Opinion » Street Talk

I'm outta here


So the Lakota Sioux are seceding from the United States. Word is that they're declaring independence and forming their own country. They'll have their own passports and driver's licenses and create a tax-free paradise.

Sounds blissful, but I had to read about it in USA Today. I'm surprised I didn't get a memo, since I'm 1/512th Lakota Sioux. Maybe it's because I don't live in the Nebraska-Dakotas-Wyoming-Montana area. Or maybe the note got caught in my e-mail spam filter. Either way, I was disappointed. But, ever plucky and abominable--or is that indomitable?--I turned my disappointment into inspiration.

I'm forming my own nation. I don't have any historic treaties to renounce, but I have plenty of reasons to want to leave. First of all, I don't like any of the presidential candidates. I don't like the caucuses making such a big deal about whether independent voters are pushing John McCain forward or whether Hillary Clinton got a bump because she cried and proved that she's human--or at least organic. I don't like election season at all, except for the attack ads.

Reason No. 12 to secede (I'm skipping down my list): The economy isn't going to win any prizes anytime soon. Oh, I heard people blaming the media for being Chicken Little-type whiners whose cry of "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" just might panic people into thinking it really is falling, and thus create a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I cast my eye to experts, not gut feelings about slow real estate markets and trickle-down stuff. I slept through economics classes in high school and college anyway, so I need someone else to tell me when to buy and when to spend, when to invest and when to save, when to worry and when to buy a cherry-red 2008 Porsche Cayman.

To that end, Bill Watkins is the man. When the director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project said not to worry, I didn't worry. Back in November, he told a room full of nail-biters, "I'm here to tell you things aren't as bad as you think they are."

Now, I hear, he's telling us that we're in for a rough ride in 2008, economically speaking, thanks to troubles at the county, state, and national level. In my own nation-state, I won't have to worry about the economy, beyond how weak the U.S. dollar is compared to the Shredder kopeck.

Here's reason No. 142 to secede: The nice guys are taking over the leadership positions. You may have missed it, but Atascadero's Mike Brennler has officially shortened his name from Mayor Pro Tem to Mayor. He's a self-proclaimed good-government type of official. Zzzz. But I'm more concerned with what's going on with the county Board of Supervisors, where the chairman is now Jim Patterson, taking over for Jerry Lenthall.

Patterson took over on Jan. 8 with a jab at Lenthall, noting that the former chairman had presided over a historic number of meetings that went past 5 p.m. (which is when KCBX's radio broadcast coverage ends, and thus the antiseptic sunshine of public observation turns to the dark, wet, mold-fostering climate of public inaccessibility. Whew!).

I could immediately see a difference. Say what you will about Lenthall, but the 6-foot, 13-inch former cop could shut people up. He didn't care if it was a Bad Motha' or Mother Teresa speaking: After two minutes he shut them up. Shut them down. Shut them every which way.

When Patterson took over, he immediately started giving people extra minutes and, I think, was tossing flowers and flashing the peace sign instead of banging the gavel. I'm not positive because I was listening on the radio (before 5, remember), but anyone with at least half an ear could definitely tell the difference.

I don't like the change. The single biggest problem with government meetings is the boredom created by citizen speeches, and a leader who doesn't recognize this fact is no leader to me. Without a strong leader, government meetings are no different from community access cable. If this continues, the Los Osos people will all start showing up again.

Now that I've given you literally hundreds of reasons to support my secession from this great nation, I'd like to point out one more thing before I whip out the first draft of my new Bill of Rights.

Was it just me, or did anybody else notice that, on the day The Tribune lost power and had to scramble from Fresno to Atascadero to produce any semblance of a newspaper, they actually produced a pretty damn good newspaper?

Granted, there weren't any sports, but there also were hardly any ads, and even though they only printed a small edition, it was packed with interesting local, state, and national news. Nice work, guys, so I'm going to throw the Trib a biscuit or a baguette or a brisket or whatever it is they toss around there on the editorial page. Maybe it took an emergency to remind them that when it comes down to it, their core service to the community is to provide news, not celebrity gossip and articles on room makeovers.

But here I am, blabbering on like I don't have several branches of government to separate into a delicate balance of power. And by the way, I'm accepting applications for a secretary of defense, so shoot me your resume if you think you qualify.

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