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Whereas, we're idiots who don't know what we're doing ... 

Petitions are great. They allow regular Joe and Jane Q. Citizen to effect real change in government when their elected officials would rather sit on their hands. Petitions also suck. With enough signatures, their edicts must either be enacted or put to a vote … sometimes an expensive one.

Remember the petition that demanded an end to the Rental Housing Inspection Ordinance? Yeah, well it demanded more than simply rescinding the ordinance that allowed city officials to ensure rental units meet certain standards of livability; it said the ordinance must be replaced with the Non-Discrimination in Housing Ordinance, which demands that “age, income, disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity, or inability or ability to own a home” cannot be used to discriminate. Oh my! That sounds lovely, amirite?

Well, oops-a-daisy! The problem is a lot of SLO city housing programs do discriminate … in favor of low-income or disabled people with an inability to own a home. Yeah, stuff like the requirement that developers include low-income housing units in their developments or pay into a fund that helps create such units can now be challenged in court thanks to this poorly worded, carelessly thought-out petition.

Who’s at fault? We can thank former SLO Vice Mayor and District 3 County Board of Supervisors candidate Dan Carpenter and local attorneys Stew Jenkins and Dan Knight for this vaguely crafted petition.

Now the city of San Luis Obispo is going to have to hold a special election and put the idea to a vote, which also means they’re going to have to educate voters on why the so-called Non-Discrimination in Housing Ordinance essentially screws over the poor who benefit from programs that discriminate in their favor.

All this because shady landlords didn’t want the city making them keep their units up to code and because the petition writers managed to persuade signers that the inspections were unconstitutional, intrusive, and would end up getting people kicked out of their not-up-to-code rentals or end up raising their rents.

“Do you live in the city? Do you rent? Do you want your rent to go up? No? Then sign this petition,” signature solicitors barked outside of local grocery stores.

The city estimates it will drop about $150K on this special election, which strikes me as low. More importantly, what if the city loses? Can we kiss goodbye the idea of affordable housing? Hey Carpenter, Jenkins, and Knight, how about you guys foot this bill?

Meanwhile over in Cal Poly Land, some people have a bee in their bonnet. Mustang News on April 17 ran an editorial by philosophy student Brandon Bartlett that equated the arguments defending homosexuality with also defending incest: “love is love,” “they enjoy it and it doesn’t hurt anyone,” “sexual taboos are just social constructions anyway,” and “past societies allowed it.”

In his argument, Bartlett also unwittingly quoted from a satirical article about “laws, such as in Portland, allowing furries to mate and defecate in public dog parks,” which Mustang New later removed because, you know, it was satire and wasn’t identified as such, and Bartlett acted as if it actually furthered his argument, which is—of course—idiotic. People in animal costumes aren’t allowed to screw and poop in public and there’s clearly a big difference between same-sex consenting adults engaging in a sexual relationship and blood relatives boning down.

Anyway, anyone could have made the same mistake as Barlett of accidently thinking a satirical article was real. The website in question—Real News Right Now—also has articles titled “United Airlines Passenger Given Parachute and Ordered to Leave Plane Mid-Flight” and “CNN Report: 1 in 5 American Voters Spoke to Russian Ambassador Before U.S. Election.” Honest mistake.

Hey, Bartlett probably isn’t a homophobe. He was no doubt just doing a little thought experiment about the “social border between acceptable and unacceptable.” His intellectual error, however, is expecting all arguments to transfer from one concept to another. Can I marry a dog? “Love is love,” and the dog is totally into it! Can I beat up a masochist? “They enjoy it.” Can I screw a warm apple pie on my mom’s kitchen table? “Sexual taboos are just social constructions anyway.” Can I marry three women? “Past societies allowed it.”

Brandon, you’re a junior now! Cut out the sophomoric thinking.

In more serious news, right after I wrote about the so-called “natural” death of SLO County Jail inmate Andrew Holland last week, another inmate died. Kevin Lee McLaughlin, 60, died in jail after complaining of shoulder pain. A nurse who looked at him sent him back to his cell, where he died of a heart attack.

Obviously this isn’t the same as retraining Holland in a Pro-Straint Restraint Chair for 46 hours, after which he died of a blood clot, which totally wasn’t caused by being rendered immobile for nearly two days, right? It does call into question the quality of medical care available at the jail.

Was it his left shoulder, Nurse Ratched? Maybe pain in his left arm? I’m no doctor, but even I know the early signs of a heart attack.

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