Bouquets and Brickbats

Kitchen is in need of compassion

letters@thetribunenews.comSeptember 20, 2013 

South County People's Kitchen serves meals to the homeless in a dirt parking lot on South 16th Street in Grover Beach.

KAYTLYN LESLIE — kleslie@thetribunenews.com

For the past 21 years, the South County People’s Kitchen has been leading a nomadic existence, but we’d hoped the offer of county-owned land near the Grover Beach courthouse would provide some stability. But after less than two months at the new location, the nonprofit organization — which serves a free, daily lunch to those in need — could be uprooted again.

Neighboring residents and business owners have asked the city to deny a use permit for the People’s Kitchen, which has been operating since Aug. 1 under a temporary permit.

Neighbors say there’s a history of loitering, littering, vagrancy and vandalism in the area — a complaint confirmed by police statistics — that will only worsen if the People’s Kitchen remains.

Opponents also say there have already been numerous violations of rules attached to the People’s Kitchen temporary permit. As proof, they submitted photos showing clients smoking cigarettes on county property, eating their meals outside the designated dining area and accessing the area through a private alleyway — all in violation of the permit.

The city staff agreed the People’s Kitchen could exacerbate existing problems in the area, and recommended denial of the use permit. Last week, the city Planning Commission split 2-2 on the issue, which meant no permit was granted. People’s Kitchen has appealed that decision to the City Council, and the item is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 7.

If ever there were a time to serve up bouquets of compassion, this is it. Yes, there have been minor violations of the permit, and People’s Kitchen must crack down on clients who are not obeying the rules. But the organization is running out of options. To deny it a permit because some clients sat on a curb to eat their lunch, lit up in the wrong place or “engaged in loitering for an extended period” would be a brickbattable shame. We strongly urge the City Council to give People’s Kitchen a second chance by granting the permit.

Time for governor to choose

Three 4th District county supervisor hopefuls — Mike Winn of Nipomo, Mike Byrd of Arroyo Grande and Arroyo Grande City Councilwoman Caren Ray — earn bouquets of persistence for making it to the final round of the appointment process. Now, it’s up to the governor to decide who should fill the seat held by Paul Teixiera, who died of a heart attack nearly three months ago.

We’ve been impressed, by the way, with the thoroughness of the appointment process, but not so much with the secrecy. The governor’s staff would not even release the names of those who applied, in order to “maintain their privacy and confidentiality.”

The governor isn’t required to release the names, but come on. This isn’t an ordinary job we’re talking about — it’s a public office and the public should at least know who’s in the running.

Morro Bay mayor out on a limb

Listen carefully, and you just might hear the snapping of a limb out in Morro Bay — you know, the one that Mayor Jamie Irons is occupying.

Calling a spur-of-the-moment meeting in an apparent effort to quietly terminate or discipline two top employees — City Manager Andrea Lueker and City Attorney Rob Schultz — didn’t exactly win the mayor a vote of confidence. Now, he’s requesting approval to spend up to $12,500 to hire outside counsel to advise on personnel issues related to Lueker and Schultz.

If the two employees are fired, it could cost the city more just to buy out their contracts. Spending such money isn’t exactly the way to win friends and influence voters — not unless there’s good reason, anyway. So far, nobody in officialdom is talking about what that reason may be, if there is one.

No brickbats yet, but stay tuned.

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