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Stacking the odds 

I’m not a big gambler—never have been, never will be. There’s something nauseating about choking on exhaled cigarette smoke while mindlessly pulling at a slot machine lever, which somehow always reminds me of a monkey playing with himself. And if I wanted to watch things race in elliptical patterns while rednecks turn into raving lunatics, I’d just watch Nascar or something less boring, like curling or C-SPAN. Since I don’t gamble, I have trouble with the lingo. It’s all Greek to me, or English even. What’s the word for someone who hasn’t yet mastered their native language?

One phrase I do know is hedging your bet. Hedging is a clever strategy in most circumstances—it helps even the odds and stick it to the house. When you’re in public service, however, it’s a selfish, petty thing to do. In that case, the public ends up being the house.

It’s human nature to look out for oneself. The smart man finds a new job before he quits his current post. The smart city councilwoman—say, Mayor Jan Marx, for example—doesn’t dump her seat until she’s planted her tuchus in a new one.

Marx didn’t relinquish her City Council seat when she ran for mayor because lawyers like her apparently don’t make enough money and need the piddly government stipend to afford another month’s worth of liver and lima beans. Her actions weren’t terribly in the spirit of selfless public service, but weren’t all that surprising, either. Anyone who spends more than five minutes watching an elected official speak can see that visions of ticker-tape parades and executive bathrooms with gilded thrones are dancing in their heads. And no, I’m not just bitter that I haven’t been accepted as a potential appointee.

Rather than spread her cheeks across two seats, Marx could have dumped the council seat, opened it for the election, and still taken a stab at the mayor slot. But she didn’t do that. Now we have a seat that’s up in the air to be decided by a slim majority of the City Council, who might just appoint one of her buddies because they’re as gutless as she is selfish, at least in this case.

I know, I know. Other people have held a death grip on council seats while they chased a mayor slot. It’s just that this time the end result kind of sucks.

Had Marx done the noble thing, current applicant and former candidate Dan Carpenter would have won. He came in third place in this election, just barely losing to Kathy Smith. Had there been three open seats and three top vote getters … you do the math.

It’ll be interesting come Dec. 21 to watch Marx and Smith squirm over this appointment. Aside from Carpenter—and this Kevin Rice guy who won’t be appointed in this millennium—there’s this woman by the name of Patricia Andreen. She’s basically got two votes in the bag. Aside from contributing to the Marx and Smith campaigns, Andreen helped organize a campaign mixer and shindig for Marx. She and Marx even co-hosted a documentary screening. That’s like a Tupperware party for politician-types, but somehow more white and boring.

Did I hear someone say BFFs forever?

Marx and Andreen seem to be buddies through and through. Hell, Andreen knows this. If you read her application form, she knows her biggest challenge will be overcoming the logical choice to appoint Carpenter and recognize the 5,161 votes he won, not to mention the massive amount of community support he’s received compared to her thimbleful of praise. Just read her application:

“Some say this choice for council is ‘easy.’ I hope, as leaders, you’re looking for the strongest partner for the work ahead—not the easiest choice.”

By “easiest choice,” she means Carpenter, and by “strongest partner,” she means biggest ass kisser.

“Previous exposure to the electorate is not a prerequisite,” she goes on. “However, I received 49 percent of the votes for supervisor, winning in SLO City precincts.”

Let me get this straight, Pat. You’re trying to unload a four-door Radio Flyer wagon—ordinarily I’d say bus, but it is the holidays—of horse manure that political experience isn’t a requirement for this seat, but you’re pointing out that you ran for and lost another election? In other words, you’re saying that experience isn’t necessary, but if it were, you’ve got just as much experience at losing as this Carpenter dweeb, even if it was for another office.

This whole thing just reeks of cronyism, nepotism, and a few other isms there aren’t words for yet. Is suck-it-ism a word? I’m not about to blow the conspiracy whistle yet, but come on. It looks pretty god-awful.

• Marx runs for mayor, keeps council seat, otherwise Carpenter would have won.

• The council opts to appoint the seat rather than hold an election.

• Andreen throws in her hat, knowing she already has two buddies and only needs three votes.

But no, really, go ahead and appoint Andreen. I dare you. It’ll give me something to write about next week, and 5,161 torches a reason to be lit. Though I might just be overly sensitive. After all, this is an appointment process, not a popularity contest.

That would be an election. 

I wish I were popular, but in a good way. Send hook-up requests to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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