Opinion » Shredder

I told you so

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Everybody loves to say “I told you so.” Old, passively racist grandmas who watch Fox News love to say it. Liberal hipsters who like their organic fair trade coffee with a side of trendy music love to say it. Smokey the seal would probably love to say it, if he weren’t imprisoned in a subpar aquarium facility that presents itself as a rehabilitation center—and if he could speak English. Boyfriends love to say it. Girlfriends love to say it. And when I finish making the point I’m slowly inching toward, I’ll petition whatever happens to be the appropriate government agency about making it our national motto.

One of the few perks of withering away in this dungeon we call an office, griping about everyone’s incompetence, is that I’m frequently presented with the opportunity to rub my superior decision-making skills deep into someone’s face. I’d like to pretend that my first response to finding city officials wallowing in muck of their own foolish making is to step back and thoughtfully assess whether a good ol’ fashioned I-told-you-so dance is in order, but the truth is, I throw on my sweatband and I victory cabbage patch like it never went out of style.

So now SLO County is negotiating with David Weyrich over the roughly $900,000 he owes in property tax debt. Did I mention that this is the same man Atascadero deified as its fiscal savior, the white knight who would lure tourists and help change the city’s image? And Atascadero officials are scratching their heads over what the failure of the third restaurant to occupy the Carlton Hotel means for the city’s image as “The Heart of the Central Coast.” (After losing three restaurants in eight years, let’s just be thankful it’s the heart and not the stomach.)

I’ve been questioning the city’s decision to pump public funds into a Weyrich-affiliated business ever since the geniuses over in city hall decided that a man who blew through $200 million he didn’t even earn (the money came from his father-in-law, who ran a $600 million company) probably wasn’t the most financially savvy fish in the pond. My exact words in “The Weyrich Way,” a column from Aug. 31, 2011, were: “The real heart of this issue is the message Atascadero is sending, that the city is comfortable pumping public bucks into a businessman with a history of discrimination and failed businesses … I guess the city’s making its priorities clear. Atascadero is standing by their man, not unlike Tina Turner or the bimbos dating Charlie Sheen. Just don’t come crying to me when you lose a big wad of cash (probably) ...  and wind up lackeys in Weyrich’s Walmart scooter gang.”

And while we’ve already established that I love to say I told you so as much as the next snarky, anonymous columnist for a weekly newspaper who lives in its grandparents’ basement and daylights as a manicurist so it can huff nail polish fumes because it can’t afford anything else, what I don’t like is the disingenuous show of confusion from the city eggheads who made the decision to cast Weyrich as their white knight. Which means that either the city of Atascadero was so desperate for someone, anyone, to invest in the city that they didn’t care about Weyrich’s nightmarish track record—the man was the subject of a New York Times article titled “How to go broke in style,” for heaven’s sake—or they were so chocolate-fudge dense that they didn’t view his financial track record as relevant.

I’m guessing the city of Atascadero is also a little unclear on the criteria for a knight in shining armor. Requirement one: physical fitness. I’m just going to avoid commenting on this one. Frankly, it’s too easy, and I like to work for my chuckles. Criteria the second: If you’re looking for a or business that will lure tourists and their pretty, pretty money, to your town, consider choosing someone who is good with money. I’m not suggesting you haul Donald Trump and his head rug away from his reality shows. No, simply go with someone who maybe didn’t blow $200 million. And finally, if you’re working on a campaign that involves branding the city, maybe your posterboy shouldn’t be a known homophobe whose brief adventures in publishing ended after his reporters walked out on the paper because they couldn’t stomach his bigotry. If you’re going to spend $120,000 promoting the Carlton—and Atascadero—as “The Heart of the Central Coast,” it might be a good idea to cast the spotlight on business owners who don’t have a track record of denying services to homosexuals. Unless you happen to feel that’s a good representation of Atascadero, in which case I know a lot of people who would be happy to have an ethical (rather than just aesthetic) excuse to drive right past your city.

Besides his being accused of pressuring journalists to perpetuate his homophobic doctrine through the now-closed newspapers, Weyrich’s hotel Villa Toscana refused to host ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. Happily, the hotel—along with pretty much all of his other ventures—failed and went into foreclosure. Then, in 2003, Weyrich somehow convinced the city to break its no-billboards policy to give him exclusive rights to six large billboards on Highway 101. The city seemed to be under the impression that Weyrich would use the space to advertise Atascadero, but he instead promoted Villa Toscana in nearby Paso Robles. Of course, the highly principled Weyrich insisted on a morality clause that the billboards not be used to advertise tobacco, pornography, profanity, or alcoholic beverages. Then he apparently remembered he was a winery owner and added a subclause protecting wine, and vineyards. Because wine doesn’t get you drunk.

I could go on, but my level of disgust with the city of Atascadero is actually starting to overshadow my immense pleasure in saying “I told you so,” so I think I’ll just quit while I’m still sober enough to take my victory cabbage patch to the streets.

Shredder would be happy to blow $200 million of someone else’s money. Send cash to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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