I don’t know if you’ve taken a look at my aura lately, but it is damn sexy. It used to be a sickly green, but lately it’s more of a fecal brown. I attribute this self-improvement to my recent acquisition of an Inner Peace box, which is basically a cardboard box I nicked from a homeless guy. But I added Tibetan prayer flags and incense. While nap-meditating in my box, I had an epiphany concerning the relationship between police departments and the public.
They’re something like abusive, alcoholic parents who are paid by the government to make sure we behave. And, like any abusive parent, they don’t much care to be called out on their behavior. Something about people knowing about their indiscretions decreasing their credibility.
Which is why they HATE the media. And if you think I’m wrong about this, well, I’ve got some e-mails between Paso Robles Police Chief Lisa Solomon and various police and city staff members to back me up. Essentially, the city of Paso Robles likes to entangle local media in a catch-22. In one hand they hold the “public” records we need to construct a factual article just out of reach, and with the other they shake their fist in rage when reporters only report the information that was available.
So, we get a few measly e-mails out of our 32 public records requests. Before my meditation box, I’d probably be crying foul. But with the benefit of my newfound inner peace, I’m making the most of what I’ve got.
Starting with the fact that Solomon called various city council members “fucking morons” for not consulting her first before speaking to the press in an Aug. 12, 2011, e-mail to sidekick Lt. Tim Murphy. The document we received didn’t exactly say those words. In point of fact, the redacted version said “[redacted]ing morons.” But it wasn’t terribly difficult to decipher. Of course, neither is it legal to redact information that might make the police chief look bad.
The city’s attorney did acknowledge the redacted word was a bit naughty—no ****ing duh, Paso—and admitted it never should have been removed in the first place. Of course, we can’t help but wonder what else was redacted, and why.
On Aug. 28, Assistant City Clerk Meg Williamson warned Solomon of an impending New Times story: “As a personnel matter, there is a large portion of the story that cannot be told. It is doubtful that the New Times reporting will be balanced or flattering.”
Well gee whiz, Meg, it’s nice to know the definition of “balanced” reporting pairs with flattery of city staff. Screw news if it fails to compliment the police department’s décor. Then Mayor Duane Picanco entered the picture and the music to Our Town piped through a stereo in my meditation box. Somehow, Picanco’s primary concern is the presence of—drum roll please—youths in the park!
Picanco wrote in a Sept. 7, 2011, e-mail to Solomon: “Some of the young individuals create an atmosphere that’s not conducive for tourists, business and some of our older residents. I’m not suggesting that all of the youth using the downtown city park are creating a negative atmosphere. But the language and disrespect when confronted or presence of others is not acceptable by families, tourists, businesses, around the downtown City Park and public facilities.”
The fascist undertones to Picanco’s grumpy old man routine are difficult to ignore. Apparently, the city of Paso Robles only wants a certain type of person enjoying their public parks. Might I suggest a mandatory public park dress code?
Solomon’s response was as follows: “Unfortunately, parks were made for loitering. If there is no illegal behavior associated with the loitering, it is difficult for us to make a case to move people along.”
It is unfortunate that parks were made for loitering. All those wild kids hanging out in a public park listening to music when they could be inside playing video games. It’s a shame. Out of respect for this very legitimate concern, I’ve composed a list of other things that are unfortunate.
1) It’s unfortunate that air is free. Because if it wasn’t, those no-good youths would have to get a job to pay for it and then they wouldn’t be cluttering up the park.
2) It’s unfortunate when city managers—*cough, Jim App, cough*—forget that there’s supposed to be a separation between church and state and attempt to coordinate with churches to stage bizarre interventions against businesses they deem inappropriate.
You’re probably wondering about that last point. Apparently, the integrity of certain North County massage parlors was called into question. Rather than handle the complaints appropriately, following police procedure, on Dec. 28, 2011, App proposed the following to Solomon: “You might also suggest that those who voice concern... organize a modern equivalent of the temperance women (thru local church’s) to stand outside these establishments handing out religious leaflets (basically embarrassing the clientele)—yes, I’m serious.”
Well done, Mr. App. Way to take a potential problem—these massage parlors might have prostitutes, but you can’t really say anything for certain until there’s a proper investigation—and create a much larger one by inciting a self-righteous religious mob against businesses that haven’t even been found guilty of any wrong-doing.
But the crème de la crème, the caketopper of the stupid parade, came from a Nov. 23 e-mail from App to Solomon, which we can reasonably assume is in response to a New Times article criticizing the city’s response to its gang problem: “Just wonderin if’n ewe bee havin nuf time 2 crap on the hit piece”
I can only assume this was App’s attempt at using ebonics, which, if that’s the case, is sort of terribly racist. Unless it’s a really bad Jar Jar Binks impression, in which case he’s the only human who found that character amusing … and it’s still sort of racist.
Shredder is going back in the box. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.