(No actual facts were unearthed in reporting this story.)
In an exclusive interview with The Santa Barbara Independent, the South Coast’s preeminent award-winning arts and entertainment weekly newspaper and 24/7 online news source, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider announced she filed a temporary restraining order in Superior Court at 4:59 Friday afternoon to block the end of the world, which is predicted by Reverend Harold Camping of the Family Radio broadcast network to commence next Saturday at 6:30 in the evening. In so doing, Schneider told reporters for The Independent — whose Web site has more daily visits than all other South Coast Web sites combined — she could not afford to wait until Tuesday’s regularly scheduled council meeting to act. Instead, she availed herself to extraordinary unilateral powers available to the mayor under the city’s charter under only the most exceptional of circumstances. “If you don’t call the end of the world ‘exceptional,’” the mayor stated, “then I don’t know what is.”
Council conservatives, who routinely spar with liberal Schneider about just about everything, cried foul. Frank Hotchkiss noted that the mayor took no such action when the ancient Mayan calendar suggested that the end of the world was imminent. And, he noted, no similar assertion of executive authority was initiated during the Y2K scare of 2000, nor when the Kahoutek Comet posed a similarly imminent threat. “It’s a power grab, pure and simple,” Hotchkiss complained. “It’s more fear mongering — like the Light Blue Line — just dressed up with fresh makeup,” he added. Hotchkiss has expressed doubt that global warming and climate change pose any threat. In fact, he spurred to run for office when Schneider, then still a council member, pushed plans to paint a light blue line around town to show where the water level would stand should Greenland’s ice caps melt. Likewise, he recently disputed environmental warnings about the threat posed by the vast quantities of discarded plastics accumulating in the world’s oceans. Hotchkiss dismissed scientific studies indicating these plastics imperil marine life. Because plastics don’t break down molecularly, he stated, marine creatures can safely discard them through the process of elimination.
In her legal papers, Schneider asserted that the beginning of the end — as predicted by Oakland-based minister Harold Camping — constituted a clear violation of the church and state separation required by the Constitution. “If believers wish to have their world ended, that’s clearly up to them, and I respect that,” said Schneider. “But I don’t think it’s fair for them to foist their beliefs on others who subscribe to a different set of theological precepts.” Furthermore, Schneider said, The Rapture would disrupt Santa Barbara’s tourist trade at a time City Hall is struggling to reconcile a $3 million budget shortfall. “First Governor Brown wants to take away our Redevelopment Agency, now this,” exclaimed the beleaguered mayor. “Look, they can do what they want, but I want to march in this year’s Solstice Parade.” Furthermore, Schneider complained that the council had yet to finally wrestle the city’s controversial General Plan update into submission. To date, that planning exercise has consumed five years and $3 million, but the council finds itself stubbornly divided over how much increased density should be allowed in hopes of creating more opportunity for affordable housing.
As usual, the council’s response to the potential crisis reflected its split over the General Plan and increased housing densities. Councilmember Dale Francisco, the strategic quarterback for council conservatives opposed to such increased densities, expressed concern that Schneider would use her emergency powers to cut the Gordian Knot over growth policy. “If it’s just to deal with the end of the world, I guess I’m okay with it,” a skeptical Francisco mused. “But if she’s trying to cram down more density than the people want behind our backs, that’s a horse of another color.” Ultimately, Francisco dismissed Schneider’s legal action as “another case of the nanny state run amok.” He added, “Liberals like Helene think government can and should solve everything, but it can’t. And to the extent that they try, they just make matters worse.” To ensure he was not associated with such “fuzzy-headed thinking,” Francisco announced he would get his hair cut a week earlier than usual.
Council conservative member Michael Self, up for reelection this November, said concern over The Rapture highlights City Hall’s pressing need to hire more police officers. By placing more cops on the beat — “More boots on the ground and more shields behind the wheel” — she said City Hall can maintain a police presence strong enough to discourage any mayhem that ensues if and when the end begins. “This is not the time for ‘restorative policing’ or any other grand experimentation,” she said. “We need to stick with the nuts and bolts, bread and butter, and meat and potatoes. If you were a parent, that’s what you’d feed your kids, not tofu.”
Attorney R.U. Reddy, representing the evangelical prophet Harold Camping, declined to comment in detail other than to say Schneider’s action was premature. “While the beginning of the end is scheduled to begin May 21, the end of the end won’t happen until October 21,” he pointed out. “The mayor has to exhaust all her administrative remedies before going for the legal kill shot, however politically tempting and expedient it might be.” Reddy said he had no intention of allowing so momentous an event as The Rapture to be transformed into a “tawdry media circus” just so that a free paper like The Santa Barbara Independent — which got the exclusive no-comment interview with him — could sell more copies. “When God lowers the boom, you’ll know it,” he said. “There won’t be any need to get the other side of the story. There will only be our side.”