Opinion » Shredder

False choice



What does it take to hold a Congressman accountable? An election?

Well, it most certainly isn't this election.


In SLO County, we're now blessed—blessed, I say—to be part of not one, but two congressional districts. We get double the fun! In the northern half of our county, incumbent U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Monterey) is running against a Green Party candidate and former "Bernie Bro" from Santa Cruz and a renegade Republican from Atascadero who believes that the 2020 election was stolen. Oh goody! I can't wait to fill out my ballot.

If Panetta's war chest says anything about the race, he's going to beat their asses in the primary. It's $1.7 million against a combined less than $10,000. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara), who represents the southern portion of our bucolic bastion, has $2.4 million on hand versus his opponents' total of $12,000.

Carbajal's running against a fellow Democrat who's campaigning on world peace and a Republican who's running on closing the southern border because they're bringing "drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

I can't wait to vote. The choices are limitless. I think I'd rather pay for a wedding than vote in the primary, and I live in a cardboard box, so it's not like they pay me a lot around here.

The two incumbents are seasoned vets when it comes to being politicians, running campaigns, raising dollars, and being elected. Hell, we pay them upward of $170,000 a year to do this thing and represent us. Key words: represent us.

So why then did they decide not to talk to New Times reporters about the issues raised in this election cycle? It's not like the issues are new—homelessness, affordable housing, the economy, etc. One of the big ones, of course, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is heading into its sixth month. If I had to guess, and I do: That's the one they wanted to avoid.

Both said they simply couldn't work with our timeline (a day). They couldn't even bother to send emailed, pre-canned statements responding to the questions. Boring, guys!

I get that it's a touchy subject. It's complicated, and there are a lot of issues involved, lots of people have died and are going to die, but come on!

Panetta and Carbajal recently voted to send $14.5 billion to Israel and $10 billion in humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. That's $24.5 billion to play both sides—and that was just one of the wars included in the $95 billion "defense" package. Did neither one think they should have to answer for that decision?

I'd be offended too, if the constituents that chose me and pay me to represent them questioned me on the votes I'm making on their behalf. Appalled even!

Don't people know they put out press releases and social media posts with their canned talking points, designed to be as inoffensive as possible, paint them in a positive light, and quoted from wholesale. Duh! Direct to the people! No feet to the fire, you know?

It's disappointing. I'm disappointed in both of them.

What makes me really sad is the fact that none of the other candidates in the races represents a real challenge to the incumbents. Can we bring Vicki Nohrden back, please? She wrote a book about God smiting California for being too liberal. Who doesn't love reading about that?

Speaking of weddings, I'll take $24.5 billion to plan one, I'd even take $6.4 billion. I'll take $59 million to plan myself the wedding of the century in Paris, like Florida car dealership heiress Madelaine Brockway did last November when she dressed up as Marie Antoinette, had a sleepover in the Palace of Versailles, partied under the Arc de Triomphe, ate lunch in Chanel's haute couture suite, and hired a team of lipstick readers to predict her future. I predict her future will be a lot richer than mine.

And the leftovers? I'd take that almost $6.4 billion and pay down some of California's future budget deficit.

Instead, Gov. Gavin Newsom would prefer that I vote yes on Proposition 1, a $6.4 billion bond to build housing units and rearrange the mental health care system. That sounds like a fabulous idea, but it may take dollars away from local services in the process. SLO County's Department of Behavioral Health believes that it would lose two-thirds of its funding from the Mental Health Services Act if the proposition passes.

With the state's ever-ballooning budget deficit for the 2024-25 fiscal year, which recently jumped from $58 billion to $73 billion, I'm not sure we need to be taking out any bonds.

And while we do need affordable housing, we don't even really know how successful all that money we spent during the pandemic on turnkey homeless housing has been yet. Maybe we better tap the brakes and collect some data before moving full steam ahead into debt that aims to "fix" homelessness, especially if we lose vital local mental health services in the process.

The only exciting thing on the ballot is the 5th District SLO County Board of Supervisors race, and it's mostly because Debbie Arnold isn't running again. Which Atascadero queen will reign supreme? We'll find out after March 5, hopefully. Δ

The Shredder is over "choices" that aren't choices. Send help to [email protected].


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