Editorials

Bouquets and Brickbats: De Vaul trial, round two?

The jury is still out, but we suspect that someone may be sentenced to a brickbat or two before the case of Dan De Vaul is finally finished.

In case you missed the latest development, attorneys for De Vaul have filed a motion for a new trial, based on allegations of judge and juror misconduct.

The attorneys allege that a couple of jurors bullied another jury member — No. 5 — into finding De Vaul guilty of code violations at his encampment for the homeless. The two alleged bullies reportedly claimed that their links to law enforcement gave them special insight into the case. Plus, one of them allegedly called Juror No. 5 “stupid.”

On top of that, the attorneys claim that Judge John Trice erred by singling out Juror No. 5 for private questioning to inquire about some of her statements in support of a not-guilty verdict, and thereby manipulated the process of arriving at a fair verdict.

This might all be mildly amusing — in a jurors-say-the-darndest-things kind of way — if the stakes weren’t so high. Some county taxpayers already are tsk-tsking over the money and resources spent taking De Vaul to trial on a misdemeanor code violation case. We don’t even want to think about the fallout if misconduct allegations are found to be true and a new trial is granted.

We aren’t saying that De Vaul is not entitled to a fair trial, or that the prosecution should ignore code violations. But wouldn’t it be nice if the time, energy and money spent on this case could have been spent on improving De Vaul’s property?

Putting park on hold may be right idea

From the get-go it seemed an odd place to build a park, a 1.5-acre sliver of property wedged between the Cayucos-Morro Bay District cemetery and Highway 1 in south Cayucos.

First unveiled five years ago, the county Parks and Recreation Division envisioned a skate park, basketball court, playground equipment, off-leash dog park and a restroom on the site. That’s all on hold for now as the county reels from recession-related deficits. As is usual with many municipal park proposals, the county has enough money earmarked to build the facility, but not enough to maintain it.

Now, this may sound like heresy to those who believe any park proposal should be treated with sanctity, but it may be a good thing the park’s been put on hold. Consider its location. It’s next to a highway that carries 4 million travelers a year and their attendant pollution; its sufficiently far enough out of town that youngsters wanting to use the skate park will have to navigate a less than desirable route in getting to the park; and those who use the cemetery for quiet reflection on their deceased loved ones have a legitimate concern that a skate park and other park uses will shatter that experience.

Yet, with childhood obesity on the rise, skate parks should be made as available as possible. The question is: Is this the optimum place to put one?

Perhaps a better alternative would be to build such a skate park at Hardie Park. The location is central to the community and is within a short roll from Cayucos Elementary School and its students — arguably those who would be using the park the most.

Can Cayucos civic organizations such as the Lioness Club, which successfully lobbied the county to build Hardie Park pool in the late 1970s, once again rally their troops, forge a partnership with the school district and the county, and build and maintain a skate park at Hardie? We’ll hold a bouquet in non-obese abeyance for those community leaders who take the lead on making that a reality.

Kudos for Cal Poly donor

We’re designing a well-engineered bouquet for Cal Poly alum Jon Monett, who recently donated $500,000 for a new lab at the university. The lab will support engineering students who are working on prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs and other projects to improve the mobility of people with disabilities. Injured Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, police officers and fire fighters will be among the beneficiaries of the new technologies.

Monett has wisely recognized that oftentimes students — who don’t face the same constraints as for-profit businesses — can take risks to creatively explore new incarnations of off-road wheelchairs and improved prosthetic limbs.

In so doing, he’s elevated Cal Poly’s “learn by doing” motto to “learn by doing good.”

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