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Strange days 

Is there something in the water? Is SLO County in the midst of one of those Jacob’s Ladder-type experiments where we’ve all been dosed with some experimental induced-psychosis pharmaceuticals that are making us violent, unreasonable, or stupid?

We’ve got the Atascadero “werewolf” who felt the need to murder his neighbor because, you know, she was a vampire, and the feud between the lycanthropes and vamps … sigh.

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Then there was the unnamed 19-year-old Cambrian man who ran naked and bloody through the streets of Los Osos after charging through a plate glass window, purportedly high on narcotics. Way to make drugs not look like fun, asshole!

And what about the bear and yeti war up on Cuesta Ridge? Apparently, due to the drought, yetis have been encroaching on bear territory, leading to ongoing battles between the two creatures.

OK, that’s actually a story from the Mountain Shoria region of the Siberian taiga, and it’s over food, not water, but the point is, you didn’t know the difference! Werewolves, vampires, bloody naked joggers, and the Sasquatch battling Yogi Bear—it’s all cut from the same crazy nutbag cloth! And it seems like the epicenter of unreasonable disagreeability is right here in SLO Town! 

Think about it!

From the “irreconcilable” dispute between City Manager Katie Lichtig and former Police Chief Steve Gesell to the SLO Symphony Board of Directors surprise termination of long-time and much-loved symphony Maestro Michael Nowak to the need for a SLO City Council teambuilding “retreat” to quell ongoing tensions between its members, it seems like SLO Town is bereft of grownups able to work out their differences like mature adults. 

Sure, they’re not running naked or murdering each other, but when supposedly upstanding citizens want to have a public slap fight instead of finding productive ways to transcend their disputes, well, sheesh! When I feel like the most stable, well-adjusted office machine in the town, we’re in deep, dark trouble, people!

I guess to be fair, the SLO City Council has tried to hug it out instead of slug it out. Last Thursday, they sequestered themselves away in the Holiday Inn Express (fancy!) for a daylong retreat to mediate ongoing tensions, mainly between John “Table Pounder” Ashbaugh and Mayor Jan “Shrinking Violet” Marx and the rest of the council, which thinks Ashbaugh is a big bad bully, for lack of a better term.

Under the expert tutelage of facilitator Trudy Sopp of the La Jolla-based Centre for Organization Effectiveness, they tried to work out ways for Marx to better control the rough-and-tumble council meetings and for Ashbaugh to shut his damn pie-hole and quit interrupting everybody else. 

Ashbaugh confessed to yelling, behavior he admits is “unacceptable.” For her part, Marx said Ashbaugh’s outbursts “mortified” her! Oh my! Quick, help her to the fainting couch! I do declare!

Grow the hell up, you two! Pull it together! You’ve got important fascist work to do controlling every aspect of residents’ lives.

Apparently the real conflict is between Ashbaugh and Councilman Dan “a horse is a horse of course of course” Carpenter, who seem to loath each other with every fiber of their respective beings. 

Last October Ashbaugh scolded Carpenter for being unprepared because he didn’t ask enough questions in a closed-door meeting. These two need to avoid making eye contact! Believe it or not, one suggestion for lessening tensions between the two was to address each other with their honorifics, as in “Councilman Ashbaugh” and “Councilman Carpenter.”

“Would the inestimable Councilman Carpenter please refrain from being a barmy barmpot and Billy no-mates?”

“What a lot of cobblers from the king of cock-ups, Councilman Ashbaugh! Your gormless suggestions for amending this manky amendment is a load of poxy hogwashery.”

See, it sounds nicer. Say is again with an upper-crust British accent! That’ll bring decorum back to the council chambers!

Man, I sure wish I could have been there when Trudy Sopp got these two whiners to do team building trust falls at the retreat! 

“OK, fold your arms across your chest, stiffen your body, close your eyes, and fall backwards. Trust that your partner will catch you.” Timmberrrr! Thump!

It seems professionalism and collegiality are unfamiliar concepts to the SLO City Council. What does it say to the public in attendance at these meetings when their elected public officials are acting like the misfits from The Breakfast Club in Saturday morning detention?

And then there’s the cost. How many thousands of dollars did Trudy Sopp charge to tell Ashbaugh, Marx, Carpenter, Carlyn Christianson, and Dan Rivoire they need to grow up and treat each other with respect? We know City Manager Katie Lichtig’s problems with Police Chief Steve Gesell cost taxpayers $120,000. When will it end?

It’s easy to say, “Throw the bums out!” The tricky part: Who do we replace them with? It seems that most people interested in city government are of similar temperament, meaning a bunch of dodgy punters who want to pass a mess of damn foolish micromanaging laws to stop people from living their lives as they bloody well please.

The Shredder will tell you you’re a big fat baby for a $5,000 consultation fee. Send ideas and comments to


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