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Swept away 

I bet a lot of people are happy to see all that trash along the Southbound Highway 101 Madonna Road exit finally cleaned up, and by "trash" I don't mean all the blue trash bags. I mean what too many people consider human "trash"—those people with nowhere to go who set up tents under the trees in the grassy area between the highway and Madonna Road.

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Where did these people come from? Maybe they were the folks camped along the Bob Jones Trail by the wastewater treatment plant who were pushed out, or maybe they were the folks camped in Mitchell or Meadow parks who were told to scram. It sort of feels like our approach to homelessness is a giant game of whack-a-mole, except these aren't small plastic moles being hit with a soft black mallet. They're actual people.

As this week's cover story ("Shelter strategy reboot," page 12) points out, our solution to helping the unhoused is about as successful as an arcade game is at killing moles. What's more, it's a countywide problem with a countywide lack of cohesion and cooperation. All our "leaders" can agree on is that we have a homeless problem, not how to solve it.

District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson believes the time to act is now with a bold multidimensional approach while 5th District Supe Debbie Arnold says not so fast; we need to get input from the community. Guess what, Deb? Input from the community means a whole lot of "not in my backyard," which means nothing will be accomplished.

If you want to see how it's done, look no further than ECHO Paso Robles, which during the pandemic was able to expedite turning a defunct Motel 6 into 60 units of permanent low-income housing and 60 shelter beds. If the project had been forced to go through public comment and approval, all the people now housed there would still be on the street.

Instead of entertaining more inevitable NIMBYism, how about we offer services to current encampments to make them safe, create sanctioned encampments at locations with amenities, create more safe parking programs, expand shelter space and abandon the "zero tolerance" policies that prevent some homeless from seeking shelter, and create alternative options like tiny home communities?

Not all homeless people are the same; one-size-fits-all solutions don't exist.

This may be old news, but I have to weigh in on the case of Alex Catlett, the young man accused by the SLO County District Attorney's Office of "unauthorized removal or destruction of public property" for removing blue ribbons put up in the wake of the May 10 killing of SLO Police Detective Luca Benedetti.

In case you didn't hear, on May 17, Catlett was removing the blue ribbons from trees and parking meters as well as picking up ones that had fallen to the ground when someone driving by slammed on his brakes, stormed out of his car, and rushed at Catlett yelling profanities. Turns out the man was a District Attorney's Office investigator in plain clothes who didn't identify himself as law enforcement but did reach out and rip Catlett's facemask off, scratching his face in the process.

A short while later, the man found Catlett again. This time identifying himself as law enforcement, he detained Catlett while the SLO Police were summoned. The unnamed investigator and police told Catlett that what he was doing was illegal, to which I say, really? First, Catlett wasn't destroying "public property." He was removing ribbons put up by people who had no more permission to tie ribbons around public property than someone hanging posters advertising concerts on public lampposts does.

Even SLO Police Spokeswoman Christine Wallace admitted, "We don't know who placed the ribbons on the poles; therefore, we don't have a victim and the report is inactive. No criminal charges are being requested against Mr. Catlett at this time."

Well, that's good because the only crime that occurred was that a DA investigator assaulted Catlett. The investigator said he was driving Benedetti's widow around when he witnessed Catlett removing the ribbons and it "upset" him.

"He attacked me is the point I'm trying to get at," Catlett told The Tribune in a June 3 article about the incident. "This is the police. This is what they stand for. Protect and serve is trying to protect themselves."

Exactly right! Catlett might be a disrespectful, insolent little shit who sees the blue ribbons as "racist," but what he was doing does not warrant a physical assault under the color of authority. The police basically bulldozed this kid into not pressing charges against Investigator Apoplectic Jackboot by claiming Catlett could be arrested! For what? The equivalent of picking up trash and taking down unpermitted posters?

This is why so many people think the police suck! SLO County DA Dan Dow is more interested in protecting his own than holding one of his employees accountable for his egregious behavior. Is Investigator Jackboot really the kind of person we want carrying around a lethal weapon? He obviously can't control his emotions. When he reads this, he's probably going to punch a hole in the wall like an unhinged baby-man having a temper tantrum.

Protect and serve, my ass. Pester and self-serve is more accurate. Δ

The Shredder is controlling its temper. Send comments and suggestions to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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