Al Fonzi, who writes a column for the Atascadero News, and I rarely agree on anything. We’re polite with one another. In fact, only last month we were talking about what it is like writing opinion pieces. We were in complete agreement that a person deserves credit for sticking his neck out and taking a stand on any given issue.
About 35 years ago I was talking to William Randolph Hearst Jr. when he was visiting Cal Poly’s journalism department. He asked if I worked in journalism and I said I was editor of a weekly newspaper in Atascadero. “Do you write editorials?” Hearst asked me. I told him I was just beginning. His very quick advice was, “Don’t try to please everyone; pick one side of an issue and really go for it.” He added that by playing it safe I’d never know if anyone is reading.
So I haven’t. I’ve tried to be fair, but not shy away from taking sides.
Fonzi and I are in the same brotherhood of opinion writers.
But now I can embrace at least one stand taken by Fonzi in his column of Jan. 20 in the Atascadero News wherein he writes, “Right now our city is beginning to look like a clothesline full of sheets flapping in the breeze in a housing project.”
I’ve been complaining about the ugly non-conforming signs throughout Atascadero’s business district for years. The city does very little to enforce its sign ordinance, preferring to respond to citizen complaints about those ugly banners and signs hanging on Atascadero business fronts. I have filed a number of formal complaints about illegal signs. I’ve filled out the complaint form, provided a picture of the offending sign and even cited verse and chapter of the city’s sign ordinance I felt was being violated. Usually nothing happened. Even a study commissioned by the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce several years ago said Atascadero’s downtown had a garage sale mentality.
And Fonzi was right in asking why merchants believe that putting out advertising banners is going to bring in more business. The same goes for those ugly sandwich board signs I’ve been complaining about for years.
Look at the banners streaming from the retail facades at Colony Square, for example, supposedly our best retail example. Pretty tacky.
Usually the only way they come down is during a fierce wind storm.
Atascadero needn’t adopt a new ordinance. Just enforce the one it already has.
And Al and I agree on another thing. We both like Roberta Fonzi, his wife and a City Council member.