My life was getting a bit dull, so I chucked a rock at a flowerpot on my across-the-street neighbor’s porch, and when he came running out after he heard the tinkling shatter, I pointed at my next-door-neighbor’s house and blamed her. Now they’re feuding. He scattered dandelion seeds all over her lawn, she backed into his mailbox, he started stomping around outside when he knew she was baking a delicate soufflé.
They hate each other now, and all it took was a little push. I see this all the time in nature and humanity: oil and water don’t mix, Republicans and Democrats close down the country, cartoon cats and dogs get into little whirlwind fights that leave them covered with scratches that look like hashtags.
A little science experiment in opposing forces erupted like a baking-soda volcano recently in Morro Bay, where the city attorney was essentially fired. Kablooey.
This was just the latest showdown in the fractured city with the stacks, a town with a history of divisiveness that would make the Montagues and the Hatfields proud.
You can blame the mayor and his cronies, if you were a fan of the old City Council. Or you can thank the mayor and his two colleagues, if—as a large chunk of voters revealed themselves to be in the last election—you’re down for change.
Me, I like to back the winning side (which is why my money’s on my next-door-neighbor; I saw her buying bags of salt in bulk and I have a feeling the grass on the other side of the street isn’t going to be so much greener for so much longer), so I’m having trouble taking a stance on the Morro Bay wrassling because I don’t know the real story behind the charge against the soon-ousted attorney Rob Schultz and the waiting-on-the-chopping-block city manager, Andrea Lueker. And I probably won’t ever learn the really real reason.
Which is terrible.
Wouldn’t we all love to know what’s sticking in Mayor Jamie Irons’ craw? Did Schultz steal his shovel in the sandbox? Did Schultz break the law when changes were made to his severance pay before the new council took over? I have no idea, just like my across-the-street neighbor has no idea what really happened to his prize geraniums in that tacky “I love my Daddy” ceramic pot. Seriously, it was hideous. It looked like a kindergartner made it.
Cities have policies in place that prevent them from discussing certain things about employees, so I may not know why three beloved/hated council members voted to can their attorney, but I do understand that the mayor can only say “thank you for your testimony” after a resident calls him a dictator at public comment for not dishing dirt and airing dirty laundry.
Like it or not, the only way any of us will ever know the real reasons behind the axing is if Schultz ends up suing the city and this whole broohaha goes to court.
But not before someone recalls the mayor. Because we can’t have the city waiting until June to decide whether to re-elect him, right? That’s a whole eight months away! Nope. Instead, we’re going to circulate this recall petition and get him out with a special election. Or is the effort to get the recall on the same June ballot on which Irons is running, presumably, for re-election? I can’t even keep it straight anymore.
Either way, this petition is making the rounds with five reasons for giving the mayor the boot. Most of the reasons are debatable, sorta. But Reason No. 1—arguably the real reason there are bees in the bonnets of the new council majority’s critics—is because Irons “disregarded his campaign promise by withdrawing the wastewater treatment plant from Coastal Commission review.”
I may not have the best memory, but I do seem to remember things going down a little differently with that ill-conceived idea to upgrade the poop facility in a 100-year flood zone. Yeah, it’s coming back to me: Mayor Irons asked the Coastal Commission to deny a permit to build the new plant when it became clear the commission never intended to approve the project and the city was just flushing fat cash turds down the john. And yes, the commission unanimously denied the permit—as if it needed the city’s recommendation.
I also seem to remember Irons running on a campaign platform opposing the project.
It may not surprise me that a political document—and the not-very-well drafted notice of intent to circulate the petition is a political document, when you get down to it—might contain inaccuracies or embellishments. But when it’s downright provably wrong, that’s another thing.
According to the city’s election code, anyone who circulates or publishes false statements related to a recall petition in order to get folks to sign is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Does that mean the recallers are breaking the law? According to the city clerk, that’s not up for her to decide. And who can blame her for not wanting to get involved? Nope, any official challenge to the allegations on the petition would have to be pursued in court.
When you get down to it, the real sad part about all this fussin’ and a-fightin’ in Morro Bay is that you have two public servants who’ve been with the city for ages and are obviously very popular and considered “nice” in some circles. Shoot, when I teased Schultz back in 2012 for his comparing the city’s Dynegy power plant to an ugly girl, the guy had the class to tell one of our reporters that to be in a very public position like his, you have to have thick skin and roll with the punches.
Does the council majority have its reasons for giving him the boot? Sure. And those reasons might even be as simple as following through on campaign pledges—successful campaigns, mind you, and not even by a close margin—to change the direction and culture of the city, perhaps from one that bends backward for Embarcadero business owners to one that gets the backs of the residents and protects the overall quality of life.
But I’ll never know. So I’m just going to sit on my own porch and watch the show.
The Shredder is worried about crossfire. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.