I love a good game of make believe. Unlike most other games, I’m not at a disadvantage because I have the lung capacity of a 93-year-old who recreationally takes hits of carbon dioxide off tailpipes. I throw on the pair of high heels that were left on my lawn after I turned the hose on a pair of drunk college students going at it like stray cats, and—voila!—I’m the queen of England. Of course, you also need a lubricated stick for that, but who doesn’t have a half dozen of those lying around in their broom closet?
It looks like I’m not the only one acting out my dirty little fantasies. Since former SLO city councilman Andrew Carter abandoned his post on Feb. 19 for the greener pastures of pencil pushing in Guadalupe, the city council has been juggling several games of make believe. On the one hand the rinkydink little group is behaving like the little kids in big boy and girl pants in Washington. Basically, they’re engaging in petty, partisan one-upmanship, rendering them incapable of actually accomplishing anything. On the other hand, they’re pretending they’re not divided along political lines. Which is a strange claim to make because everybody knows the council has been as useful as a jockstrap at a roller derby bout since Carter’s.
In one corner, you have the Democratic wing—Jan Marx, John Ashbaugh, and all the political baggage that comes with being a bought-and-paid-for member of the SLO County Democratic Party. In the other, you have conservative Dan Carpenter and Kathy Smith. Though the Republican party has been less heavy-handed in this election, you’re probably not going to find Carpenter and Smith getting freaky with nature or composting human waste.
Though the role of councilperson is technically bipartisan, it doesn’t take a member of Mensa to figure out that the SLO Democratic Party has its patchouli-smelling fingers all over this race. I’m getting a whiff of lefty PR flakkie Cory Black all over candidate and party darling Carlyn Christianson, who’s got her own head so far up Marx that they’re being studied as the first hybrid human-centipede.
Back in February, the council opted for a $65,000 vote-by-mail election instead of simply appointing the runner-up. That runner-up was Democratic Party candidate Jeff Aranguena, and Marx and Ashbaugh appeared ready to give him the seat right then and there until members of the public—including Aranguena himself—touted a special election as the most transparent way to fill the seat.
Since that decision, candidates have come and gone. A field that was once seven strong has now been whittled down to just three. And guess which lines those three are divided along? If you guessed political parties, you’re smarter than you look—except you with the glasses. You look like the kid I cheated off in geometry class. You’ve got Christianson, who never saw a Marx-Ashbaugh vote she didn’t like, and Paul Brown, who’s expected to represent the “business community”—aka, conservative interests. Then there’s Don Hedrick. You know, the guy who rides around on his motorized chariot looking like a fallen Norse god. If your biggest concerns are chem trails and the UN breaking into your house in the middle of the night to take your guns and drink your beer, then Don’s your man. Think political allegiances should be left at the door? Good, because he hasn’t got any.
So first Aranguena dropped out, and the Democrats endorsed Christianson. Liberal candidate John Spatafore saw the writing on the wall and dropped his bid, not wanting to pull votes from the Democratic darling. Now the conservatives are doing the exact same thing: posturing to see who’s going to be the most popular candidate, and bowing out rather than splitting votes. First, Spike’s owner Andrea Miller bailed on the campaign, followed recently by Kevin Rice.
The endgame of all this maneuvering is that one camp is going to have the über-important single-vote majority, and for the next year it’s going to be a one-sided free-for-all. And that would suit both sides just fine. Of course, if you ask the current council members why they have or haven’t endorsed a candidate, they’ll say they’re supporting “diversity” on the council. I’m sure once the race is over they’ll start a spoon train while wrapped snugly in a rainbow flag, but for now voters have fewer candidates to choose from because both sides are playing a not terribly subtle game of politics.
A week or so ago, partisan tension boiled over way when Carpenter chastised Marx and Ashbaugh for endorsing Christianson and refusing to humor him with a discussion about whether or not individuals who sit on advisory committees should run for office. Christianson, it so happens, sits on a task force and Carpenter accused her of using the position to curry favor for her council bid.
When Carpenter attempted to agendize the issue, Marx and Ashbaugh played defense for Christianson, throwing Carpenter into an even bigger hissy fit. Meanwhile, everyone knows Carpenter’s just trying to shut Christianson down because she’s the liberal candidate. And he’s making a hypocrite of himself in the process because he seems to have forgotten that he was a planning commissioner himself when he first ran for council.
Carpenter attempted to defend his actions by again using the term “diversity” as a crutch, but we all know his definition of diversity is somebody who won’t vote like Marx and Ashbaugh. Call a spade a spade, Dan. After they’d finally beat that particular nonsense horse into submission, Danny Boy officially endorsed Brown. So much for bipartisanship, I guess.
And now you understand why I wiggle into the pantyhose I found next door for tri-weekly afternoon tea sessions in Buckingham Palace. The royal family might be inbred and spoiled, but at least nobody has to bear the burden of having elected them.
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