Saturday, May 5, 2012

Siege Mentality

Pete Rose had a regular habit of sending out a Friday email to the Council. It functioned as part status update and part homily. One of his April emails encouraged the Council to change the tone of discourse (see excerpt below).

From my perspective, there are many ways the Council and staff can change the tone of discourse, but it isn't via any of the methods they keep choosing. There is a trust gap between many of the citizens and the County government, and when the County government appears to act in ways contrary to trustworthy behavior (e.g., secrecy, apparent bias), that doesn't help to narrow the gap. In Wile E. Coyote fashion, everything the County government seems to do, just makes things worse. They keep making the same mistakes in different ways.

Plan, plan, plan. Control, control, control. Scold, scold, scold. The County wants us to behave, but whether it be solid waste, land use, or something else, much of the citizenry simply does not perceive the County as having the demonstrated requisite professionalism, competence, good faith, fairness, or skill to do a yeoman's job. This isn't because the public is bad, deranged, or the agent of some political agenda. The many diverse people who feel this way have come to this view from our personal experiences with local government. If the County were to improve the experience, the tone would improve. If our local government did things "for" us instead of "to" us, or at least just got out of our way to let us get on with our endeavors, the tone would be better.

I don't see that happening given the siege mentality that has developed at the County. Instead, we should probably brace ourselves for more lectures on civility, with all the sanctimonious overtones that come with it. Genius.

Below is Pete Rose's April 5, 2012 missive to the Council about civility.

Changing the Tone of Discourse:  One of your former colleagues used to say he liked the feistiness of the San Juan County citizens.  The question we have to ask ourselves is “How much is too much?”.  As public figures, we have to take a certain amount of this, but the CAO and other things are bringing a raw tone to the surface. Like the national discourse these days, it is much more “in your face” and much more personal.   We have seen things in publications like,   “staff with an agenda”, innuendos about councilmembers gone to the dark side, inadvertent “You Tube” stars, calling out staff members by name, chiding “pseudo-planners”, separating staff from our governing body.  The sentiment has gone negative – too negative.  Also, staff below the normal definition of public figure are being called out by name for doing their job.  Tactics appear to be organized and are being rolled out like a political campaign.  We are all taking our turn in the barrel.  As regards the CAO, a staff perspective is this:  It is your legislation that we are working on – the toughest job you will have while in office.  It is being done in concert with the guidance document by Dept. of Commerce and your resolution from 2010 (periodically updated).  For two years, we have been moving down the path of site-specific variable buffers as directed.  Now that it has been delivered and people have realized it is more complicated to be fair and sometimes being fair is a wider buffer, the move is afoot to summarily kill and the mood on the blogs and in lousy cartoons is indeed feisty.  At the same time, you have taken a measured and moderate course when given the opportunity on such things as rebuilding and other hot buttons, and the criticism has only increased.  This is hard and people have to recognize that.  I am calling on the Council to pull together and call for a tone of civility and to accept that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.  If you do not feel it is appropriate for you to do so, I will do it.


  1. Gee, an "attack" on one of us is an "attack" on all of us?? No, sir, I think most County employees are just fine. The arrogant tone-deafness, paranoia (violence? R U kidding?) and misrepresentation are all in the Privy Council.

  2. All for one and one for all? If there has ever been a call to circle the wagons, it doesn't get much better than this. And, looks like Pete followed through on his vow "I will do it" and so his junior mouthpiece Stan Matthews promptly attacked the community howling for a hoax. Might as well yell fire in a crowded theater. That was not a very intelligent way to get folks to simmer down. But it is pretty hard to look at the world clearly from inside a delusional bunker of one's own making.

    1. Professor ChaosMay 5, 2012 at 5:40 PM

      This is exactly the drivel spouted by Council during the Council meeting. It's like Jon Stewart exposes every week--the Republican "communications" team issues talking points each week, and their talking heads diligently repeat them. An organized campaign? That's precious--bunches of citizens show up at a meeting and ask questions of staff: heresy! And they don't get PAID to attend these meetings, like Ecology, Friends, etc. Yes, the County must be quaking in its boots in the face of this "organized campaign."

  3. Lice cartoon ? Where? Did I miss it?

  4. And its not the Council's fault the public recently woke up to the ... uh ... complexities of the site specific buffer approach. Sure in some respects the idea was good, trying to make buffer policy fair ... sew a purse from a sow's ear, and what we all got from the exercise was the fact that buffers don't really work, there is no credible science, and it is all about policy. That's why the public is irate. Besides just look at this Shore Master Program Revised Inventory and Characterization Report. Model of simplicity in its 400 pages of elegant rationale. No. These guys are not paid to do "simple." They are pretty much paid by the word. And the word is getting around.

  5. Pondering the state of things on this Sunday morning, I have come to the conclusion that I don't understand much at all about local government. Let's take the CAO as an example. It is so difficult for me to accept that the Planning
    Commission, Planning Department, and the County Council seem absolutely determined not to consider that maybe, possibly, there might be unintended consequences to the legal tome they are creating. They've bought into the enviro "precautionary principle" completely, but can't imagine the same principle being applied to the economic and social spheres of life in the county. I had the opportunity to talk at length with one of the Council members yesterday. The lack of understanding of what is in the ordinance, the basic science, and of what the goals are was staggering! I had to explain a number of things, and the dull glaze in the eyes indicating non comprehension was sad to see.
    So, on this pleasant Sunday, I've come to the conclusion that we are well and truly screwed.

  6. Environmentalism has lost its way. The last forty years of environmental activism have created the most densely organized movement in human history. Environmentalism has adherents that believe in the supremacy of environmental issues with a cultish or even religious fervor. They obsess in their green sensitivities and superiority, and will reflexively provide unsolicited advice for your environmental rectitude -- recycling, carbon footprints, endangered species, and the like – with the moralistic certitude of an apostle. And, with little or no practical credentials or cost considerations, environmentalists will gladly rearrange your life according a green dogma that is antithetical to humanism and capitalism. Such eco-proselytizing is not merely a question of manners, timing, tone or spin; this is a serious cultural blindness and childish arrogance with psychological predicates. It is ENVIROPHOBIA!

  7. "It is so difficult for me to accept that the Planning
    Commission, Planning Department, and the County Council seem absolutely determined..."

    Before hurling rocks at the Planning Commission, you might want to look at the motions made during the Wetlands CAO, or look at some of the discussions during the hearings. A fair number of the Planning Commissioners raised substantial objections and concerns to the proposal before them, and got those concerns on the record...

    It might be handy to ask the County Council about some of those issues when they take up the matter.

  8. Seems crystal clear. This isn't about the environment or science. This about a new way of living, a new world, a new Man. Will we go quietly into the night?

  9. Don't worry. The "Friends" are actively recruiting a Community Engagement Director. Good luck with that.

  10. Community Enragement Director?