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Queasily ripping off the bandage 

I’m not feeling so well. Was it something I ate? Something I contracted from that guy I sat next to on the bus yesterday? Something I picked up years ago only now finally rearing its viral head?

Or maybe reading Robert McDonald’s cover story this week made me queasy. Go read it and get nauseated yourself. If you’ve already read it, take a few steps back, please. I don’t want whatever you ate for lunch splashing all over this column I worked so hard to write.

I had managed to forget or push down or finally block out some of the choice scenes from Sheriff Pat Hedges’ years in office, but seeing them all strung together like a row of burnt-out Christmas lights really hit me in the gut. You too? Why don’t you take another step away from ol’ Shred before you hurl. You can still make out these words from a few feet away anyway.

Yeah, it had to be the story. My stomach did a fantastic flip-flop after seeing again the old and unfortunately familiar names of Gerald Bernales and Jay Vestal and others, people who suffered permanent injuries or even death when they encountered sheriff’s deputies.

What a scary time that was, back in the early 2000s. If you weren’t around for it, I’m sorry to tell you that it seemed like there was a new injury or death and subsequent claim of excessive and unnecessary force every time you turned around. The department’s records were literally littered with bodies. The county basically just kept its wallet on the table so it could shell out cash for the next settlement on the list.

The county tends to do that when it comes to Hedges. Settle, that is. And he was snortin’ mad when county officials decided to settle a suit with spied-upon chief deputy Gary Hoving for hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of dollars. Despite revelations that Hedges’ departmental espionage seemed motivated more by his hurt feelings than by an actual criminal investigation, he insisted he’d be justified in the long run. Right. That whole incident took already plummeting faith in his administration to an all-new low.

No matter who the next top county law enforcer is, faith has to go up. It just has to. And I think my digestive system will settle down a bit. And maybe some of my taxes can go toward something other than, you know, paying for the department’s mistakes. I pay enough for my own as it is.

   And don’t get me started again on medical marijuana. Seriously. I’ve already spilled so much ink over the sheriff’s take on the stuff and the arrest of Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers owner Charles Lynch, the waves of black would make the Gulf of Mexico spill look like a puddle on a driveway.

Believe you me—a phrase I’ve always thought sounded a bit like Tarzan trying to convince Jane of something important—it will be a happy day when I no longer have Hedges as source material for this column. Even if that means I have to work harder (because, let’s face it, Hedges’ name attached to any story is pretty much a gimme), it’ll be worth it.

I’m in a bit of a holding pattern as it is, what with the upcoming shell game that is local politics. With Sen. Abel Maldonado officially landing his long-awaited seat on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lap, his desk is open for takers. With Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee terming out, his office is open for new faces, too. There’s even a void to be filled in Arroyo Grande city leadership, left by Ed Arnold who looked at the mounting charges stacking against him and finally decided to bow out, probably before something else surfaced. Talk about a sigh of relief. I could hear his fellow council members’ exhalation all the way across town when he said he was departing.

I’m bracing myself for an influx of new elected officials, and thereby an influx of fresh fodder for my column. Of course, plenty of already-elected officials are hoping to fill the various vacancies, so they might all just shuffle around and we’ll be stuck with the same faces, just in new places.

Yeah, just the thought of that makes me queasy all over again. You might want to take a couple more steps back in case I hurl. Those look like nice shoes, and I had curry for lunch.

Send Shredder some antacids to

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