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Paint it black 

It sure is hard to keep things straight these days when it comes to the difference between waste and stimulus at the county level. Are we watching every penny or priming the pump? The answer, dummy, depends on where the money comes from. If it comes from you as a county taxpayer, any dime of unneeded spending is waste. But if it comes from you as federal or state taxpayer, spend that benji because it’s stimulus!

 

To make the point, let’s zero in on a little off-budget pet project sought and got by the sheriff’s department. Remember that those boys really, really love their toys. If you get a chance, head on out next time they have “Family Day,” a sort of community reach-out where they show off all their coolest shit. They’ve got their famous poop-sniffing robot on patrol, along with one of every sort of RV made, including one to house their horses. They’ve got black stealth-looking urban assault vehicles and net guns to catch runaway emus and they’ve got Segway scooters and scuba stuff, and beach trucks and, really, the full damn collector’s set of vehicles.

 

So what to get for the deputy who has everything? Sheriff Patrick Hedges has decided that what the department really needs these days is a pickup with a paint-mixer on board. When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like something that would cost $72,650, does it? But try this on for color: Graffiti Eradication Vehicle (and associated equipment.)

 

Suddenly $72,650 seems like a bargain. All you need is a Graffiti Eradication Vehicle, and you’ve suddenly got the equipment needed to strike back at the hoodlums who are overrunning our fair community. If Charles Bronson were a sheriff’s department, you know he’d have one.

 

Here’s the argument Hedges made for the vehicle, in a letter to the SLO County Board of Supervisors, to use state and federal funds to buy this paint patroller:

 

“Timely removal of graffiti is essential in pro-active anti-gang efforts and reduces new retaliatory acts of vandalism as well as associated violent acts between rival gangs.”

 

Hell. Yes! Where’s my checkbook?

 

Except, it doesn’t sound quite so sexy when you break this purchase down into its component parts. What is a Graffiti Eradication Vehicle? It’s a pickup. With a paint-mixer on board. This is Home Depot on a Silverado. Is $72K a bit steep? Hell. No! Hedges goes on to explain that if you were to buy this baby off the lot, you’d pay $138,000. We can’t afford not to buy one of these things.

 

I guess it would be nice if, when painting over graffiti, the covering paint matched the base color of the wall, but I can’t help but be hung up on the sort of skills they’d be seeking in the deputy who drives the truck.

 

Wanted: Sheriff Deputy. Must be academy graduate, have a clean record, and pass MMPI personality test. Also, must be able  to tell the difference between Nantucket Breeze and Tuscan Wind on a color wheel. Charles Bronson need not apply.

 

 Contest alert!

 

It’s obvious President Obama needs a slogan to rally around in his foundering effort to improve the health care system.

 

Based on some of his latest actions, such as waffling on the public option and striking a deal with the drug makers so he won’t have the government look for deals on drug prices, it almost seems like he’s given up on any real reform.

 

If that’s true, then here are some suggestions he could use to communicate that message to the public:

 

Health care: The time is later.

 

Yes we won’t!

 

Grandma was going to die anyway.

 

But I’m choosing to go with hope, not fear, and assume he’s really trying but just needs Shredder’s help. Elections are supposed to mean things. Obama made it clear that a vote for him was a vote to improve the health care system and people subsequently elected him along with a solid majority of Democrats.

 

That’s a mandate. But instead of using it, the skinny Hawaiian seems so intent on getting a significant number of Republicans on board that he’s willing to sacrifice the integrity of his plan.

 

He has the votes. He should get this done.

 

Or maybe he truly hasn’t come up with the right slogan. If so, let’s help him. Let’s try now for some suggestions that might actually help. Here are mine:

 

Canada’s better? Not. For. Long.

 

Stop the insurance company death merchants!

 

Health security is wealth security.

 

Or, a variation: National security means health security.

 

Notice I’m not going for the whole let’s-take-care-of-everyone side of things. Most people want to know what’s in it for them, not everyone else. I’d suggest Obama focus on security. Security that you won’t get cut off when you’re sick. Security that you can retire before Medicare kicks in and still be able to stay insured. Security that you won’t lose everything if you lose your job.

 

President Bush led us into a false war based on truly nutso security hyperbole. Why not stick with what works?

 

Now it’s your turn. Come up with your slogans, either of the give-up sort or the sort that might actually work. Send them to me fast—by Tuesday, Aug. 25 (because he needs help right now) and the winner will receive not only the immortality that comes with being in a Shredder column but something chosen especially for them from the fabulous prize drawer. Go.

 

Shredder can be reached at shredder@newtimesslo.com.

 

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