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The De Vaul Problem

Well, the timing could not be worse. On the eve of Thanksgiving, San Luis Obispo is tossed in the national spotlight because we jailed man trying to help homeless people. The New York Times had it today; so did the LA Times. Gene Burns, the long-time San Francisco radio talk show host spent the opening hour of his broadcast tonight in a scathing attack on SLO County.

“The only thing wrong with San Luis Obispo County is the people running it,” Burns suggested at the end of an impassioned defense of De Vaul. Referring to Judge Trice’s decision to jail the local rancher, Burns said, “If that’s not the dumbest result I’ve ever heard of in a courtroom, it’s got to be close.” KGO keeps their podcasts on line for 7 days. You really should check it out.

I have a feeling more regional and national media coverage on this issue is still to come. Meanwhile, Dan De Vaul will be my special guest Wednesday at 5:05. Tune in. Call in. There’s got to be a better way than sending this man to jail. Gene Burns really nailed the issue — he argued we were more interested in punishing De Vaul than we were in solving the problem.

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  1. November 25, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    I am so thrilled that this juror came forward and did what no one else would do — stand up and help Dan De Vaul. Shame on the rest of us. Shame!

  2. November 25, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    There is a simple resolution to this problem, Dave. Just have Mr. De Vaul OBEY THE LAW.Next!

  3. November 26, 2009 at 4:49 am

    Good interview tonight, Dave. Thanks for having Mr. Duval on the show. I thought he came across as honest, sincere, and passionate. It's a shame he's being picked on by The Powers That Be. I wonder if anyone in county government has a solution to helping the homeless. This is a countywide disgrace!

  4. November 26, 2009 at 5:46 am

    I just found out that Dan De Vaul was arrested for failing to fix the building code violations at Sunny Acres. He says he can't fix them because he doesn't have the $400,000 it would take to fix the problems.Sunny Acres is one of the best examples I have ever heard of for work-based rehabilitation and reacclimatization, and has achieved a remarkably low recidivism rate. They are a model that should be supported, encouraged, and emulated. Instead our county government has shut him down. One of the jurors on his trial was so ashamed they convicted him that she personally borrowed the money to bail him out.Tribune story:http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/story/933708.htmlDave Congalton:https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=20549323&postID=5279795140444835919Gene Berns of KGO went on a rant against SLO county here:http://members.kgoradio.com/kgo_archives/22000.mp3 (10 minutes in)I personally have very strong feelings about this. The brother of my good friend was being rehabilitated at Sunny Acres before it was shut down, and I have financially supported Sunny Acres in the past.But regardless of my feelings, this is a *really* bad PR move for SLO county. This is being picked up nationally, and people are blaming local business and service groups for not taking action:http://news.google.com/news/story?pz=1&cf=all&ned=us&hl=en&ncl=dgbTDuhPQtdXkiMmxRondiNveyWaMI'm a little ashamed that I haven't been more proactive in preventing this from getting to this point. I think that as business leaders in this community, we should take a stand to support people who are successfully rehabilitating people and actively making the county a better place. What's crazy about this is that at the end of the day, just $400,000 would get us to the next stage of fixing the problem. That's not much. If a hundred businesses pitched in $4K each, we could fix it.I'm willing to start it. I'll send Dan a check for $4K. Can we get 99 other local businesses to do the same?-Kyle WiensiFixit CEO

  5. November 26, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Am at home these days, because of the work injury-listened to your show on web tonight with Dan De Vaul. Great Show!After the image of Dan being cuffed on the cover of the Tribune etc, over the last few days, I finally had enough after reading a certain "viewpoint" in the Tribune today, and sent a nasty letter to the editor.I did miss the Gene Burns (I have listened to him before) broadcast, hopefully I can find it on the web as well as the NYT article. However, just found this on the Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/23/rancher-jailed-for-housin_n_368495.html

  6. November 26, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    It looks like we all agree Dave. The show was great and Dan is a local hero.Thanks again for covering this story, "We the people" have decided. As it should be.

  7. November 26, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving to Mr. De Vaul and a bucket of poop for Judge Trice and all the others trying to stop Dan from doing the Lord's work. Good will triumph.

  8. November 28, 2009 at 12:57 am

    30 people living in facility. Each paying $500 of their $1000 dollar disability check. $15000 per month for Dan. $400k divided by $15k equals a little over two years to pay off the business loan. Unless everyone out there is living for free? Just asking.

  9. November 28, 2009 at 2:22 am

    Good Idea: So, did you get those figures from the books of Sunny Acres, or did you just pull them out of your nether region? IF you had listened to Mr. De Vaul on Dave's show, you would have heard Mr. De Vaul mention that Sunny Acres is a 501c non-profit, and that all of the revenue that comes in goes into the fund, AND that nearly half of those out there don't pay anything, but instead choose to work. You put out a real provocative set of figures there, too bad you didn't have any facts to go along with them. If you really want to contribute to the discussion, try using some facts (and maybe some common sense) and see if you can come up with a suggestion or two to help the situation, not just try and shoot down the effort that Dan De Vaul is making. You don't happen to work for the county, do you?

  10. November 28, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Laws are made for the leaders of a community to benefit them. This man is trying to help people. They are trying to hurt people and score points with politicians. If there were a shred of deceny in this town, people would say, well, why don't we make a concerted effort and try to clean up and make it neat and cook some nice homemade meals for these people? When was the last time someone cooked for them?When that town develops a sense of priorities, a more civilized and humanitarian outlook, the law will leave this nice generous man alone to do the work God gave him to do.

  11. November 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    I wonder what the buiding code violations and punishment are for NO shelter at all?

  12. November 29, 2009 at 8:38 am

    I have volunteered at Sunny Acres for months. Dan De Vaul is one of the most kind hearted men I have ever met. Please join the Sunny Acres FaceBook page to support them. Go to http://www.facebook.com and sign up. Once your in just search for Sunny Acres and look for the large yellow sunflower logo. Become a member, leave a comment and encourage your friends to join this growing coalition of supporters as well.Thanks, The Sunny Acres FaceBook Team

  13. November 29, 2009 at 10:07 am

    How long will we continue to ignore Natural Human Rights in the guise of protecting inanimate property.We teach our children by our deeds not our empty words. By doing nothing we foster the harm , we are complicit with and as guilty as any accused perpetrator."The poor who have neither property, friends, nor strength to labor are boarded in the houses of good farmers, to whom a stipulated sum is annually paid. To those who are able to help themselves a little or have friends from whom they derive some succor, inadequate however to their full maintenance, supplementary aids are given which enable them to live comfortably in their own houses or in the houses of their friends. Vagabonds without visible property or vocation, are placed in work houses, where they are well clothed, fed, lodged, and made to labor." –Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIV, 1782. ME 2:184

  14. November 30, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Dan de Vaul has obviously been doing good work at Sunny Acres. Roughly 30 people who would most likely otherwise on the street have shelter, an opportunity to work, even if it is just helping on the ranch, and they have a man in the person of Mr. De Vaul who is able to help them stay clean.There have, of course, been some negative points, such as issues with neighbors. But who hasn't had issues with neighbors? There are probably no detailed records, but it is safe to assume that not every resident at Sunny Acres has been successful in getting their lives back in order. For example, I seem to remember that Freddie Lee Jones who killed a homeless woman in the creek near the SLO mission in 2005 was at the time, or had been a resident (I might be wrong on this point). However, the bottom line for Sunny Acres is that it is and has been a haven for many people who otherwise would have been without hope.Perhaps the most admirable part of the Sunny Acres effort is the fact that it is a private initiative. Neither the City, nor the County nor the State initiated or ran the shelter. Dan de Vaul took it upon himself to use his property to ease the lot of his fellow man through a combination of charity and discipline. Dan de Vaul is not being punished for doing good deeds. He is being punished for various code violations which were apparently unavoidable for Sunny Acres because the financing was just not there to bring things up to code. It seems that the Sunny Acres operation might involve other issues. For example, is a permit along the lines of a motel permit required for the type of lodging provided there? Does the fact that Sunny Acres allowed people to work off the rent at a rate of $ 5.00 per hour constitute a violation of minimum wage statutes? Should federal and state income tax have been withheld on the $ 5.00 per hour? What about social security, unemployment and Medicare deductions? Etc., etc. ad nauseum.Should the local authorities have simply let things be by not enforcing the codes? That would be arbitrary conduct which has no place in a state of law. Once the authorities start deciding on enforcement of the law based on which individual's life style they approve of and whose they don't, the law becomes a joke. In the Sunny Acres case, the local authorities have shown a remarkable degree of patience over the course of several years, and the court also demonstrated a great deal of flexibility by giving Mr. De Vaul an opportunity to avoid jail by cooperating with the authorities. At the end of the day, however, things came down to the court having no choice but to enforce the law.Perhaps the real point is that the law often gets in the way of people trying to make do in a difficult world. Anyone who has ever tried to build a house or start up a business knows about the mass of regulations and the inherent expense in complying with them. It soon becomes obvious that, while some regulations serve a legitimate purpose, others make no sense and unnecessarily limit what we do with our own property and in general how we live. Anyone know about "mother-in-law" apartments on property zoned for single family dwellings? Sunny Acres shows us that we should give people the freedom to live as they wish and as they can by asking our government officials from the city council to the federal level to eliminate restrictive laws and regulations wherever possible.

  15. November 30, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    I do find it interesting that all this outrage is brought up only after someone else bailed him out. You can now raise your voice because someone else did your job for you. Where were all of you with your outrage or funds when it was first brought to all of our attention that Mr. De Vaul didn't have the funds to get up to code? He did break the law but you all could have helped him out if you really felt this way.I am sure if someone on his property had been hurt by anything that was not up to code you would have been right there criticizing him.

  16. December 1, 2009 at 5:04 am

    5 YRS.AGO the"Homeless Enumeration" counted 2,408 people.817 were under 21 which translates to 34%. Those numbers are the most recent I could find. The report said " The Tragedy Continues". Living in Cars and the woods ranked even with shelters and transitional housing. Sunny Acres has only been able to pick up 3 % of the Tragedy. I tend to believe the parking problem on the property is caused by the Homeless becoming carless due to lack of ability to maintain them in running condition. So they represent an attempt at holding onto "a vehicle of freedom" which in a rural setting can be argued is a necessity of life.Saint Louis , Bishop of Toulouse, would be proud to call Sunny Acreshome. Having renounced his "right" to the throne of Naples in 1295. He chose to serve the poor instead of being a king. Is it time to change the name of this city since it's mission has changed?Or have they just chosen to forget their own words?"Ensuring that residents can meet their basic needs is a fundamental responsibility of a compassionate community"

  17. December 1, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Chris in Paso: Nice "backhanded" compliment to Mr. De Vaul, and you do not disappoint by bringing in the spectre of "too much law" in your closing paragraph. I am curious to your thought about how the SLO County on one hand is asking Mr. Du Vaul to house a registered sex offender on his property, to the point of apparently even furnishing a trailer for the man in question, and then SLO County on the other hand points out that Mr. Du Vaul that the trailer (which they provided) is not permitted nor an allowed use? (this is according to "juror number 5", supposedly; I wonder if it's true?)As for bringing Sunny Acres up to code: Mr. Du Vaul on Dave's show stated that Katcho from the Board of Supervisors apparently offered to waive a permit fee, but according to Mr. Du Vaul, that one, first permit would only lead to other permitting requirements that would cost him the bulk of the 400k Mr. Du Vaul has gone on about. How about SLO County working with Mr. Du Vaul on the permitting process, the Board of Supervisors directing staff to see that Mr. Du Vaul gets his permits at a much reduced cost (or even for free since he is doing a job the county won't do, taking care of these homeless people), and have other county agencies that have utilized Sunny Acres in any capacity speak up to the Supervisors so they can be shown (on the record, of course) that SLO County is actually using the services of Sunny Acres. And Chris, your assertion that the five dollar an hour "wage" that is paid to the residents for work that they do there is a possible wage violation; it would seem that you ignore that they are provided with all of their meals, their "housing", and that all of this is being provided by a 501c non profit self help organization; should any of that matter at all?Mr. Du Vaul is certainly not a "saint", but he is doing while all the rest of us aren't, he is providing while we don't, and he is doing it without much help; God bless him.

  18. December 1, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Bob. Your reading of my contribution demonstrates a certain cynicism, or perhaps an inability to accept the fact that a "conservative" – labels are so superficial – can welcome someone doing such charitable work.There was nothing "back handed" about my compliment for Dan De Vaul. He is doing good work and providing a service for people who would otherwise have no chance. I also understand that there are offices in the County which have been relieved to have someplace to drop people off when necessary. We would be blind, however, not to recognize the fact that there have also been some problems at Sunny Acres, albeit none that appear very serious as far as the actual operations at Sunny Acres are concerned. On the other hand, it is not fair to demonize County officials and Judge Trice for finally enforcing the law after several years of trying to find an amicable solution. In the final analysis, they had no choice unless you take the position that officials should only enforce the law when they feel like it.The law placed everyone in the Sunny Acres situation in a classic dilemma. The obviously valuable services provided at Sunny Acres could not be provided without committing code violations. I mentioned just a couple of points (e.g. minimum wage laws) that might also be problematic. Whether there are in fact also violations of other laws, however, is irrelevant for the purposes of this discussion.The main point is that we are awash in a sea of laws and regulations that often unreasonably hinder all of us in how we lead our lives and conduct our affairs. And that is why it would behoove all of us and our politicians to thin out the laws and regulations so that our liberty to live our lives as we wish, including how we use our property, is not unreasonably restricted. Simply stated: We have had way to much of "There oughta be a law!"One final point: There is no need for the rest of us to be ashamed because we do not devote our lives to charitable work. The normal taxpayer "gives back" to society with every paycheck. Of course, it's great when people provide charity on top of that, but there is no reason for people to have a bad conscience just because they focus their efforts on caring for their families. In fact, our society would certainly be much better if not so many people failed in their immediate responsibilities to their families.

  19. December 2, 2009 at 12:16 am

    DeVaul has thrown out that $400,000 figure that the "County is demanding" on air on KVEC/KSBY so many times now, that people are actually believing it! Reality check: It is a TOTAL FABRICATION (read: lie) and was even clearly refuted in detail at a Board of Supervisors meeting by the Planning Dept last year; it's more in the $100k ballpark. But he keeps throwing that made up figure around and he's said it so many times now, that ignorant people are actually believing it! Ridiculous. And it upsets me that Dave doesn't press him for details on exactly what makes up that figure.He lied about the supposed "barn", he lied about his temporary vehicle storage business (illegal salvage/scrap yard), he lies about the $400,000 permit needed to comply with County regs… he'd get a lot more support from me and others if he would just stopped LYING and started complying.

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