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The microphones have ears 

Kathy Welles is a kook. At least, that's what Morro Bay Councilman Rick Grantham said. His exact words after the citizen spoke at a recent City Council meeting were closer to "There's a lot of hungry squirrels out there, because all the nuts were in here." Zing!

Speaking as a fellow local gadfly, I can say that Kathy was laying into the council pretty heavily. She said some less-than-flattering things to them and about them--Mayor Janice Peters interrupted to remind her that no personal attacks were allowed, and Councilwoman Melody DeMeritt said it was obscene that Welles called the council a "circle jerk"--but that's what you get when you're in public office. Some people love you, and some people compare you to group acts of autoeroticism. That's how it goes. When you get the votes, you have to develop a thick skin.

Sure, there are a lot of crazies and whiners and wackos and complainers out there, and I certainly wouldn't begrudge a local leader the occasional venting or two, but it's best to keep such comments to private conversations, out of the earshot of the actual voters. Let it fly on the racquetball court after the meeting, or over martinis that evening, or during whatever it is councilpeople do when they're not counciling.

The defense, predictably, has been that they didn't know that the microphones were still on when Rick made his comment. Yeah, I'm with him on that one. I've said some things about people that they were later upset about, but, in my defense, I didn't realize that I was actually typing my thoughts, and that my opinions would actually be printed in the paper.


The mystery of the missing quarters

Ever feel like you can't find any quarters when you need them? You know, like when you're leaving the Palm Street parking garage after shopping downtown for a few hours? Or when you've just pulled your socks and underwear out of the washer at the Laundromat and you're loading them into the dryer?

I think I've solved the mystery. I'll get there, but you'll have to be patient. That's not one of your strong suits, I know, but you can do it.

There was a recent study about the economic impact of that popular off-roading beach, the Oceano Dunes. That's the one with the sand. And the vehicles to go on top of the sand.

The headline was that the report found that Dunes visitors pump $75 million into the local economy per year. Sounds good in one lump sum, but come along with me as we think that through.

If, as the study said, there are 1.5 million overnight visitors per year, then that's $50 dollars per visitor. If, as the study said, those visitors spend an average of 2.4 nights at the beach, that's a spending of $21 bucks per night. Folks, it costs $10 per night just to camp there, and $5 to get into the area in the first place. That takes us down to $21 total in leftover spending money for the entire trip. Is my math right? I think I carried the "2" properly, but I'm as good at crunching numbers as you are at being patient. Keep your shirt on I'll get to the quarters theory in a bit.

Not even counting the permits they need for the off-road vehicles, that leaves a grand total of $8.75 each, per day, extravagantly spent on our local economy.


With a finding like that, you've got to conclude that the Dunes riders show up with all the groceries already bought, the beer already on ice, and even when they splurge at McDonalds, they only buy off the dollar menu.


And here's the kicker: We all know that it costs more than that to gas up those RVs just to get them back across the county line for the trip home. Let's say it costs $85 dollars to fill the tank, which would be an absurd bargain in these crazy days. And let's say they don't spend any of their $8.75 on anything but gas. With four people in the vehicle, they'd have a grand total of $84 to spend to get home.

So if this study is correct, and if my math isn't cripplingly botched, I'd offer this as definitive proof that each and every overnight visitor to the Oceano Dunes is stealing a quarter on every visit they make here.

Somebody hide those take-a-penny cups.

Feel free to make the argument on some other basis that it's a good thing to attract millions of folks to drive and camp on the beach, but don't try to use studies like this to make it sound like the Oceano Dunes is a 300 cc engine of tourism.

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