A Tale of Two Cities

Program reminder: John Spencer visits on Tuesday to discuss a possible strike against Albertson’s, Lance Parker will discuss county subsidies for golf courses on Thursday and Bruce Gibson also checks in at 5:05 on Thursday. Sam Blakeslee will take your phone calls Monday at 5 and we’ll look at SLO airport expansion plans on Wednesday, April 4th.

Meanwhile, here’s my latest column from SLO City News. FYI.

“San Luis Obispo is where I work, and often play, but Nipomo is where we live, which means I spend a lot of time in Santa Maria.

It’s unavoidable. Life on the Nipomo mesa is great, but if you crave food or other basic necessities, you have to choose between the ten-minute drive north to Arroyo Grande, or the ten-minute drive south to Santa Maria. Charlotte and I tend to go south. Say what you will about the town, but they seem to have at least one of everything.

For as long as I can remember, Santa Maria has been viewed with mild disdain by SLO folks, considered some kind of ugly Central Coast stepchild, only good for the shopping at Costco and other large chain stores that dominate the town (that was until San Luis Obispo went out and got its own large chain stores).

You’ve heard the arguments. Santa Maria doesn’t have a Mission. They don’t have a four-year university. They don’t have a downtown core. It’s certainly not a walking-friendly place. Their idea of a good restaurant is Olive Garden or Red Lobster. The city thrives on agriculture, not tourism. We have the Tour of California; they had the Michael Jackson trial.

On the other hand, Santa Maria doesn’t have parking meters, or parking garages, except at the shopping mall. It’s family-friendly with pockets of affordable housing still available. Shopping choices are plentiful. After all, didn’t Macy’s bail out of San Luis Obispo and come to Santa Maria, instead?

And Santa Maria is especially rich in ethnic diversity—this is a town whose people actually look like the rest of California.

When I visit Santa Maria, I’m reminded of a scaled-down version of Fresno, with its wide, sun-baked streets and a strip mall seemingly on every corner. It’s easy to bemoan the explosion of big-box stores, but the parking lots always seem full.

There are several good Japanese restaurants to sample and Café Monet seems the closest thing to a Linnaea’s-style coffeehouse. I’ve been known to frequent Orcutt Burgers on Broadway and sit in the booth where the Paul Giamatti character in Sideways drank his prized ’61 Chevel Blanc.

The locals talk up the food at the Santa Maria Inn and Shaw’s Steakhouse. They still dress up for church. People seem friendly, a little Midwestern in their demeanor, more conservative in their politics. Family. Country. Church. All three seem important in Santa Maria.

Oh, and tri-tip. That’s up there, too.

* * *

Charlotte and I proudly display a framed photograph of Bill Roalman in our living room. He’s playing the guitar, the thought of which makes me smile, because Bill once admitted to me that he couldn’t read music. He always improvised and he always played beautifully.

They gathered earlier this week to honor Bill—family, friends and colleagues coming together to mark the fifth anniversary of the former city councilman’s untimely death. Bill supposedly had a bad heart, but those of us knew him, those of us who loved him, will never believe that for a second.

Five years? It hardly seems like five days since the town fell into shock as the grim news spread. More than 400 people turned out in Mission Plaza to say goodbye.

Other environmental voices have emerged since then, but Bill’s was unique. He was a gentle, quiet man of great integrity and compassion. He voted his conscience and loved his adopted San Luis Obispo.

The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County dedicated a memorial to honor Bill this week for his tireless efforts on behalf of the environment, and the community at large.

The site, located along San Luis Obispo Creek at the intersection of S. Higuera Street and Prado Road, features a circular sitting area nestled below a sprawling tree with an engraved plaque dedicated to Bill.

Longtime friend John Ashbaugh was at the ceremony. John told me that he still thinks of Bill constantly. “His memory resonates in my mind and brings back a time and a friendship that we yearn to relive. Bill stood for so much that was important in our lives.”

I miss Bill’s voice in the dialogue on important issues like Dalidio and Iraq. I wonder how he would feel today after a bike ride through all the new development along Los Osos Valley Road.

That is perhaps the saddest irony in all this. Bill Roalman left us just when we needed him the most. I miss the man. I miss the music.”

  1. Anonymous
    March 27, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    The most left, least hate guy I ever met. Common sense died with Bill, and hate took over.
    When Bill died, SLO died.

  2. John Taylor
    March 27, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    I miss Bill. The sweetest guy ever. What a huge heart.

  3. golfingslo
    March 27, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    I did not agree with Bill on anything and as well as he did not agree with me. That said, I always respected Bill for the way he conducted himself and his integrity on his point of views.

    As far as Santa Maria goes, I am glad you said some nice things about that town, have have been the red headed stepchild for abuse. I, too, have found Santa Maria to have alot of Midwest qualities. I would love to see them and Lompoco break off from Santa Barbara County, they get no love from SB.

  4. wilson
    March 28, 2007 at 2:42 am

    I am 15 years old, who is Bill Roalman and what did he do?

  5. The New Tone of San Luis Obispo
    March 28, 2007 at 5:04 am


    I have worn the uniform for this country before. Marilyn, I have asked her several times to explain my perceptions of the group she supports, Hezbolla. She tells me all about Israel and their problems, attacks a former writer and myself personally, tells me that I could cower in a corner if I lived in her old country, and that I would be afraid. I was simply pointing out that I would not care to discuss anything with the terrorist, but would enjoy putting them out of their misery. Make no mistake, Marilyn or others, America is not full of pussies that are not willing to fight. We are not all afraid Marilyn.

    One day, this country will be attacked again by the muslims, and they will pay a heavy price. One day, this great country may fall and it will be up to us an individuals to win the war that the muslim want to kill all non-muslims. Political correctness will go out the window and the gloves will have to come off.

  6. Bob from San Luis
    March 28, 2007 at 7:46 am

    New Tone: Okay, I was wrong, you are not a moron. You must be delusional however if you think this nation’s biggest threat is, in your words, muslims who want to kill us. Terrorists may or may not pose quite the threat that you would like all of us to be afraid of. Read the article I linked to and tell me how they have it wrong, please. As for being afraid of Marilyn; I have never heard Marilyn threaten anyone here or anywhere, she was stating her opinion of how she thought you would behave if you were suddenly placed inside of a country that was having the sort of problems that Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are having. You apparently have military training and experience and I find myself puzzled as to why you talk so tough here when most of the few ex-military I have had the chance to talk to don’t seem to get caught up in blustery macho talk. Without exception all of them have been very humble about their experience of having faced combat, as if their mannerisms speak more having the luck to not have been wounded or worse. Perhaps you have problems adjusting to non-military life? I am sure that there is much I do not know about the mindset and experiences of those who have served, but you sure seem like an individual who is not at peace with themselves. Your anger at Marilyn is disturbing on a few levels; have you ever considered any sort of counseling? I am serious and I do not mean any disrespect of your service, but if your talking to somebody who is trained to help those who either need or would like some help, please consider it.

    Dave, I for one would have liked to hear Bill Roalman’s take on the current state of affairs of our nation, given how he was so respectful of the opinion of others.

  7. Anonymous
    March 28, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Bob says:
    “You must be delusional however if you think this nation’s biggest threat is, in your words, muslims who want to kill us. Terrorists may or may not pose quite the threat that you would like all of us to be afraid of.”
    does 9/11 ring a bell? Must have had no impact on Bob living in San Luis but it did affect hundreds of thousands

  8. Bob from San Luis
    March 28, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Why yes, anonymous, 9/11 does ring a bell, thank you for bringing that up. Let’s see, fifteen of the hijackers were, um, Saudis, not Iraqis; did we invade Saudi Arabia? 9/11 happened on George W. Bush’s watch; how many meetings did the Anti-Terrorism Task Force (chaired by VP Cheney) have before 9/11 happened? ZERO! The Bush Administration was told that terrorism would be the number one issue that they would need to address; what does Bush’s Attorney General do? Cuts the funding for anti-terrorism activity and then proceeds to cover the exposed breast of a statue. Why is it that there was absolutely no military air response to four commercial aircraft either making unauthorized turns off of their plotted path or they had their transponders turned off? How is it that the FBI could not communicate with itself concerning middle eastern men learning to fly commercial aircraft, but did want to learn how to take off or land? The sad reality is that 9/11 happened to a great part due to the incompetence of the Bush Administration. Had they been on their game and connected all of the dots could 9/11 been prevented? We will never know.
    Oh, and where is bin Laden?

  9. Anonymous
    March 28, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Bob don’t change the subject. You said
    “You must be delusional however if you think this nation’s biggest threat is, in your words, muslims who want to kill us. Terrorists may or may not pose quite the threat that you would like all of us to be afraid of.”
    Blame Bush for 9/11 and put your head in the sand. I guess you worry about important stuff like impeaching Bush,global warming and gay marriage.
    Muslim fanatics are very clear in their agenda to everyone who can think rational.
    Sir you are a fool.

  10. steve
    March 29, 2007 at 1:56 am

    Prime form tonight for “hometown”.
    The hate was oozing! Great show!

  11. Bob from San Luis
    March 29, 2007 at 2:31 am

    anonymous: China owns a very large chunk of our national debt; if they were to cash in their bonds of ours, they could tank our economy and put us into a depression that could be worse than the one of 1929. North Korea has developed their own nuclear weapons and they are desperate for income; what stops them from selling “suitcase” nukes to terrorist organizations who seem to have all the money they need. More and more mortgages are being defaulted on, fewer and fewer people can afford to provide their own heath care insurance, costs of higher education coupled with fewer Pell Grants means fewer can afford college, pensions are defaulting, Medicare Part D is exposing more seniors to lapses of coverage, and on and on. Please read this article that details how absurd the meme is that “we have to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here”. While I do not doubt the veracity of the extremist Muslims as to their intent to do us harm, I doubt their ability to execute an attack on us that could equal the carnage of Sept. 11th. I say this knowing full well that this administration has not made the effort to protect us as adequately as possible by better patrolling of our borders, inspecting cargo containers for radiation and scanning every piece of luggage that goes on every commercial aircraft, be they passenger or freight carriers.
    I know for a fact that I do not have my “head in the sand”; I look at news reports and research potential facts which I link to here to help make my points- if you read the links that I post and you still want to believe that George W. Bush is the greatest President ever, you are beyond hope for being able to ever face reality.

  12. golfingslo
    March 29, 2007 at 2:43 am

    I thought this thread was about Bill Roalman and Santa Maria? Why did the hate mongers show up.

  13. the 15 marines held hostage in iran
    March 29, 2007 at 3:31 am

    great post bob

  14. Dave Congalton
    March 29, 2007 at 3:35 am

    When you read the comments on this thread, you understand why I miss Bill Roalman.

  15. The New Tone of San Luis Obispo
    March 29, 2007 at 3:52 am

    Bob, I appreciate the comments that you made about me. I could tell that you care about me as a person and that is good. I am not against counseling and do not consider it a weakness whatsoever. Many men and women in all types of situations can benefit from discussing what has happened to them, especially in combat.

    I do not tout my service to my country as a badge that says you cannot question me or that I know all things military or law enforcement. You, like me, are anonymous here and we are able to express our thoughts without fear of retribution or loss of business because of our political ideas.

    I admit I was goading Marilyn into responding to me. I guess our differing political points of view prevent me from seeing her good points and you from seeing her evil points. I want, no I demand that she tell me how it is ok to use a photo of a slain child being held and shown like a fish as evidence? Iran is behind Hezbolla and she knows it, but she refuses to comment of the issues I brought up because there is no legitimate answer, so she attacks me. She believes I have no life experience. Can’t you believe that there are things that are worth risking life and limb for? If there were suicide bombers in SLO farmers market and gunmen cruising the neighborhoods of SLO, would you cower and hide> There are others like me that would not stand for it. We would not meet them at a summit, picnic, or other discussion table. We would rid ourselves of them by having them assume ground temp. We would not be sad for having to do this.

    Most servicemen do not yearn for war. I was down in mexico during the iraq invasion. There was a man there that owns all of the flyers service stations. I struck up a conversation with him. He thought it was such a great thing and a whole lot of fun when he used to do strafing runs in Korea.

    Another guy I know was in Vietnam. Admittedly, he is a little off. He has been in prison 3 times for being an enforcer for the mob. Anyways, he totally enjoyed killing people as a marine in vietnam. In his words, he did not go to vietnam to serve his country, patriotism, or any reason other that to have a good time and kill charlie.

    I am not even like that. I am thankful that I have never killed anyone. I was trained to, and would have if the situation would have ever called for that type of force, I was prepared to protect myself and everyone else. It was not like “how horrible” if that happens, it is “ok now lets take care of business any way possible to make sure you stay alive and the enemy dies.

    This is a complicated subject and it is hard to organize all of my thoughts in a 5 min writing. Take care, New Tone.

  16. Al Neill
    March 29, 2007 at 3:53 am

    Dave —

    I’ve been out of the area since my last post several weeks ago and have just gotten around to getting caught up on your comments on Bush/Johnson. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings in my comments, but you may be correct in your observation that your group is too juvenile.

    This topic string is a fine example of what I believe you may be describing. You start off with an interesting commentary about two cities, and in almost no time it morphs into pointless prattle about Iraq. A similar thing happened on your recent topic dealing with our supervisors and their activities.

    Why don’t you just delete “off topic” posts? They hardly add to a useful discussion of local issues.

    Your comments on Bill Roalman were on target. Although we once lived near him, I never got to know him, but my wife knew his wife, and she is a fine lady. No surprise that Bill is so well thought of.

    Many of those who comment on your topics would do well to take his example to heart.

    Al Neill

  17. Dave Congalton
    March 29, 2007 at 8:34 am


    Good, thoughtful comment. Thank you.

    A few months ago, I had to step in and clamp down on some of the postings on this blog and perhaps the time has come to wield the iron fist once again. You’re right. I start off by posting “A” and all of a sudden we’re discussing “C” “D” and “E” And I can’t even post a tribute to Bill Roalman without bloggers responding by debating Bush.

    As I already explained on another thread, the Dave Congalton Show is not the same as the Dave Congalton blog. They seem to be parallel worlds and I’ve got to figure out how to take the success of the show and spill that nto the blog.

  18. Anonymous
    April 6, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    Dave, I have to question why you moved to Nipomo. It seems like every day you say somes derogative. You have to go to Santa Maria for good food (don’t know about your tastes but there are some nice restaurants in Nipomo), you think Willow Road is a mess (when do you drive it? I drive it everyday and don’t see an issue that any other long road with speeder and no signals). Guess you didn’t realize we have the Adobe Players when you said we didn’t have any culture. I like Nipomo or at least the Nipomo of 5-7 years ago when there was no Von’s or Long’s that created traffic that the people who wanted them are now complaining about.

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