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Tis the season 

So, it's time once again for New Times' annual Holiday Haps. Yep. The holidays are happening. There's nothing we can do to stop them, short of nuclear annihilation, and even then I'm not sure. We could all turn into dust and shadows permanently burned into walls, and the holidays would probably still happen. Thanksgiving would still roll around the fallout. Christmas cheer would still sparkle through the radiated air. New Year's Eve would still come and go.

That's actually an interesting puzzler: If a holiday's around and there's no one to celebrate it, is it still a holiday? All signs point to yes. After all, if a tree falls and no one's around to hear it, it definitely does make a sound. I've heard it myself.

Ka-wham! It's like thunder. Plus, all the nearby animals start crowing and cawing and grunting and bleating and making other sounds. If you're ever not around when a tree falls in the forest, your ears will be ringing for days. I went deaf for a couple of hours myself, though I can hear again now.

I also hear that the fun and I use that term loosely isn't over yet in Atascadero. I know, I know. What more can I write about for that place?

I could write about how the zoo is a nice place to visit. I could say that there are plenty of great nearby wineries. I could say that there's an abundance of cultural events and recreational happenings to make a visit there worthwhile.

In fact, I just did say those things. And they're all true. If you've never been to Atascadero, don't let what you've heard recently stop you from visiting. And if you live there, take some time to rediscover the reasons you moved there in the first place, or, if those reasons aren't so great, take some time to discover some reasons to stick around.

I could also write about how Mike Brennler, who recently got elected to the Atascadero City Council on a platform of reviewing staff performances and cleaning up the city, is apparently getting a head start on his work. He's plowing right along. Rolling up his sleeves and diving in headfirst. Grabbing a mop and a broom and a dustpan. Maybe he should get some gardening done while he's at it. It's good to harness your energy when you've got it.

Anyway, I hear that in the days and weeks before Mike officially steps into his seat, he's turning an eye on the whole structure. He's looking into how the whole system works and why. I also hear that he's been eyeing assistant city manager Jim Lewis like a farmer would be eyeing a prize turkey right about now. Giblets, anyone?

Actually, I don't know how farmers look at turkeys. Is it with compassion? Longing? Sadness? Hunger? I've never been a farmer or a turkey though I can think of a few people who would dispute that last one so I don't know. But I do know that Mike's taking a long hard look at the role of assistant city manager and how it got to be the way it is today.

Nobody's saying anything concrete, but a few people are raising an eyebrow or two at how waaaaay back when, City Manager Wade McKinney wanted an assistant, so a headhunter the non-literal kind rounded up a few interviewees. The cream of the crop, the story goes, came to Atascadero for interviews, and Jim came out on top. He apparently signed an employment agreement on Sept. 27, 2004, and then closed on a home with help from a conventional and a city loan just a little more than a week later.

I don't know much about real estate and loans and such, but people who do are saying stuff like, "Talk about fast. That's faster than fast." It's so fast, that a few people are raising a second eyebrow and wondering whether somebody told Jim some good news when he was looking into finding a place to live, and whether such a tell would have been, ahem, improper, considering the intricacies of the whole hiring process and everyone involved.

Jim who said a recruiter tracked him down in late July or early August of that year maintains that he didn't have any kind of an impression as to whether he'd been selected for the job or not, and that he put an offer on a house with a contingency though that contingency isn't for prying eyes like mine to see.

He got loans just like anybody would, he said, and wasn't sure whether one through the city would be available at all even at the time of his hiring.

Folks in the mortgage business, however, would be raising a third eyebrow if they had one at the lightning turnaround. A few said that something fishy might have gone on. One guy in the business said that he's never heard of a conventional lender funding a loan based on the possibility of an applicant getting a job. Okay, I'll bite. Maybe there was something unconventional going on but even if there was, that doesn't mean Jim did anything wrong.

Atascadero's finance director, Rachelle Rikard, said that she can't remember how long it took the city to process Jim's loan once it came around to it, but the average turnaround is two months.

So did everything just fall into happy place for Jim? Conventional? Unconventional? We may never know, but we can be certain that Mike is starting to poke his nose around harder than ever in Atascadero, and who knows what he's going to sniff out or get it caught in.

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