About the Colony

Lon Allan: Let’s not make demons out of our neighbors

Atascadero has, historically, been a politically volatile setting.

You can bring up most any matter, and there will instantly appear two or more opinions about it, whether it’s the Highway 41 realignment, the makeover of the Sunken Gardens, the adoption of a new General Plan or, in the present case, knowledge that a Wal-Mart Supercenter might be built at the north end of the city.

I’ve reported on many of those battles over the past 40 years.

The most recent flap has grown out of a Colony Days Committee decision to deny the Oppose Wal-Mart folks a place in the Oct. 21 parade.

I should disclose right up front that I’m a former member of the Colony Days Committee, my wife has been its past chairwoman and parade chairwoman, and together we’ve written about a dozen parade scripts.

I disagree with the Colony Days Committee’s rejection of Oppose Wal-Mart, just as I’m against denying any group access to the parade because they don’t fit in with the "spirit of the celebration."

I do, however, agree the committee has the legal right to do so. It is a private, nonprofit corporation that has no ties to, and gets no money from, the city.

The Colony Days Committee is one of the hardest working groups of volunteers you’ll ever find.

I can understand Oppose Wal-Mart’s disappointment (and subsequent anger) in not being allowed in the parade.

The committee has assured us that Wal-Mart supporters and even Wal-Mart itself wouldn’t be allowed in the parade. I know firsthand that not everyone on the committee favors a Wal-Mart here.

But there’s no need for the nastiness that has arisen against the Colony Days Committee and its volunteers.

Because my wife stepped down last year as parade chairwoman, Steve Martin, Main Street’s executive director, volunteered to take on the parade chairmanship duties.

Both Martin and Gail Kudlac, who also works in the Main Street office part time, have taken on the thankless job of lining up this year’s parade, writing the script and making sure the 100 or so entries march off at the stroke of 10 a.m. on parade day.

But the decision to exclude Oppose Wal-Mart was not up to them. It was a board decision. Those casting Mayor Tom O’Malley in a bad light should know that even though he is this year’s Colony Days chairman, he argued to allow Oppose Wal-Mart in the parade. The committee overruled him but agreed to allow Oppose Wal-Mart to have an information booth in the Sunken Gardens.

There’s no need for either side to demonize the other. There is no duplicity here. Oppose Wal-Mart members and the Atascadero Homeowners could do a lot for their cause by jumping in and helping carry the tables and chairs, mix the mortar and make the many civic events even more successful.

The City Council is wisely advised that it has no say in the matter, unless it wants to take over putting on the Colony Days celebration.