Opinion » Shredder

Strictly factual


OK, let’s get this out of the way first. Whoops. Sorry. I goofed. You know, mea culpa and all that jazz.

The morning of Nov. 11 when my column hit the streets I realized I flubbed a few details. I said Stan Saylor was elected as house majority whip, overtaking Republican rising star Rep. Kevin McCarthy for the seat.

Well, it turns out I’m an idiot—I know, big surprise. Saylor, while he was elected house majority whip, was elected in the Pennsylvania Legislature, not the U.S. House. But I got everything else right.

So stop all your angry letter writing, even though none of you wrote me angry letters, which I guess goes to show that none of you knew what was going on either.

HA! I guess I’m not that dumb after all.

Not really, but sorry for the confusion.

This week I’m cautiously optimistic to say McCarthy will be my new whipping boy … er, I mean the new whip. While I’m writing this, I can see he has a conference call about the whip position scheduled for the morning before this printing. But I’m still a little gun shy, so I won’t call it just yet. The Los Angeles Times also profiled McCarthy, saying that if given the title, he could be “the first Republican from California to serve in the position while his party holds the majority.”

Just a three-term congressman, he’s quickly climbed the corporate … er, I mean, climbed the political ladder in Washington, D.C. And if elected, he “will be responsible for counting noses and enforcing party discipline on important votes. He also will carry to the airwaves his party’s messages for a smaller, less costly federal government,” the Times reported.

Great message and all—and I know I’ll catch hell for saying this—but small government isn’t always good. In fact, the teenier you make your governments, I’ve found, the more whack-a-doo they get.

Case in point, I bring you the Santa Margarita Area Advisory Council, or SMAAC for short. These guys aren’t junkies, but they probably make about as much sense as one.

The other night, I think it was a Wednesday, from what I’m told by someone who was there, the SMAAC addicts held one of their regular meetings. On the docket for the dozen or so members was a decision whether to forward some comments on the Environmental Impact Report for a quarry and asphalt-mining operation that’s been proposed for the Santa Margarita area.

Here’s the thing: At least three members of the council have a vested stake in whether this project goes through. Actually, one person from the public said there are four members with an interest, but only three identified themselves in the end.

So one Santa Margarita resident got up during the comment portion and politely reminded the members that failing to disclose their conflicts of interest makes them look really slimy.

There was Mike Cole, the applicant for the project. There was also Sophie Treder, the project lawyer. And one of Cole’s truck drivers also sat on the board that night, I’m told. Eventually they all abstained from the vote, but they sat through the whole meeting, conflicts and all. And if not for this citizen peeping up, who knows what might have happened?

Apparently, SMACC’s conflict of interest policy states there’s only a conflict if a member owns property under discussion. In other words, if you stand to make money off of a project but don’t actually own the land, then have at it and change your name to Capt. Ethics.

“Your conflict of interest policy is pretty weak,” was the public response.

Chairman Charlie Whitney eventually caved before the vote and politely asked the undisclosed members to abstain.

“You people involved know who you are,” he said. “Please honor our conflict of interest policy by not voting.”

So I guess he decided it was a conflict after all. But all this talk about SMAAC is making me sleepy.

Here are a few quick things to wake me up. You too.

The San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport reported that ridership is up this year. They say this October was better than last October, even if overall ridership has kind of sucked over the past few years. I’ll let them have their moment, though. Big money-bags companies always compare finances quarter to quarter, and month to month, whatever makes the numbers slightly optimistic. Plus, the airport management and county need ways to justify the parking lot and terminal expansion projects they’ve been slowly whittling down in size since those projects were first proposed. Besides, who doesn’t want to fly lately, with all the free airport-security groping? I took a flight from SLO to Santa Maria and back just to get some pre-flight action. My thanks to my security agent—you know who you are—for being so gentle.

The SLO Chamber of Commerce welcomed its new members from July 1 through Oct. 15, and one new member jumped out at me: the Committee to Elect Joe Cortez Sheriff. First off, it’s just a chuckle fest that this was published after the election, which Cortez lost. I don’t care whether Cortez lost or won, but the bad timing is still kind of funny. Besides that, I’m having a tough time rationalizing why Cortez’s committee campaign was a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Did I fall asleep and awake in a strangely honest world where campaign committees have been accepted as cash machines? Or did I just goof again?


What’s your biggest mistake? Tell me at [email protected].


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