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Poodle | Santa Barbara Moves Toward Policing the Police

STRIKE THREE: Now that baseball season is in full swing mode, wandering minds naturally gravitate to the words of Prussian strongman Otto von Bismarck: “Laws are like sausage; it’s better not to see them get made.”

I mention this because a few days ago, Farmer John, the bucolically mural-ed hog-slaughtering plant in beautiful downtown Vernon, was just shut down. Over the years, billions of Dodger Dogs were made there, but as of this week, the 1,500 workers who made those dogs found themselves suddenly out of a job. I love Dodger Dogs as much as anyone, but they’ve always been strictly an eyes-wide-shut situation. How else can you approach a food product whose ingredients include offal, gristle, fat, and other emulsified meat trimmings? Personally, I was always troubled by Farmer John’s remarkable proximity to a nearby meat rendering plant, D&D Disposal, where, among other things, the region’s road kills are dispatched for their final transubstantiation into, well, fats, gristle, and emulsified fat trimmings. Unlike Freud, I believe coincidences can and do happen. But D&D Disposal? Dodger Dogs?

Such squeamishness notwithstanding, Dodger Dogs have played a vital supporting role in so many indolently happy memories. So why mess? Yes, it’s true when the dogs first debuted, they were billed as foot-long wieners (12 inches) when, in actual fact, they were only 10 inches. Illusion will often trump fact — a big problem for people who think they believe in the latter — but sometimes, as with Dodger Dogs, what’s a couple of inches?

Getting back to the process of making sausage and laws — not to mention lawmakers — I’m happy to report that 65 percent of Santa Barbara voters had the good sense to turn a deaf ear to the emulsified meat trimmings peddled by Christy Lozano, the ultra -conservative culture warrior who ran for superintendent of county education. Some voters got a last-minute phone message in support of Lozano’s candidacy stating that the “radical woke agenda” wanted to encourage “boys to become girls and girls to become boys.” Naturally, this sinister plot was concocted, the narrator warned, without either “parental knowledge or consent.”

Based on this week’s primary results, such glass-shatteringly shrill messages — in this case, brought to us courtesy of the local Republican Party — may fly in places like South Carolina. But in Santa Barbara, enough voters still hew to the sensible-shoes, Big-D Democratic, do-your-civic-duty school of political engagement. Once upon a time, the Republican Party did too. What ever happened to the likes of David Yager, the Brooks Firestones, and the Dan Secords? Living as close as we do to Vandenberg Space Force Base, we will no doubt learn UAPs — Unidentified Aerial Phenomena — are to blame. That, at least, would offer some plausible explanation.



Back in the realm of legislative sausage-grinding, I’d like to praise the final results of last week’s City Council Trauma-Drama-Rama over the creation of a civilian oversight board for the city’s police department. Notwithstanding the mutually bruised feelings on all sides of the equation over how the deal went down, the Big News here is that for the first time ever, the council voted to approve some form of civilian oversight. That’s never happened.

No, it’s not what the Community Formation Commission — which worked 13 grueling months on its recommendations — asked for, but it’s infinitely more than what we have now. No, there will not be a new commission charged with police oversight, as was recommended; instead, the council will expand the purview of the existing Fire and Police Commission — which more typically addresses such matters as towing contracts and dance permits — to handle community complaints and concerns about law enforcement policies and practices.

If that feels like a hand-me-down, I get it. But the revamped commission will meet more frequently, will meet in City Council chambers, and its meetings will be televised. There will not be an independent oversight monitor hired, as the formation commission very strongly recommended; instead, that function will fall to City Hall’s new executive administrator Barbara Andersen, who comes endowed with massive get-stuff-done chops.

I also get that there’s a very significant difference between the two in terms of independence. I get why commission members strenuously balked at this difference at last Monday’s special hearing. I get that Interim Police Chief Barney Melekian had pushed against some of the commissions’ recommendations. But right now, I lack the elasticity for the he-said-she-said postmortem. I do, however, know of a couple simple ways that much of the ill will could have been avoided.

I also know that Councilmember Meagan Harmon almost singlehandedly (with a nifty assist from Councilmember Oscar Gutierrez) saved everybody’s bacon. Harmon’s-last minute intervention—for which she clearly had come prepared—was the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass and a shoestring tackle rolled into one. Her commitment to her calls for the hiring of a consultant skilled in the techniques of independent police oversight to assist the redoubtable Andersen during Year One of the new-old commission.

When people left the council chambers, no one was happy. In fact, they were downright pissed off. We need to get over that. More work needs to be done. A new ordinance still has to be drafted. The most important thing is that the community has a new tool, a new vehicle to better understand, better explore, better question, and better guide one of the most necessary, but most off-limits functions of local government: policing. That’s not just history. It’s necessary.

Pass the mustard.


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