Opinion » Shredder

Money matters


Aaaand they’re off! It’s Ian Parkinson in the lead. Jerry Lenthall is a full length behind and wait, wait, oh! Ben Hall and Jose Cortez are nipping at his heels! Michael Teixeira is just coming round the bend and long shot Mark Adams is expectedly limping out of the gate.

While the rest of you were glued to the Super Bowl, I was stuffing my face and eagerly watching the sheriff’s race reach full stride. Because in politics, as in sports, you can always spot the real players by how much they’re worth. It’s probably the reason why Parkinson’s campaign guru, Cory Black, happily disseminated the early tallies showing that his guy is way out ahead—financially speaking. Cooooome on Parkinson, Shredder needs a new pair of shoes.

One way of looking at this is, “Hey! Look how popular my guy is.” Another way is, “Hey! Look how indebted my guy is.”

Let’s face it: The sheriff’s election will be a head-bobbing snore fest while each candidate paints a shade of gray on the available canvas of issues. Let me guess: Crime is bad; drugs are bad; the last sheriff was atrocious. Really, though, most barely competent police impersonators could do a better job than Pat Hedges so long as they can resist the urge to wiretap their own deputies for four years.

What’s really being sold to voters isn’t content so much as image: who we see most based on how many bumper stickers and buttons they can afford, which is exactly what Black is banking on. I already have a Parkinson sticker on my bumper, and I have no idea who put it there. Ninjas perhaps?

According to Black, Parkinson’s wallet is already stuffed with $77,102, and the candidate filing deadline is still a month off. He’s using that cash to stomp all over Lenthall, who has a piddly $21,319, followed by the other candidates mentioned earlier.

I’m still bitter after the Obama-McCain record-setting political telethon, which showed that money and politics go together like lipstick and pigs. If there’s any doubt that big campaign donors expect something in return, consider the following from the New York Times:

Kelly S. King, a lobbyist for a collection of the country’s biggest banks, told the Times, “‘If the president doesn’t become a little more balanced and centrist in his approach, then he will likely lose that support.’” Support here means cash flow so long as the puppet strings are taut. Banks are mad at Obama for speaking against them and they know where to hit him. Bang, zoom, right to the wallet. To spite Obama, they pulled money from Democrats—who’ve typically enjoyed such support—and turned it over to Republicans. JPMorgan Chase, for example, pumped $30,000 worth of revenge into Republican campaigns, the Times reported. In short: Play nice or play cheap.

It’s much safer to keep everything secret. Ask Chip Visci, the former Trib publisher turned Cal Poly communications drone. Barely a year into his new role as the holder of information rather than the seeker, Visci is defending Cal Poly’s reluctance to disclose all of its financial records. It’s odd when a former newspaperman advocates concealing a public institution’s records.

  Indeed, most California universities are fighting a Senate bill by San Francisco Democrat Leeland Yee. The bill—which has legislative support but probably won’t survive because state universities have defeated similar proposals in the past with help from the governor’s veto pen—would require universities to essentially follow the same disclosure rules as other public agencies in the state.

You should read the piece about it in the Jan. 25 Mustang Daily, in which the reporter calls out Visci over his poppycock reasons for defending the secrecy of such nonprofits as the Cal Poly Foundation, which oversees the bookstore and other aspects of the school that aren’t vulnerable to public records requests. Visci said something to the effect that keeping such finances secret is necessary to prevent exploitation of textbook prices and other disastrous outcomes. It’s the Mad Lib approach to public records: “We value transparency and we’re so transparent already, but if we show you everything it will actually end up hurting you as bad as a (NOUN) to the head.” Then they rub their thumb and index fingers together to emphasize the big bucks at stake.

When a university doesn’t allow access to things like donor names, we get the butchering of Michael Pollan’s speech because Harris Ranch threatened to pull a $500,000 donation last year. The Daily pointed this fact out, to which Visci rebutted there’s no issue with mysterious donors having undo control because the university is never influenced by big money. (Except when they are.) And don’t forget more transparency will end up hurting you. BOO! I’m not quite sure how it works, either, but still it sounds bad. AAAAGGGHHH!

Sorry to scare you like that. Breathe in; breathe out. Except all you SLO farmers out there. Everything’s hunky-dory again. After the Downtown Association circus that sent the town into an uproar over the fate of our street fair we always thought was a farmers’ market, Downtown Association and Farmers’ Market Association leaders reached an agreement. As far as I can tell, the agreement puts things back where they were before the association decided to put the farmers out to pasture. Begging the questions: How did the association not see this coming? And why did we have to go through this in the first place? Bygones, I suppose. Love you, Debs. No hard feelings. Be my valentine? J

Reach WHOA! the shredder AGH! at EEK! shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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