Commentary on the June City Council Meetings
and Anything Else That Riles Up my Demons.
by Sandra Beebe
June 14, 2010 City Council Meeting
This was the first City Council meeting since the election. During the Pubic Comment period Mr. Yates attempted to be gracious to Councilwoman Winholtz, to whom he lost, and to Councilman Grantham whom he bettered. He was mostly successful, but there appeared to me to be a slight smirk in the corner of his mouth. Of course, it was probably just a reflection on my TV set.
There will be, as everyone knows, a runoff for the position of mayor between Ms. Winholtz and Mr. Yates–the yin and yang of local politics. There could not be an easier choice to be made, but I have no faith that the outcome will be one that will better our town. Mr. Yates is petulant and makes impulsive decisions that could adversely affect our town's future. Ms. Winholtz always learns the facts before she draws her conclusions.
The business session of the meeting took care of tasks that were before them but of little controversy.
The infamous Molly the Trolley will be sold to the San Luis Lighthouse Keepers, who have graciously agreed to loan it back every December so that the town may use it for their annual Santa event. This may be my favorite town happening because it involves every citizen who sticks their nose out of their door. It brings delighted, squealing children running to gather up their gift from Santa. I had the privilege of riding it one Christmas season and it is a very sweet memory.
Two members have resigned from the Public Works Advisory Board (PWAB). Their resignation was accepted by the Council. I have been told by some who joined that board how disappointed they were and how little influence they feel the board has. I think I recall that Councilman Smukler had a plan to utilize the PWAB for some city tasks. I wonder what happen to his excellent idea?
The 2010/11 budget was discussed extensively and was finally approved, with two items to be brought back. The discussion of the city's Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) was tabled until another meeting.
Both Councilman Smukler and Grantham brought up the recent vandalism of our cherished Rock. As many of you have seen for yourselves these vandals who struck the Rock had no concept of what it means to our town's residents. If you missed the video of their destructive behavior Mike Baird saved the link. Be forewarned–it will break your heart.
Many of our town's finest, including participants from State Parks, the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Morro Bay, the Police Department, Harbor Staff, Councilpersons Grantham and Smukler, and other volunteers of local angels have been working on the removal of the paint. At this writing it has been 50% removed–most of the success reported from sand blasting–and another workday is coming up. This assault on the Rock—a symbol of our uniqueness—from these four young men is an injury not only to its beauty, but a molestation of the spirit of all of us.
As he generally does, Councilman Smukler saw some good come out of this adversity, for he felt the esprit de corps of Morro Bay residents working together was inspiring. Don't you just love this guy? Let's hope he is our future—not the likes of those young men who damaged our collective psyche with their spray cans of paint.
Also at the City Council meeting, an appeal was upheld and the Planning Commission's decision overturned so that the owners of the establishment at 571 Embarcadero would be allowed to do a modest enlargement of their outdoor seating.
Speaking of Councilman Smukler, and it is always a pleasure to do so, he helped spearhead a program involving architecture graduate students at Cal Poly. This project was a classroom exercise to redesign Morro Bay's downtown area for the future. He asked the City Council to make this a priority of the Planning Commission and to approve the continuation of this study and the work of the committee of local residents who are functioning in conjunction with the students. The Council, more or less, approved this with the caveat that no money can be used for this project at the current time. (Read More)
June 7th Planning Commission Meeting
The proposals by the students were actually given at the Planning Commission's previous meeting. On June 7th, Cal Poly's City and Regional Planning Graduate Class conducted their presentations of the Downtown Enhancement Project. Three groups presented their vision of what our downtown area could become. All were quite lofty in their goals and none seem to completely capture that inexplicable quality that drew many of us here. I know that our friends and neighbors who own shops in that area are suffering financially. I just hope that the transformation is accomplished in such a way as to improve the plight of the shop owners without destroying the soul of this uncommon town.
Gary Ream (who always seems to have a sparkle in his eyes) from the Historical Society seemed to be the most realistic person who spoke during the period of public input. He feels the first step could be accomplished by simply naming the downtown area Historic Old Town and mentioned that the Society already has a brochure for a walking tour of that area. He commented that the proposals were too expensive, but that small improvements were more a reality. He continued that pedestrian friendly areas have not worked in other cities and that many of these municipalities are trying to get rid of them.
Gary Christensen, who identified himself as the president of the Morro Bay Lions' Club, spoke of the need to chose a plan and go forth with it. However, at the end of the public comment period he came back, which is not allowed, and spoke with an angry undertone and delivered a political diatribe that was quite inappropriate at this meeting.
Tom Laurie (whom I don't know but when I Googled him, he was listed as a local contractor) spoke of his vision of Morro Bay Boulevard— 3-4 story buildings with the tree canopy removed. He went on to explain that the trees are only needed for shade for about 10 days a year, so their removal would be of little impact. Betty Winholtz, whom I observed sitting behind him, appeared to almost fall out of her chair when he stated his rather unique opinion about our beautiful trees. Myself, I am grateful I am married to a physician. He was needed to revive me after my cardiac arrest.
Apparently, Mr. Laurie somehow missed the oxygen-carbon dioxide paradigm during his high-school science classes and also considers human habitat paramount over those of our bird population. When you enter Morro Bay on the boulevard, just past Kern, you are in for a visual treat as you see the canopy of trees ending in a view of the bay and the rock. I weep at the thought of those gone.
The bottom line for me in the redevelopment of the downtown area is that we not lose what is unique while trying to improve the area for those shops located there. Can the area be made to look more attractive? Certainly. But we must not destroy that indefinable essence and charm of Morro Bay. I fear those who anticipate making the most money off this destruction will win. Certainly, the two over-sized buildings on the corner of Shasta and Morro Bay Boulevard have already begun to erode those distinctive Morro Bay qualities.
June 28th City Council Meeting
The meeting began with a tribute to departing Harbor Director, Rick Algert. I'm certain he felt warmed by the nice things that were said about his career in Morro Bay.
The Public Comment was devoid of any controversy and was poorly attended. Of course, "he" was there to offer his opinion in his too often heard condescending tone. It was interesting, also, to see Bill Yates there again. He was nowhere to be seen since he lost the mayoral election in 2006, but now he honors us with his wise words at every meeting. I won't comment on his shirts, since I'm certain everyone remembers his attire from his previous stints as mayor.
During the business section of the meeting the annual review of the visitors center contract was held, the master fee schedule was re-evaluated and the job descriptions for the Harbor Department were reviewed. A few other important tasks were accomplished but none that inspired any reflections from me.
There was, in the course of the meeting, a mention of Dr. Laura (pardon me while I clear my throat) making an appearance at Saturday, July 3rd Framers' Market. I do hope she is doing this pro-bono. It is reported that she will be selling purses to raise money for her favorite charity. Since it is for a worthy cause, I promise to leave my “Feminist for Equality” sign home and not picket her appearance. Also, at the same Famers' Market, the Morro Bay Police department will have a barbeque to raise money for their canine program.
Curmudgeon Gripe of the Month: After the election there was a "letter to the editor" in a local weekly newspaper which caused me much consternation. I spent many years of my life in the southeast of our nation, so I should be used to idiotic political opinions by now. However, when I read this letter from one of our residents I was stupefied.
Apparently, she and her beloved husband are supporting Bill Yates for Mayor. That tells you a great deal about her mindset. That was not enough to mention in her letter. She had to continue and show her own small mindedness. She is one of those who belongs to "I have mine and tough if you don't have yours for I'm not sharing" schools of thought.
She doesn't like Ms. Winholtz's opinions because Betty is not married, has no children, and does not own her own home. Am I the only one who feels that there is probably underlying bigotry in her thought process? Do we so freely cast such dispersions that hint at a possible prejudice and feel no one will notice? Having been born and bred a Southerner, I always notice.
Since Ms. Winholtz owns nothing, then her goal in life, according to this person, must be to take away from those of us who do have and share with the riffraff who do not. You know the kind–those who chose professions, let's say teaching–that pay little and who dedicate their entire lives to service, giving, and sharing.
Apparently those of us who were fortunate to have worked in the more profitable professions should guard our profits and have no compassion for those who were not as "clever" as us. I really am riled up by her too common of an attitude and, if Mr. Yates is elected, she is right. He will not come crawling into her domain in the middle of the night to steal her worldly possessions as she apparently fears Ms. Winholtz would do. Of course, intelligent decisions, compassion, and fair-minded behavior will be the price our town will pay if we elect Yates instead of Winholtz. God bless America and God bless doltishness and narrow mindedness.
Well, that is all that has aroused my ire in our fair city this month. I am amazed at the brevity of my thoughts about the June meetings but with the election coming I'm certain a few of the candidates and their supporters will cause me to get up off my couch and scream at my TV set. Stay tuned.
Since the year 2000, Sandra & Curt Beebe have installed 36 Mutt Mitt dispensers in and around Morro Bay. The Mitts are funded by donations from individuals, organizations, and grants. Make the checks out to "The Bay Foundation" for a tax deduction. Be sure to note "Mutt Mitts" on the front of the check. The Bay Foundation is a 501(c)(3) and is administered by the National Estuary Program. For more information about this "Mutt Mitt" Program, contact Sandra at email SandraBeebe@slocoastjournal.com.