Opinion » Shredder

Messocracy

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Democracy is messy. Free speech is legally protected but frequently unwelcome. And if you think I’m talking about the shit show that is the Republican Party presidential primary, I’m not. We’ve got messy democracy and selfish free speech right here in River City … or at least in Templeton and SLO Town.

Did you hear the news? Psycho out-of-towners are going to flood Templeton with their greenhouse gas spewing vehicles, cause horrible traffic congestion, and probably do psycho stuff that will endanger the lives of local residents … at least according to The NIMBY Naysayers of the North County who worked hard to protest against the psychiatric hospital the SLO County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved on March 15, despite some very vocal critics.

Sorry Murray Powell, David La Rue, and Bill Pelfrey, but this isn’t about your NIMBY ways. I already shredded you guys for your objection to this much needed facility back on Jan. 21. No, this shred is for the wives of two elected public officials who unsuccessfully protested the hospital. Both Martha Bordonaro, wife of SLO County Assessor Tom Bordonaro, and Wendy Dow, wife of SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow, protested the hospital in one way or another. Both families live in Templeton. Co-inky-dink? Probably not.

Maybe you’re thinking, ”Hey, I’m married and my spouse and I don’t agree about everything. Is it fair to call out local pols over comments and opinions held by their spouses?” Well, since both women opted to make public comment on this project, yeah, it’s fair. These people are supposed to be doing what’s best for the community at large, not what’s best for the property values of their North County homes.

Why are Mrs. Dow, Mrs. Bordonaro, and other opponents of the facility worried about things like “traffic” and “drainage” when they didn’t raise a peep about these issues when two similar projects that didn’t happen to be for mentally ill people were going through the public comment period?

Weird, right? 

Opponents of the hospital prefer to spread unwarranted fear while completely ignoring the very obvious need for such a facility: Currently, people seeking inpatient treatment have to travel down to Ventura or up to Santa Rosa to find a facility similar to what’s now been approved. Frankly, I have to give kudos to the supes, especially—and it’s hard to believe I’m saying this—4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton, who saw through the opposition’s specious arguments against the hospital. 

Compton noted that if the opposition was really against greenhouse gas emissions, they’d welcome a facility that would save people from having to drive hours away to get the care they need.

Even Michael Manchak of the business-promoting Economic Vitality Corporation—also a Templeton resident—was against the project because many of the patients the new facility will serve may come from outside the area. Huh? Isn’t that a good thing? Won’t their families come with the patients, maybe stay in hotels, go out to eat, and add to local businesses’ coffers? What’s the deal, Mikey? You like tourist dollars but not dollars from families of people seeking help?

Hey, all these naysayers have every right to get up and voice their selfish, jerky concerns. That’s free speech, and that’s messy democracy in action. My calling them self-serving NIMBYs who aren’t looking out for the greater good is also free speech.

And while we’re on the subject of people who seem unconcerned with the betterment of their communities and fostering more inclusive and collaborative democracy, may I draw your attention to the proposed Integrity in our Elections Ordinance, a proposed law spearheaded by 24th Congressional District candidate Bill Ostrander.

The idea behind the law is to limit the influence of big money in local elections, and if the SLO City Council eventually approves it, we’d be only the second city in the nation, after Seattle, to have such a law. The idea is that every local voter would be issued a “democracy voucher” good for a $20 donation to the candidate of his or her choice.

Instead of a few big donors having undue influence of candidates, those candidates would instead need to get the support of thousands of local residents. Dark money is just as corrosive locally as it is on the national level. Finding a way to control this corrosion locally sounds like a good idea … unless you’re Mayor Jan Marx or Councilmember Carlyn Christianson, who during the March 15 council meeting argued such an ordinance isn’t needed because the public hasn’t really asked for it.

Hmm. Did the public ask for stepped up enforcement of dog leash laws? Did the public ask for the no duck feeding in city parks law? Did the public ask for the no smoking in outdoor public places law? No. Maybe a small vocal minority did, like Ostrander’s Citizens Congress group has asked the council to adopt this public financing ordinance. Despite Marx and Christianson’s objections, the council voted to allow staff to look into the ordinance. 

And that, friends, is democracy in action—beautiful, messy, free speech-filled democracy.

The Shredder will not be silenced … except by pizza, mmm. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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