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The Weyrich way 

I was sneaking into church the other day, making a beeline toward the sacramental wine when I unintentionally learned a lesson about making money. I dunno why the Bible has a passage about how to make lots of money, what with all that nonsense about poor people entering heaven but rich people being camels and needles. But then, I don’t understand a lot of things that religious people gab on about.

But back to the parable (Christian-speak for learning a lesson). This guy gives his three slaves money. And the first two take their money and they earn more money. The third slave hides the money and gives it back when the guy returns. Dismissing the fact that the obvious moral dilemma here is slavery and not whether some rich slave owner becomes an even richer slave owner, the first two slaves are rewarded for their industry and the latter is brutally punished. The message is clear: It’s important to God that you make money. I don’t know why; maybe he’s strapped.

Usually, it’s hard to apply these parables to everyday life. But locally there’s a righteous man who vociferously proclaims his faith in God and has had a bad string of luck when it comes to financial matters: David Weyrich.

Weyrich is the name behind the Carlton Hotel in Atascadero, the shiniest gem in the diadem that is the city’s downtown—except the hotel’s floundering. Foundering? One of those.

That news might come off as a bit of a shock, if you’re not familiar with Weyrich. After all, Weyrich is a millionaire many times over. His story is the classic pulling-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of tale, except his straps keep snapping. If pulling yourself up meant marrying a woman whose father created and operated a $600 million business. Then you crash your reputation in a hellish firestorm of homophobia, shortly before pissing away more than your $600 million fortune in 15 years. I hear Weyrich’s been spotted wheeling around Walmart on a scooter lately. You’ve got to hand it to the man that he doesn’t do anything in small, or some might say, reasonable measures.

In 1999 he started a string of five local newspapers and within eight months drove his principled staff into a mass walkout after he decreed that his ink would not be tarnished by portraying gays in a positive light. To the community’s credit, the papers closed soon after.

But the God-fearing man did not stop there. He opened Villa Toscana, an inn that hosted all manner of fancy schmancy events. But, like everything else that’s come into Weyrich’s grasp, Villa Toscana went into foreclosure. Along the way Weyrich managed to take another jab at his mortal enemies: the gays. We got wind that he refused to allow same-sex marriages to be performed on the premises.

Which brings us to the present. The Carlton’s financially teetering and the owners of Shockley’s, the hotel’s restaurant, are bailing on their lease. Among their concerns, they cite a decrease in business since Weyrich started hanging around the hotel in June. Which I wouldn’t feel too badly about if I were Weyrich. I have a tendency to empty a room myself. I’m not a huge fan of showering. It’s just an awful lot of effort.

But the city of Atascadero feels differently, apparently. They’re going to a lot of effort to ensure that Weyrich finds a new tenant, to the tune of dangling stimulus funds like a carrot valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. I always thought dumping money into a guy who has a habit of losing money was a bad idea, but maybe I just don’t understand the ins and outs of “stimulus.” At first I thought you’d have to be some kinda chump to open a restaurant in a hotel that owes money to everybody, everybody’s grandma, and everybody’s grandma’s pet pony. Then I thought, “Hey, I’m a money-grubbing chump.”

So here goes: Atascadero, I’m formally applying for your bundles of restaurant stimulus cash. And if I have to open a restaurant to get this cash, I’m game.

I’ve got a business model and everything. On Monday I won’t serve black people. On Tuesday I’ll deny Jews access. On Wednesdays I’ll exclude women. Thursdays anyone of Eastern European descent will be kicked out. And Fridays I’ll ban people wearing scrunchies and Hawaiian shirts.

As for references, I can provide a lengthy list of failed businesses I’ve been associated with. Sure, Weyrich’s list is probably longer, and he was actually at the helm of the projects that flopped, but I’m willing to really grow at being a failed businessperson.

The real heart of this issue is the message Atascadero is sending, that the city is comfortable pumping public bucks into a businessman with a history of discrimination and failed businesses. We’re not even talking about the time-honored American tradition of laissez-faire, let-the-consumers-choose-for-themselves free market. Weyrich’s a stinking bigot. There’s no question. But if he was also a good businessman—you know, making money instead of losing $600 million—I wouldn’t be writing this.

But Atascadero has a history of airing on the side of stupid. Where’s Kelly Gearhart these days? Basking on the white sandy beaches of Ohio or something, right? Their decision to hand over money to a shifty businessman who is also a pretty shifty human being (or should those f’s be t’s?) would be laughable if it weren’t so depressing.

I guess the city’s making its priorities clear. Atascadero is standing by their man, not unlike Tina Turner or the bimbos dating Charlie Sheen. Just don’t come crying to me when you lose a big wad of cash (probably), alienate those who object to bigotry, and wind up as lackeys in Weyrich’s Walmart scooter gang.

Send cash or stimulus Twinkies to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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