Opinion » Shredder

The pot and the kettle


First, let me get this out of the way.

Last week, I went to town on the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business (COLAB) in Santa Barbara County for hiring the white Steve Bridges—a frequent presidential impersonator—to do a President Barack Obama act at the group’s big upcoming member partay.

People agreed with me. People didn’t. If you flip a few pages back, you can read COLAB’s response. Did you know the group once brought in a black speaker for this same event? My bad.

I’ve basically already said everything
I wanted to say, except for this:

In the days after my words hit the streets, the debate grew beyond my original column. Now, it seems, people want to discuss whether Obama is, in fact, black. COLAB’s Andy Caldwell said on his radio show the day my column came out that he knows black people who doubt whether the prez has any “street cred in the black community.”

My inbox also crammed up with notes from people who questioned Obama’s “relative blackness.” Apparently, it’s not insensitive to poke fun at a black guy who’s actually kind of white because he’s … successful, I guess. Got me there. Obviously, the second that Obama trotted off to an Ivy League school, he traded in his minority card.

But seriously, is that the argument? That real blacks live in—or at least come from—the ghetto? What does “street cred” even mean in this case?

Maybe I’m simplifying it, but at this point, I’m done with this one.

Elsewhere in life, the political community is abuzz about who’s going to be the next to flex their muscle as the new coastal commissioner. Did you get your tickets to the gun show? Boo ya!

Does the rest of the community care? Probably not, though they probably should. Personally, I find it hard to care. It’s like getting excited over curling, which is about as exciting as getting excited over bowling. I’m sad now. That might be because I don’t get to vote who my boss is. John Shoals does. Apart from being a PR goon for PG&E, Shoals is the reigning mayor of Grover Beach. And apart from the fact that this position warrants him the same name recognition as rejected Muppet characters, it also lands him a seat on the City Selection Committee. The committee has the exquisite pleasure of nominating people to the Coastal Commission. So when SLO Mayor Jan Marx and Arroyo Grande Councilman Joe Costello came whimpering for a nomination, they got the proverbial bird.

Instead, Shoals and a profoundly smug Morro Bay mayor named Bill Yates said, “Naah, let’s push for Pismo City Councilwoman Mary Ann Reiss. What’s that? You say the governor already told her no? Try again anyway. Maybe we can slip her in while Brown is napping.”

It might have been that Reiss is pro-development, pro-business, and dare I say someone PG&E can depend on for a fair shake when it tries to relicense Diablo Canyon. And don’t you go thinking that it’s questionable for Shoals to vote on someone who could very likely serve as a regulator for his employer. If that were the case, you might have to call it a conflict of interest. But you’d be wrong, silly goose.

It’s government 101: If someone
accuses you of having a conflict, inform them that there is no conflict. If they insist, or you just really want to rub it in, get one of your attorneys to confirm there was no conflict. Then go poop on their doorstep just to make sure everyone knows who’s boss.

I’m speaking, of course, of good old SLO, where a conflict is only a conflict if we say it’s a conflict.

Matt Blackstone, a police union bigwig, has been harping on the city for hiring Michael Gunther as the facilitator for City Manager Katie Lichtig’s financial task force. Blackstone alleges Gunther is just a stooge for the Chamber of Commerce, which gets fat loads of cash from the city and doesn’t want to see its slice of the pie getting carved out for a bunch of grubbing police and firefighters.

The city announced in a press release that it conducted a confidential investigation and found that Gunther
has no financial interest, therefore no conflict. First, I find it funny that they announced a confidential investigation. It’s kind of like shouting, “DON’T LOOK OVER HERE!”

The city’s response didn’t really fly with Blackstone and crew, who issued a response saying the city screwed up because Gunther was on the chamber’s legislative council and became vice chair of the board of directors immediately after the task force’s last meeting. Blackstone’s real point, though, is that the city failed to hire an independent investigator. I’d agree with him, but most times when cities hire someone to investigate one of their own, it turns in their favor. But I’m willing to take the city’s word for it. They’ve got a strong record of transparency, right? 

The Shredder is conflicted. Send notes to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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