Bouquets and Brickbats: Sewer report should have gone online

Ouch! County Public Works Director Paavo Ogren committed a painful PR gaffe when he neglected to post an important Los Osos sewer document online. Sure, it’s an unwieldy, 1,000-page report, and if this were any other project, the general public might not give two hoots about it.

But this is the Los Osos sewer project, and a small yet dedicated group of contrarians will doubtless spend hours deconstructing the report’s every phrase and debating the placement of each comma. County officials should have anticipated the demand and made sure the public had adequate access to the document.

And no, making a single “counter copy” available during regular business hours doesn’t cut it. Paavo and company earn a cloak-and-dagger brickbat for keeping the report too tightly wrapped.

Expanded smoking ban a good move

We’re tossing a butt-kicking bouquet to the San Luis Obispo City Council for making good on a pledge to expand an outdoor smoking ban to public sidewalks, parking garages, transit centers and the like. Previously, the ban had been limited to recreation areas, such as parks and trails.

There are some exceptions. Under certain circumstances, bars can continue to designate outdoor areas for smokers. We can live with that. We’re also OK with the council’s decision to exempt existing tobacco shops, provided they install ventilation systems.

But what’s up with tobacco shop owner Doug Shaw, drawing a comparison between tobacco smoke and patchouli oil? Apparently, he wanted to make the point that, since he doesn’t object to patchouli oil — which he doesn’t like — his neighbors shouldn’t raise such a ruckus over smoking.

We aren’t huge fans of patchouli either, but the last time we checked, no one died of lung cancer from inhaling its fumes. That tasteless analogy earns Shaw a dozen hand-rolled brickbats packaged in patchouli-scented potpourri.

Proposed gift limit makes sense

We’re delivering a frugally tasteful $9.99 bouquet to state Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee for his efforts to crack down on corporate gift-giving to lawmakers. Specifically, he wants a $10-per-month gifting limit that applies to lobbyists to be extended to those who employ lobbyists, such as private corporations, utilities, labor unions, etc.

Under current regulations, those entities can spend up to $420 per year on each legislator — which explains the concert tickets, day spa visits and elaborate meals that some lawmakers receive.

Last year, a similar reform bill had unanimous support at the committee level, but failed to make it all the way through the Legislature. This year, Blakeslee is trying again — but with a chillier reception. The bill barely squeaked by committee recently, passing on a 4-3 vote.

Among other concerns, committee members worried that the restriction would increase the workload for their staffs, since they would have to keep track of how much this or that gift was worth. One assembly member pointed out that she’d have to research the cost every time she accepted a deli sandwich and a soda at a conference — or run the risk of breaking the law.

Blakeslee had a refreshingly simple solution: Leave a $20 bill on the table to cover the lunch.

Makes sense to us — and we’re stocking up on $9.99 brickbats for lawmakers who stand in the way of this sensible reform.