Three vignettes of justice for all in SLO town

Richard Schmidt

OPINION by RICHARD SCHMIDT

With justice, fairness and equal treatment for all! Isn’t that what America’s about? Maybe someplace, but in San Luis Obispo there’s justice, fairness, ­­respect and a really good deal for some, and the opposite for others.

The tribe favored by the SLO City Council gets the good deal, and the rest – especially home-owning privileged old white people, as the privileged young white tribe calls them – get the short end of the stick. Ah, progressivism SLO-style. A rhetorical shadow miming what passes for left politics in enlightened places.

So the cops have been running a stop sign sting on Chorro and Broad north of the freeway. Well, sort of a sting. If you are driving a car and in the opinion of the officer hiding in her green-city-issued GHG-belching SUV on a side street you don’t come to an absolute total stop, you get lights, siren, pull over and a ticket costing hundreds of dollars and a moving violation.

If you’re riding a bike and shoot full bore at 30 mph, in a 25 mph zone, through the same stop sign, without the slightest effort to stop, you might get pulled over and “educated.” If the officer demands, you might get a punishment like, say, a directive to tell your bike friends on social media not to run stop signs. No ticket, no fine, nothing on your record. Just a wink and a nod.

Two demographic groups, one coddled by our bike-obsessed council, the other despised polluters in earth-killing belch-mobiles, committing the same offense, being “stung” in entirely different ways. On SLO’s streets, what’s sauce for the goose isn’t sauce for the gander.

By contrast, in actually-progressive Santa Monica, the cops have announced an across the board sting of vehicles, bikes and pedestrians breaking the law and thereby setting the stage for accidents.

Our police chief and city manager might consider whether their policy of politically-motivated double-standard law enforcement builds trust and respect for our police department, or whether it builds the opposite. It takes years to build trust and respect, but mere moments to destroy it.

* * * * * * * *

The recent holiday season was a time of joy and celebration for some, but for bah humbugging from city parking enforcers, who were out on New Year’s Eve – New Year’s Eve, for goodness sake! – writing parking tickets in neighborhoods.

My opinion of our city’s love of neighborhood parking districts is pretty low. These are streets where signs go up prohibiting parking without a for-purchase city permit available only to street residents. Most of the time the “need” for a district is just downhill from petty, though there are exceptions, like the neighborhood next to Cal Poly where residents could hardly navigate their narrow streets between all the parked commuter cars and others cruising to find a space.

For people stuck living in parking districts, being restricted to two for-pay permits per dwelling limits the ability of friends to stop by, for caregivers/housecleaners/plumbers to park, for entertaining, and for any sort of spontaneity. I think they suck. How can the city claim districts provide a high quality of life when they restrict life this way?

Till the current council, neighborhood parking districts at least could only be established by majority resident request. Now, however, they’ve become an instrument of political harassment wielded by a council some of whose members openly state they feel no responsibility to those who didn’t vote for them (how would they know?), which generally means they ignore concerns of all but members of their own millennial tribe.

So the council told staff to start imposing parking districts on the Anholm neighborhood (Highway 101-Foothill; Santa Rosa to San Luis Mountain). It was there that a parent was allowing her kids to have a safe and orderly New Year’s Eve party. ­­More kids showed up, with cars, than she could accommodate with her permits. She figured New Year’s Eve – would it really be a problem?

Hah! Of course it would be a problem. The city proudly slapped $35 tickets on kids’ cars – while they were having a safe, supervised happy new year celebration. According to social media, this was not the only example of our dear city giving bah! humbug! neighborhood parking tickets that night.

Do you suppose the enforcers got overtime holiday pay for their fine efforts?

* * * * * * * *

If you want a really sweet deal from the city, there’s no better way than being a young, stupid, law-breaking hiker on Bishop’s Peak. You might even get a free helicopter ride. Weather permitting.

By afternoon, Jan. 16 was dark and stormy, and that night the deluge had SLO’s first responders engaged in life or death rescues of numerous people about to be swept away by floodwaters.

In the midst of which responders went to Bishop’s Peak to “rescue” a lost hiker who before his phone went dead reported he thought a bear was “tracking” him. The rescue went till midnight, and here is a city account of it. Legal use of the peak ends at sundown. Note the verbal ease with which stupid becomes a “victim.”

“The victim called for help and relayed that he was lost, ‘somewhere next to large rocks that led to nowhere.’ He said left his car downtown, and hiked the peak … starting around 2:30. By the time he got to the top, his phone was dying and he was off trail and couldn’t find his way to the trail.” It takes less than an hour to climb the peak.

Ok, so texting all the way up, and mysteriously off trail.

“He thought he was being tracked by a bear so he took cover in a crevice between some boulders.

“His phone was dying and he didn’t have a flashlight (it got dark), was off trail and didn’t know how to get down. . . We had no helicopter availability due to the weather.

“Due to the location of the victim, Cal Fire responded and was on scene first and set up Incident Command.

“The victim was found at the top of the peak, approximately 20’ off trail; he was able to walk down under his own power.”

“Rescues” like this cost from $5,000 to 10,000 and are very common. Helicopter rescues cost a significant multiplier of that amount. These costs are charged to taxpayers, not to the party requesting rescue.

The “victim” whose unlawful antics drew first responders from more weighty needs that stormy night was not cited or fined for violating the law on night-use of the mountain.

Although signs at entries to the natural reserve plainly state the area is only for daytime use, city policy is: “Rangers issue a warning and cite repeat offenders for hiking after hours.”

Quite different sauce from that for car drivers on Broad and Chorro streets.

With justice, fairness and equal treatment for all!

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