Bouquets and Brickbats

The public steps up after theft of donation jar

letters@thetribunenews.comFebruary 14, 2014 

Madelyn Gonzales, 6, is being treated for leukemia.

COURTESY PHOTO

If there is any karmic justice in the world — and we believe there is — then stealing nickels and dimes from a 6-year-old girl undergoing treatment for leukemia is going to involve some awfully serious payback. Just thinking about what the future may hold for them makes us almost feel sorry for the pair of ne’er-do-wells who snatched the donation jar from the counter of Bronco Burger in Paso Robles.

But not to worry: We’re still collecting a barrelful of brickbats in all denominations for the as-yet-unidentified young man and woman accused of absconding with the money jar. Judging by public outrage, the barrel should be overflowing in no time.

On the flip side, we toss bright bouquets of generosity to all who responded to the plight of 6-year-old cancer patient Madelyn Gonzales. She goes to Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara for treatment, and the donations collected at Bronco Burger have helped the family with transportation costs and an occasional treat for Maddy. Since news of the theft broke, Bronco Burger has seen a big uptick in donations.

Donations also are being accepted at Golden 1 Credit Union’s three branches in San Luis Obispo County. If you’d like to learn more about Maddy, check out http://www.facebook.com/teammaddy.

Searching for a middle ground

The San Luis Coastal Unified School District earns a thanks-for-listening bouquet for deciding not to pursue a plan to develop 88 housing units on its 4.4-acres of district property on Johnson Avenue. The district considered developing an 88-unit multifamily housing project on the site, but after neighboring residents raised concerns about it, the district dropped the plan and will look at less dense projects.

While we’re big champions of affordable housing, we shared concerns that 88 units of multifamily housing would result in too much traffic in an area that’s already congested. As we’ve said before, we think the best solution may be somewhere in between the 14 high-end homes initially proposed for the site and the 88 units that had been proposed.

Alleged false ranger set for trial

Who doesn’t want to grow up to be a U.S. Forest Service ranger? They get to drive around in green trucks, they wear uniforms and shiny badges, and they have the coolest mascot ever in Smokey Bear.

But here’s the deal: You have to actually work for the U.S. Forest Service before you can claim to be a ranger who stops people and demands to see IDs. Even if you’ve spent an entire career in municipal law enforcement, that does not make you a Forest Service ranger. Even if you volunteer for the Forest Service, that does not make you a ranger. It makes you a volunteer, which brings us to the strange case of Phillip Laurence “Larry” Cooper.

As Tribune writer Matt Fountain reported on Thursday, back in 2011, Cooper allegedly represented himself as a Forest Service law enforcer and patrolled in a Forest Service truck in an effort to keep forest visitors to Los Padres Forest from trespassing onto private ranch land. Now, he and a Forest Service fleet manager who allegedly provided Cooper with a vehicle are facing felony charges of conspiracy, false impersonation and illegal use of government property in federal court.

The case is scheduled to go to trial next month. We’ll wait until the verdict’s in before we fire up any brickbats.

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