Opinion » Shredder

What's your status?

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I wonder what 2018 would have been like if Donald Trump wasn't our president. There probably wouldn't have been so many protests in downtown SLO or on Cal Poly's campus. Race and gender issues may not have gotten the attention they deserved. The local environmental community probably wouldn't have pulled together to "fight" against imagined offshore drilling and the threat of seeing oil wells on certain special pieces of federal land in SLO County. County and city elections might not have been so fraught.

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The insults thrown back and forth between sides certainly wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining or depressing. And nonprofits advocating for liberal causes have probably never raised so much money based solely on the president's stances against the causes they fight for.

Panic on both sides of the political spectrum put the electorate into perpetual fight or flight mode, which is stressful and not great for your health. Ask my mechanic. I was told to stop grinding my gears so much at night.

But people were involved. They spoke up and showed that they cared about issues. SLO County residents woke up to the heady issues happening at home, taking angst over the national clusterfuck and turning it into fuel for trying to change things in their community.

The attempt to oust SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson from office may have worked if his opponents could have fielded a better candidate than Greg Clayton, whose main claim to fame (other than being a retired SLO city police officer) was that he wasn't Parkinson. Activists actually paraded into the SLO County Board of Supervisors Chambers with a man on a stretcher symbolizing Andrew Holland, a schizophrenic inmate who died in custody after being tied down to a restraint chair for almost two full days in 2017. The activists refused to leave, and just stood at the front of the chambers with green signs that asked for Parkinson's resignation.

Supervisor John Peschong, the chair of the board, was so flustered he almost couldn't speak! It was a beautiful thing perpetuated by something terrible, and yet Parkinson weathered the storm, promising changes amid an investigation into jail deaths (there have been 13 since he took over in 2011) by the FBI, scrutiny from local news media and the public, and being caught in a tailspin of half-truths. We really couldn't find anyone better to run against him than Clayton?? WTF SLO County? We need to do better.

And the guy who ran against Parkinson's BFF for life, SLO County District Attorney Dan Dow? Also a crappy candidate. It's so obvious that Dow's track record is shady at best. He favors law enforcement, treats Parkinson like he walks on water, didn't hold anyone accountable in the wake of the Holland death, fudges up white-collar crime cases, and can't seem to prosecute perpetrators of sexual misconduct and/or assault unless it's so obvious he doesn't have a choice (and, I'm not pointing fingers at all here, especially if it's a police officer with the Paso Robles Police Department)!

Dow's challenger in the 2018 election was a guy who had his first name legally changed to Judge! Judge Mike Cummins. Seriously? Come on!

Meanwhile, oil companies such as Chevron and Sentinel Peak Resources pumped more than $8 million greenbacks into a fight over Measure G, which would have banned fracking and new oil and gas wells in the unincorporated areas of the county. Unprecedented and obnoxiously stupid show-offs. That's about $28 per county resident, which is more than all the county level candidates put together raised to run in the June primary—between $5 and $6 per resident, if you were wondering (damn cheapskates).

Everyone was calling everyone a liar either way, no matter how much money was spent per county resident, but No on Measure G spent about $888 per vote it got against the measure. Was it worth it? I hope so, because that cash might not work the next time around.

This historically red county is turning purplish. Although a lot of residents are simply sick of either party, the number of registered Dems overtook Republicans for the first time. With more than 98,000 registered voters in the county as of Nov. 7, 2018 (the day after the election), about 35,000 were registered as Democrats, 31,000 as Republicans, and 25,000 were decline to state.

And the next generation of lively voters came out of the 18-year-old starting gate with verve and anger. Students from local high schools streamed out of classrooms after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, angry about the shit they have to put up with—the fear on top of teenage angst that a shooter will open fire on their campus. The anger that elected officials don't seem to care enough to actually change anything about it. The audacity that some adults have to say, "That's the way it is, schools need to have more security and guns on campus."

Students at Cal Poly fought back against hate, putting the school in the national spotlight over racially charged incidents that could be blamed on ignorance, but shouldn't have happened. The protest openly questioned the leadership of President Jeffrey Armstrong, who has marched with students against racism in past years.

Questioning leadership and challenging the status quo is at the root of democracy. And I, for one, am thankful that our president has given us the opportunity to question his idiocy and the trickle down that followed. Δ

The Shredder is always challenging your skills at shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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