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It was a Skinny Tuesday
 Lenten sackcloth and ashes have arrived. “The Party� is over at last. We won’t be wasting more taxes on anti-tourism ads and police presence to battle phantom riots for at least another year. Sadly, fighting the “global war on terror� touted by White House mercenaries has finally descended to relatively peaceful San Luis Obispo where martial law must be viewed as a paradox.

 But we were not the first city to experience police intimidation during Mardi Gras. In 1979, parades in New Orleans were also canceled by police who were on strike for better pay. Their pistol-power intimidated seasoned krewes to cancel a public presence, but they didn’t manage to cancel the fun. Many thousands of revelers partied on. Fearing loss of control, the New Orleans Police Dept. cajoled the mayor to call in the National Guard for reinforcement.

Next morning, Ash Wednesday, the city jail held no more or less arrestees than usual while Christian crowds, washed free of greasepaint for another year, filed into churches for their ashen blessing. The fact that officers were paid for overtime duty made it all worthwhile.

 That was also the year that SLO Town enjoyed its first Mardi Gras. Old-timers may recall that San Luis Obispo was an uneventful place in 1979, especially during winter. OK, I’ll admit to having started it all along with a fellow New Orleans ex-patriate. We merely invited some friends to experience the seasonal fun we’d known growing up in the Big Easy. It turned out that a goodly number of locals were also starved for some heel-kicking, and it was no problem getting 200 revelers to parade on Monterey Street and hold a Bal Masque within a block of City Hall. Our little shindig sans police involvement or celebrant mishap was a rip-roaring success.

After that christening, Mardi Gras took on a life of its own for the next quarter-century. In 2002, the festival was voted “The best thing to happen in SLO County�. It was indeed the largest event the county had ever experienced. For a city with a large tourism-based economy it was a potential boon.

 It has, however, become evident over the years that certain city factions considered Mardi Gras with disfavor. Each year the requirements and restrictions for event planners were increased by irrational challenges which were dutifully met without complaint. For some reason, yet to be exposed, city management then decided to not support Mardi Gras and that it had to be squashed. They have finally succeeded.

 If that’s the voice of the people, so be it. Risk management, including controlling large crowds, is certainly a function of good police operations, and pro-active planning is proper strategy. Enforcing laws and stopping law offenders is one thing, but removing the potential for offense is unconstitutional. That fact was made clear a few years ago when the ACLU won their case against such illegal strong-arm tactics. Although there are ominous signs of righteousness on the horizon, Americans do not yet cover their women in black because viewing them unclad may cause men to sin. 

 Finally, if our city is in such dire need of funds that street maintenance and school safety programs must be cut, eliminating the unnecessary and over-expensive war on revelry is one obvious place to economize.

Don Koberg
San Luis Obispo

Shoppers have rights too
 What timing (“Fighting Back Against Transients, New Times, February 23). This week I was lamenting to a friend about the transients downtown. I was downtown on Wednesday and every bench I came across had transients camped out. Every one I passed asked me for money.

I find myself crossing streets, walking around the block and taking other routes to get to businesses I want to patronize. I find myself avoiding some businesses I would normally enter simply because I would have to walk past these transients.

Many of them have dogs that are aggressive. I witnessed one lunge at a passerby last week. I know, personally, that I am avoiding businesses downtown simply to avoid the transients. I don't relish being badgered for money and being threatened by dogs every time I want to shop or have a cup of coffee downtown.

They claim their civil rights are violated if they are told not to loiter or “aggressively� panhandle, but what about the civil rights of the working, taxpaying citizen who wants to be downtown or just wants to rest on one of the benches?

T.J. Askren

 Keep parking free
 What are they thinking at SLO City Hall? They want to raise parking rates at meters and garages, and end the first-hour-free deal in garages, so they can raise the moolah to build another garage at Palm and Nipomo.

 Palm and Nipomo? There’s already a surface lot there nobody uses. Why build a garage at this out-of-the-way, inconvenient location?
 Do these idiots not understand that eliminating convenient surface parking, like the surface lot on Broad Street near Marsh, so developers can erect huge monstrosities on former city property, and making people walk all the way from Palm and Nipomo will kill downtown’s businesses? We need a variety of parking types and locations.

 Do they not understand how important the first-hour-free is for downtown businesses? For somebody making a quick shopping trip, it’s the difference between heading downtown, and heading somewhere parking’s free.

 I for one will not shop downtown if the city goes  through with these plans. I’ll not drive someplace, pay a buck an hour or more to park,  then have to walk four blocks when I can go elsewhere and park in front of my destination for free.

 Why don’t the downtown merchants raise holy hell about this silly plan that will kill their businesses?

Terri Drake
San Luis Obispo

Don’t do it here
 Some people have a home. Some people do not. We are all people, whether or not. “Fighting� does not indicate a very positive attitude toward people who have no settled place to live. Throughout your article in the February 23 New Times, the language you use indicates strongly negative feelings — “FIGHTING BACK� and “WAR ON TRANSIENTS� says the headline.

When trying to cope with their "aberrant behavior" (drinking and drugs which are rather commonly accepted when used in a private home), the Transient Task Force “rolls out its heavy artillery,� and so on.

 One person, when accosted with a “transient's sarcasm�, went “the long way around� on the way back. Isn't that pretty much what we all have been doing for years? Instead of trying to address the causes of “transient behavior�, we simply use the old nimby on them, making it impossible for them to sit, stand, lie down or squat where we can see them. “Move on,� we say in every possible way, from locking them in to fencing them out, to shutting them out of bathrooms, to piping loud music down on them, to arresting them, to publishing articles that demean their humanity. None of this could possibly motivate them to change their lifestyle. We are simply telling them to remain “transients,� for all we care. Just don't do it here.

 God help us if we ever become “transients� ourselves. The police, the chamber of commerce and all kinds of task forces will be declaring war on us and we will deserve tomorrow no better than we give today.

Jean Gerard
Los Osos

A better bike race
 What a disappointment! After all the ballyhoo in the newspapers and on TV! Except for two or three ahead of the rest, the bunched-up bicyclists swooped by in less than 5 seconds. From our back porch we’ve watched rocket launches that lasted longer.

 It has been a lot more interesting to watch the ordinary people riding their bikes to raise money for AIDS victims. The first year we had a computer, I went to their overnight camp at the Oceano Airport and offered to send free emails to family members. And as a bonus I met a bunch of loving, caring, sharing people.

 I’d like to see a bike ride like that come through here again, rather than more races like the one last Thursday.

Roy Berger
Arroyo Grande

 Animal-rights hypocrisy
 I was saddened by your most recent article on cockfighting (“Animal Cruelty Takes Flight in Nipomo�, New Times, February 23). I see articles like this (and I’m not saying cockfighting isn’t cruel) and am reminded of the hypocrisy of law and Americans’ attitudes.

Most fighting cocks are treated well prior to being fought, and yes, they often die brutal deaths, but their suffering is not much different from that of millions of meat and egg chickens every year — in fact, the chickens’ suffering is far worse.

While many fighting cocks are pampered prior to their doom, the chickens used for eggs and meat are: made to stand in inches of feces, made to stand on filthy wire causing ulcerated feet (for eggs), have their beaks cut off without anesthetics, trampled to death by scores of other chickens, made to suffer broken bones because of accelerated growth (for meat), have their wings and legs broken due to rough human handling, squeezed into small transport cages causing some birds to suffocate, killed and dismembered by machines which sometimes do not kill them immediately, causing the bird to languish as it slowly bleeds to death or is dipped in scalding water to loosen feathers. The list goes on.

 Why will people cry “cruelty� at cropping a puppy’s ears (a veterinary procedure) but not castrating a pig without painkillers? This attitude reveals the depravity of our culture. Don’t give me that “chickens/pigs/cattle don’t have the sense to know any different� argument; that just shows how people anthropomorphize dogs and cats. If they saw a neighbor keeping 10 dogs cramped in a kennel, standing in feces, most people would call animal control, but this is somehow acceptable for the animals whose meat passes our lips.

Alicia Armstrong
Los Osos

Pollution woes
 Imagine the outrage you'd feel, if you discovered that a polluter was discharging over one million gallons per day of contaminated waste into your groundwater basin, and had been doing so for 18 years, despite a court-validated order from the state to cease and desist.
 Then you discovered that the illegal discharge had contaminated your drinking water and fouled nearby beaches. 

Then you found out the polluters had agreed to build a system to solve the problem, but new people took over and backed out just as construction got underway.

 Well, that is exactly what has happened here in Los Osos. We property owners are illegally discharging septic waste into our groundwater basin and, by a very narrow margin, recently voted to stop the approved and fully-funded sewer project.

 Is it any wonder the state is proposing to fine us polluters? Consider our outrage if the source of the pollution was private industry. We'd have demanded that fines be imposed decades ago.

 Dissolving the CSD is the only option we property owners have. The LOCSD is not looking out for our interests, but has instead substantially added to our eventual expense of ending this pollution.

Stuart Denker
Los Osos


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