake of mystery--was upset by one of our stories in last week's issue, going so far as to call it "inflammatory."

Can you pat the bunny? And by that, I mean to say: Do you think you can guess which story this person found inflammatory? Would you have guessed it was the one that revealed that the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Jerry Lenthall, has been--mistakenly!--taking a homeowner's tax break on a house outside of his district? So would have I. I mean, so would I have. Or rather, so have I would. But anyhoo, that wasn't the story. Turns out a certain so-and-so was inflamed over the story we ran about a kindhearted, community-minded 70-year-old Cambria man who, with a few trips to Radio Shack, a lot of grit, and Job's patience to wade through the bureaucracy at the FCC, managed to open and run the last remaining strictly local and locally owned FM station in the area--focusing on the community with old timey programming and coverage of local high school football games. Awww.

Most folks take that kind of thing as heart-warming. This person took the story as blood-boiling.

Seems this person felt we were unfairly ignoring the fact that the world's largest radio broadcasting corporation also owns a station that has local programming. Never mind that that station is on AM, and the story was about an FM station, this reader was mad. This mad reader's point seems to be that everybody focuses on how heroic David was in that one Old Testament story, but shouldn't someone also point out that Goliath was pretty impressive, too? Or at least get a quote from him, for heck's sake?

But since this vague talk about someone who didn't like something in an issue of New Times--take a number, people!--isn't very productive, I'll talk about something else for a while.

There was a knife fight at the Nov. 6 Board of Supervisors meeting. Well, that's a bit of an overstatement. An overstatement of an overstatement, actually. What happened was this:

Grandmotherly June Rodriguez--who's lived in San Luis Obispo for 87 years and was sporting a sweater with a farm scene on it--got up to speak in favor of the county supervisors giving themselves raises. I dunno, maybe they want to be able to buy more houses to lose track of. Whatever.

But back to the meeting. While voicing her support, she mentioned that her husband was a dairy farmer, and, like the supervisors, was used to getting "splattered." That splattering is a bit metaphorical for the supervisors, but was literal for her husband, who was--how shall I put this?--sometimes shat upon in the course of his duties.

See the comparison?

Anyway, while making her point, June fished out a pocketknife and compared its blades for the board. There's the sharp blade, sure, but there's also the blunt blade, useful for scraping off dung, manure, criticism, or whatever stinks and sticks. She held up the blades for the county leaders to see, prompting Supervisor Jim Patterson to dig out his own pocketknife and hold it up. He told June that he was prepared for the splattering, then voted against a 6 percent increase, so there's no telling which angle he was expecting the crap to come from. Maybe within his own ranks?

Ultimately, the moral of the story is this: If you want to wave a knife at politicians and not get taken down by security, be an elderly lady who thinks that the county leaders are the bee's knees. Also, do it playfully at a meeting, not quickly and quietly in a dark alley after the meeting. For some reason, the law doesn't look favorably on that method. My bad.

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