LET’S GET SOME THINGS STRAIGHT
Do you see arguments thrown back against your important local causes that make you think, maybe I am wrong after all? Well, think twice, and don’t be intimidated by bully tactics and intentional disinformation. I encounter this all the time, so let’s start here.
This is a newspaper column you’re reading. Not a news story. Not investigative reporting.
I can do those things. I have, in the past. But now I choose to be a columnist. Whole different ball game. I’ve been writing music opinion columns since college. A column is by definition an opinion piece. I write a political (/philosophical) column (this one), and a music column (NOTEWORTHY, on Thursdays), and I have too many decades to mention of experience in both.
An opinion column must be grounded in fact, but you choose the factual arguments that best make your case. You are trying to convince readers to see things the way you see them. I rely heavily on community history, observation from many sides, common sense, and the big picture as best I can figure it out. Conclusions are drawn, that hopefully are of use to the reader.
But I get challenged (by people who know better) as though something I wrote was a news article or investigative reporting. Don’t defend, just discredit.
I hear, did you analyze all the documents from the last 10 years? Go to all the meetings? Did you call all these people to get their side of the story? No, that’s what an investigative reporter does. They expose so much information not previously known that you have difficulty not agreeing with their conclusions.
I have always tried to write from the viewpoint of Jane and Joe Doe. A lot of music columnists are musicians, and it creeps in that whatever their instrument is, that’s where their bias goes. I have always tried to write about the overall impact of the music you’re listening to, if all you can play is Pandora or iTunes, and the impact of a local issue when you are not the professional who has the time or resources to go to all those meetings for years, and read through all those professional documents. What is the context, the big picture?
Let’s take a current hot topic, a textbook example if you will.
You have a plan for 21st century education in Santa Monica? And you say it requires tearing down almost our entire Samohi campus and constructing new buildings? Including the History Building so many find precious?
THE HISTORY BUILDING AT SAMOHI
Is slated for demolition in a few months by the school district, enthusiastically approved by the school board. Both are pushing the issue along like there’s no tomorrow and no other path.
Conflicts like these almost always could be resolved with some patience and common sense on both sides, and less intractability. In this case, those opposed to demolishing what many think of as the heart, soul and symbol of our century-old high school, are merely asking, can we take a pause, and see if there is another way? SMMUSD says no, impossible.
A lot of folks just found out about this a few weeks ago; even many Samohi alumni still aren’t aware. There is a lot of anger and opposition. How could that happen?
Here’s where this issue epitomizes the tack often taken on these types of issues in Santa Monica, usually involving development, often including demolition.
We hear, these plans were launched years ago. Where were you? Why are you waiting until the last minute? Why didn’t you show up at all the meetings held for community input? There’s a master plan — OK, it is 800-pages, doesn’t really cover everything, and you won’t understand it — but did you bother to read it all? Look at the last meeting — those in favor of demolition outnumbered those opposed by 15 to 1. You’re only a tiny, noisy, troublemaking minority.
But how is it that, time after time, we’re always finding out too late? Could it be that the information is hidden in plain sight, for example deep in the SMMUSD website where common folk would rarely venture? Could it be that the claims of “wide community notification” are inflated and misleading?
And as for those large numbers who do show up at certain meetings to back one side, which that side says proves community support, even though we are talking about fewer than 50 or 100 people total, does that seem fair? Sometimes such a show of support for one side is also accompanied by the ignoring or misplacing of hundreds of emails, or a petition with more than 5,000 signatures. Makes me wonder.
THOSE POSTING COMBATIVE ARGUMENTS
Online, might be using their paid workday time, for a cause their employer supports. Some entities do spend an awful lot of time in Santa Monica-oriented Facebook pages, pushing their cause. Hard for ordinary residents to keep up with that, parents with jobs and families, who have to use precious personal time to combat the organized opposition.
What’s this Wall of Lincoln going up, all these large buildings lining an already traffic-jammed main thoroughfare, right near a main freeway exit? They’re still adding to it! When did all that get approved? That mammoth hotel at Seventh and Wilshire? 271 rooms. But no tourists now. Did we need that? How about our $140,000,000 city offices building, now nearly unusable under pandemic conditions?
So you missed the meetings, eh? Many say emphatically that they had no idea, had not heard a word. How many times have we heard, “too late, don’t even ask, it’s a done deal.”
Why wouldn’t our appointed and elected officials, supposedly working for us, want to know how we feel about all these things? If their plans are so good for us, let’s hear it. Before it’s “too late.”
In my opinion, is rampant here, from the school board, City Council, City staff. We hear, and I am drawing inferences here — we are in these positions, obviously, because we know better. You may have an opinion but it is uninformed. It lacks the knowledge, experience and wisdom we have applied so, please just hush up. This is your town, but we obviously know better than you do, kids, so just let the adults do their job.”
We now have three new members of our City Council who so far do not seem to exhibit that sense of privilege. There is hope. (But keep an eye on the Kool-Aid pitcher.) The school district and school board, however — perhaps need to pull that steamroller over and do some more listening to their constituents.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com