Turf Trouble, Demonstrations, Walk-outs, and Nice Work Around San Luis Obispo County

Turf Trouble: I thought I’d drive through my old Hollywood Hills neighborhood recently during a layover and had a rather bizarre Star Trek encounter. An agitated older gentlemen blocked my way in his SUV, leaned out of his window to interrogate me: Did I live here? Why was I driving on his street?’ He droned on and on about people turning around in his driveway and breaking his retaining wall.

Bruce CurtisI thought he looked vaguely familiar. When he finally took a breath, I told him I thought he probably had bigger issues than people turning around in his driveway. As I escaped his blockade, I realized he was the actor who played Star Trek Deep Space Nine’s security chief Odo, a control-issue-driven shapeshifter. He must have taken the role too much to heart.

San Luis Obispo County’s control issues landed it in hot water with SCOTUS recently when the high court struck down ordinances controlling the size, color and timing of political signs on private property.

Clearly the supremes have a problem with things that infringe upon free speech. It may have been a sharp rebuke to our current cultural burden of political correctness but county officials thumbed their noses, refusing to rescind the ordinance. They merely agreed to no longer enforce it.

Board Demonstration: Progressivist protesters noted the death of mental health patient Andrew Holland by shutting down Supervisor’s March 20th meeting. The focus was recently released surveillance video of Holland being strapped to a restraint chair before he died at San Luis Obispo County jail.

The images of Holland’s death are not for the squeamish; after 46 hours in restraint, he’s released, rolls onto the floor and loses consciousness. The coroner’s report ruled Holland’s death was caused by a blood clot that traveled to his lungs but the optics are grim; deputies joking with each other as paramedics tried to revive him.

Chair John Peschong called for a 10-minute recess, but protesters didn’t leave, so Peschong ordered the room cleared. Protesters then filed out, chanting slogans about justice.

Solutions are few; the system broke down when jail officials were told there were no vacant bed for Holland at the county’s mental health facility. It turns out that wasn’t true.

The protesters’ goal is the ouster of Sheriff Ian Parkinson, and they apparently weren’t willing for voters to weigh in at the June election. The urgency is driven by protester’s claim Holland’s death is part of a pattern of county sanctioned torture. The rest of us simply want to know why county staff responsible for Holland’s death haven’t been identified and sanctioned.

Walk-Out Lock-In: The irony of Atascadero student’s planned walk-out to protest school violence was itself canceled after social media threats against participating schools.

Similar walkouts countywide went off without a hitch. The events were reportedly sponsored by anti-gun lobby, Women’s March Youth EMPOWER.

Atascadero students were instructed to shelter in place, until midmorning, when officials texted parents that things were under control. The student originating the threat was found and arrested.

Whether the anti-gun crowd diverts attention from the education system dysfunction and law enforcement failures that led to the school shooting in Parkland Florida, remains to be seen, but will parents swallow the suggested solution, “schoolags,” campuses with taller fences, body scanners, swat teams and video surveillance?

It may be time to admit our aging, underperforming and dangerous public school systems have passed their sell-by date. Reimagined education might combine the best of resource teachers and home school nurture. Imagine an informal place where students learn via creative online curricula, then gather for academy enrichment classes and sports. Imagine a system run by stakeholders, not bureaucrats. Don’t stop me now, I’m on a roll.

Last One Out: Our county housing crisis pinged the national scope when MSNBC broke a story about high taxes and housing costs driving an exodus from California. The network not exactly known for conservative views quoted a San Luis Obispo man leaving for Las Vegas.

Local resident Dave Senser wasn’t looking for glamorous nightlife, he lives on a fixed income that is now too lean to survive in SLO. He’s joining thousands fleeing the golden state for cheaper, if not greener pastures.

“There’s nowhere in the United States that you can find better weather than here,” Senser told the network, but added, “Rents here are crazy, if you can find a place, and they’re going to tax us to death,” referring to $4/gallon gas, the result of a Governor Jerry Brown-authored gas tax hike.

Senser noted Nevada doesn’t even have a state income tax.

County economic summit speaker, Christopher Thornburg of Beacon Economics, says lower income people are fleeing, but more upscale Californians are following, as housing costs hit the soon-to-be formerly rich as seven figure home prices become commonplace.

Citing 2016-2017 census data, Thornburg says that despite healthy job growth, California experienced a net exodus.

Nice Work: Daniel Esenwein shouldn’t have trouble finding an affordable home here. The former assistant Santa Cruz County public works director signed a lucrative deal for director of public works here in San Luis Obispo County for $22,750 per month in wages and benefits.

As comfortable as that is, Esenwein’s contract doesn’t make him the highest paid county employee; it doesn’t put him in the top ten and just barely makes the top twenty. SLO County’s chief executive Administrator Daniel Buckshi pulls down over $334 large, but he’s not the top paid county employee. That honor goes to M. Daisy Llano-Ramos, San Luis Obispo County’s medical director of mental health, who in 2016 reportedly made more than $429,000 in wages, “other pay” and benefits.

Esenwein will supervise 280 employees and hopefully have enough money left over to pave our pot-holed, bumpy county roads, while he’s also supervising the Salinas groundwater basin, among other tasks.