Did you ever wonder why newspaper stories are biased in favor of government and business — and against public interests ?
Well, we got a rare insight in a Herald blog article by Joe Livernois. Livernois is the Herald’s “City Editor” who has responsibility for all local stories. A City editor can and does block stories, remove or “edit” your quotes, and writes (sometimes highly) misleading headlines.
Livernois admits his disgust with, and is apparently not the least bit embarrassed about his name-calling attack on, citizens who speak at public meetings, those trying to help elected officials make better decisions, and give them informed advice against making bad decisions.
Livernois is bothered because “gadflies and kooks waste our time.” (See http://heraldeditors.blogspot.com/2009/08/gadflies-and-kooks.html )
Lets review whether the Political Power Deck (which he is supposed to be reporting objectively upon) is even remotely reasonably balanced:
Elected officials set the agenda and focus subjects on just those issues they want to deal with. The public can not add an agenda item unless they can get government to agree to do so. I estimate the ratio of government set agenda items vs public requested agenda items is roughly 1,000 to 1, probably even worse.
Who Gets to Vote
Elected officials get to vote on one to several dozen issues at every meeting. The public only gets to vote on one of those issues if they force it onto the ballot. And when the public tries to put a subject on the ballot – elected officials typically fight to prevent the public from voting on it. Some governments fight this fiercely and bitterly; and they fight it with the public’s own money. And when they lose – they have to pay the public interest attorney – again with public money.
Reversing Bad Decisions Expensive
When elected officials make a bad or harmful decision (remember the up to several dozen decisions per agenda), again the public has to spend huge amounts of time and money to put the decision before a court. And even then the courts bend over backwards to allow the most outrageous excuses for why government made such an absurd decision.
Court’s Power Limited
Finally, the courts are prohibited from overturning a government decision unless the decision was a flat out failure – an “F”. If the decision could get as bad a grade as a D- (yes like school grading) — the public will lose in court.
Who Is Paid?
Citizens are rarely paid to attend governmental meetings, but elected officials and staff are paid — often overtime to fight against public interests.
Along with developers and their attorneys, Livernois and his reporters are paid to attend as well.
Against all these odds, it is amazing that citizens still have the courage to speak at public meetings.
Public Comment Is Valuable
So one way to try to head off the dozens of goofy governmental decisions that occur every week, members of the public get a tiny opportunity of 3 minutes to try to point out why not do do something, or how to do it better. (That’s rarely enough time to give a diplomatic warm up.)
Sometimes citizens have to wait hours to have their 3 minute moment to be heard.
Citizens have to wait while staff makes long presentations (sometimes 45 minutes long for subdivisions), then the applicants’ lawyers and experts usually get 10 to 15 minutes.
Then we get 3 minutes to rebut the avalanche of blatantly false and misleading information.
But, the Herald’s City Editor believes that’s a distasteful waste of his time because those who comment in public are “gadflies and kooks” with absolutely nothing valuable to contribute.
Do we owe Livernois an apology?
I just am not familiar with the concept that thousands bled and died in our 1776 American revolution — just so Joe Livernois could get back to his Lazy-boy recliner faster. And why should he care if government decisions are worse for it ?
So, if you aren’t happy with government decisions, you can take Livernois’ advice: Shut-up and stay home. Then when it comes time to vote for candidates – obey the Herald’s fraudulent endorsements (that’s another story) – so Herald reporters and editors lives will all be a lot easier.
Or if that sounds a bit silly and hostile to the fundamental concepts of Democracy – lets encourage people to speak out at government meetings at every opportunity they think they can help.
And keep in mind how a City Editor like Livernois can seriously harm our community by blocking important stories from ever showing up.