I’ve been called a lot of things. In fact, I’m pretty sure the advent of this column coincided with a boom in thesaurus sales—all so the good folks of SLO County could think of new stuff to call me. But I’ve never been called discriminating. And—mostly—that’s fair. Except when it comes to play dates. I have very strict rules for play dates. 1. I choose the location. Maybe I feel like chillin’ in the sand box. But if I want to go play on the swings, we’re going to go play on the swings. 2. (And, as any whiny kid can tell you, this is the most important) All play date paraphernalia must belong to me. That way, when I get pissed off, I can take my fire truck and refuse to continue playing.
Before you judge too harshly, there are plenty of practitioners of rule two. Some of them are even in seats of power. Take Morro Bay City Councilwoman Nancy Johnson, who, following the recent election, is no longer a member of the council majority. And she’s taking a page from playground hissies to express her displeasure.
Let me fill you in on a little background: Johnson—along with George League, Bill Yates, and Carla Borchard—was part of the group that decided that, rather than put together a stellar proposal for the city’s new wastewater treatment plant, they’d throw some glitter on the current, flawed location and hire consultant Susan McCabe to talk it up to the Coastal Commission. To the tune of $155,000. After it finally became obvious to the City Council that the Coastal Commission wasn’t taking the shiny consultant bait, the new council majority (Jamie Irons, Christine Johnson, and Noah Smukler) voted to recommend that the coastal commission deny the proposal.
It’s worth mentioning that Smukler was around when the previous council put together the failed proposal. To his credit, he voted against it, but he was overruled by the business-friendly majority. It’s also worth mentioning that when Smukler didn’t get his way, he didn’t grab his toy fire truck and stomp away. He stuck around to try to engage the council majority in constructive dialogue, even though he knew he would get voted down. That’s politics. You’re not always on the winning side, and losing gracefully is as important as fighting for what you believe. If you don’t believe me, just ask Obama about what it’s like to work with a Republican House of Representatives. Hey-o!
But now that the tables have turned and Smukler’s on the majority and Johnson’s in the minority, she’s made it clear that she won’t cooperate. And that’s putting it nicely.
At the council’s Jan. 3 special meeting, Johnson pouted her way through the meeting, insisting that they shouldn’t discuss the issue of the wastewater treatment plant until they met with the Cayucos Sanitary District. Unfortunately, that would have been after the coastal commission already shot the project down. But the newly elected majority wanted to go on record as being against the proposal. That was, after all, part of the reason they were elected. And they were vindicated by the 30 or so people who came to speak against the project.
Johnson would dismiss these citizens, arguing, “The speakers here tonight do not represent the majority.” Of course, it’s always interesting to me when local politicians dismiss their vocal constituents by arguing that they have legions of silent, invisible supporters who were simply too busy washing their hair or baking lasagna to come to the meeting. But they feel really strongly about the issue. Really. What makes this statement especially ignorant is the fact that a majority of residents elected the new council majority on the platform of smarter projects and working with the coastal commission rather than against it, as many city officials—Johnson included—have seemed happy to do for so long.
We’ll see how Johnson fares next election (though I personally doubt she’ll even want to run again). Leage said it was useless to state the city’s new position before the coastal commission meeting because the Big Bad Coastal Commission “is going to do what they want to do” anyway. So why bother, right George?
Following the 3-2 vote to recommend denying the project, Johnson read a statement claiming “since it would appear we’re starting over again with a new plant and a new location, it is impossible to know how this would have really ended up.” Really? The commission killing the project isn’t enough to tell you which way the wind blows? She continues: “After this meeting, for better or worse, the three of you will own this project.” Way to be a team player for the good of your city! Later, Johnson said she would refuse to participate in the next coastal commission meeting, where Irons and City Manager Andrea Leuker would address the commission, claiming that if she went, she would tell the commission not to deny the project.
Of course Irons, Smukler, and Johnson made a plea for cooperation and cordial debate, but reason couldn’t pry apart Johnson’s defiantly crossed arms—and frankly, if someone of her age is going to give someone like me a run for my money in the immaturity department, I don’t see her suddenly becoming cooperative overnight. And unfortunately for Morro Bay residents with season tickets, they’re probably going to get an earful of Johnson’s complaints ad nauseum. How do I know this? Well, city council meetings are starting to look an awful lot like the frontier town in Blazing Saddles—everyone’s named Johnson—and Johnson’s husband, Gary, seems more than happy to supply snide public comment directed against anyone who happens to disagree with his wife. Which, in this particular case, is pretty much the entire city. Good luck with that, Gary! Looks like you’re going to be a reliable source of hot air for the foreseeable future, which is actually kinda nice seeing as how it’s been so cold and all.
On a side note, someone remind me to send Johnson a gift basket. I’m thinking something along the lines of a pacifier and box of adult diapers. She might as well look the part she’s obviously decided to play.
No one can compete with Shredder’s hissies. Send pacifiers to firstname.lastname@example.org.