But since this is our 300th post (and in a little less than eleven months!), I figured it is as good a time as any to share a little hopeful news with you. Three random articles that, to me, show that beneath all the dreary hype and endless propaganda we are forced to endure, somehow the truth does manage to get through. And that we can, and will, win next April. In the process putting to an end once the carpetbagger redevelopment nightmare personified by a City Councilman who claimed four years ago to be "just like us," but turned out to be the personification of everything we never wanted for Sierra Madre. You can only pity the fools being dragooned into running alongside him.
The first article of these three articles is short, but brings along a lot of hope for the future. It comes from the Sacramento Bee's "Capitol Alert" web page. A story not very widely reported, of course, but maybe that doesn't matter so much.
Anti-growth forces emerge on top - This week's election featured the usual array of local ballot measures dealing with commercial and residential development and slow- and no-growth advocates appear to have won more than they lost, according to the California Development and Planning Report, an authoritative newsletter of urban planning issues.
"All in all, voting on November 3 local ballot measures provided the usual mixed bag," the newsletter said. "The slow growth side won 8 of 12 easily classifiable contests..."
Now as we've been discussing lately, the leadership of the "Repair California" claque that believes it somehow has a mandate to give California a new Constitution has a very suspect pedigree. With some of its key leadership being the same folks who engineered the passage of such things as SB 375, the legislative boondoggle for redevelopers absurdly posing as a way of saving the world from global warming. But you know what? It looks like people aren't buying this "New Constitution" sham, either. This from latimes.com:
Backers of an overhaul of California's government, who hope to leverage disgust with Sacramento into support for changing how the state raises taxes and spends money, have a difficult path ahead, according to a new poll of California voters.
Major segments of the electorate see the state's problems as the product of unrestrained lawmakers driven by special interests to waste taxpayer money, and reject arguments that structural issues with the state's Constitution and government institutions are to blame.
This next piece gave me chills. It comes from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Tell me that what it describes here is not all that different from things we've seen here in our little town.
Creating a New Town Square - Tucked between a verdant coastal mountain range and stark Pacific Ocean bluff tops, Half Moon Bay is one of those rare, spectacular natural places. It's also a classic small town, time-warped only by the happy accident of relative geographic inaccessibility to the suburbanized San Francisco-Silicon Valley corridor just 20 minutes "over the hill."
Not everyone here is involved in local politics, but pretty much everyone has an opinion. What it boils down to is development. What's our civic vision? Do we continue to define ourselves fundamentally as a rural fishing and agricultural community, open to sweeping vistas and closed to shopping mall sprawl? Or do we make Faustian bargains, trading bits of historic identity for real estate deals dressed up in the shroud of progress?
These questions lend themselves to endless political soap-opera gyrations among "pro-growthers," "no-growthers," "slow-growthers," "managed growthers" and ... (fill in the blank). Meanwhile, an alienated "silent majority" tunes in to the local cable access channel to watch, and perhaps ruefully to laugh at, the routine Kabuki of another public meeting.
It's a familiar small-town story, for sure. At its heart is the flow of information driving - or distorting - so much of the civic ecosystem. The weekly newspaper amounts to a water cooler, a town square, the proverbial grapevine. Quite a sacred trust - and it comes with unbelievable, often unchecked, power to influence discourse among citizens.
Not unlike major market media, most small newspapers are driven by bottom-line profit. And that pressure is more obvious in some places than others. In the case of our chain-owned local weekly, ad space is dominated by - what else in California?- real estate. The pressure to develop subdivisions and golf courses on every last, highly valuable inch of available coastal property is intense. Environmental law is for some a nuisance to be gotten around. This tension is the subtext of everything, from elections to infrastructure to public school education to which watering-hole people choose to frequent. Take a side. Our local newspaper unquestionably has.
The local paper's version of truth is constantly rebutted for its misrepresentations and insinuations. Starting with city council members who have gone on record with their frustration and refusal even to read the paper, many consider it advocacy rather than journalism. Ask for a correction or clarification and, if one appears, it will likely have a snarky editor's note appended. In any case, once something falsely damaging is out in circulation, it's too late.
That's why it was such a breath of fresh air when an online journalist stepped up to offer a different point of view. More than that, Barry Parr has brought integrity, wit and professionalism to Coastsider.com. Though familiar with newsrooms as a result of his work designing early Web sites for Silicon Valley news outlets such as the San Jose Mercury News, Parr had no professional reporting experience. He's gotten his cub training as a middle-aged, computer-age Thomas Paine - a classic watchdog journalist, with a take-no-prisoners pay scale to match.
To the amusement and relief of devoted readers, Parr has at times posted line-edited-for-accuracy versions of pieces featured in the weekly. He has outed those who would intimidate or suppress opposing points of view. He has created a civilized space for alternative voices - and unsponsored truth.
It might sound overblown, but Coastsider.com provides an unbelievably critical public service. It's a locus for the kind of civic trust and independence on which the idea of journalism, indeed democracy, is based. And he doesn't even own a printing press.
You see? We're not alone after all.
Article # 301 tomorrow. After all, there is a City Council meeting tonight that we'll need to talk about.