Thursday, April 10, 2003

fish wrap, cynicism, honor

ok, even the freshest part of this almost a week old, but...

Cynicism pervades Top Leadership (the feudal lords, if you will) at The Union. And perhaps in many if not most cases it's justified, and protects against gullibility; however when you see the world through cynic-colored glasses you're likely to make errors in the opposite direction, and ascribe cynical or base motives to honorable, decent people who are are basing their decisions on ethics, not on political maneuvering.

And yes, such people do exist.

To wit:

In last Saturday's editorial touching on the County supes' pro-war resolution, re the Nevada City Council deciding not to pass an anti-war resolution, the editorial said:
The council sensibly decided to not enter THAT lion's den.

Sounds like a calculated political decision, albeit one The Union agrees with. But the reporting at the time of city council meeting shows it in a different light:
"It is not inclusive," Mayor David McKay said of the resolution. McKay, who said he had been to a peace march in January, said the proposed resolution did not represent all of Nevada City's residents.

And of course he was correct; it didn't represent me, for one (am probably the only Nevada County resident who is still undecided on the war). And when I read the article I was proud to have have him as as our mayor; not everyone understands that achieving consensus (or as much of one as possible) is part of the job.

(aside, from the Grass Valley and Truckee City Councils:
Grass Valley Mayor Patti Ingram and Vice Mayor DeVere Mautino do not believe a stand against the war is within the City Council's purview, regardless of one's feelings. "I think that would be a pretty dumb move on our part," Mautino said...

Truckee will not take a position either. "We have a tradition of not taking positions on global issues," Truckee Mayor Ted Owens said Sunday.

The other case is that of former supervisor Bruce Conklin (who lost by 20 votes after his opposition's campaign coffers received a $28,000 still-mysterious donation); this article and this editorial questioned the ethics/motivations behind his being hired by the Nevada County Land Trust with money that the outgoing supervisors had voted (4-0) to give to the Land Trust.

Unquestionably, if you don't know the background to this story, it looks fishy. But this is a small community and we do know the background, most of which The Union's article and editorial neglected to mention.

First, was giving the money to the Land Trust an otherwise-unexpected course of action?

Clearly in most communities the answer would be yes--if you bequeath your money to the county, you expect your county to spend it, not to give the bulk of it to an entirely different organization to distribute. However, Nevada County right now is not like most communities. Here's the background:

  • To my knowledge it is undisputed that the money was bequeathed to Nevada County, for parks and open space.
  • At least one member of the new pro-property-rights regime of county supervisors made it clear that, given the opportunity, he would not spend the money in accordance with its donor's wishes. (so much for property rights...)
  • Therefore (given that there was only a month or so of time to allocate the money before the new group was in control) the only way to make sure that the money was spent as its donor wished was to put it in the hands of a non-governmental organization.
  • ...preferably one devoted to its donor's cause, namely preserving open space and other near-natural treasures.
  • ...and preferably one that was avowedly non-denominational, apolitical, willing-seller-willing-buyer etc.
  • which would appear to narrow the field down to a single potential recipient, namely the Land Trust.

Second, was hiring Bruce Conklin an otherwise-unexpected development, i.e. was there any indication that he was not the most suited for the job?

I don't know the answer; I don't know who the other applicants were. I'll tell you though that my reaction on reading of his hiring was "of course, what a perfect choice". Not "it's all a political setup and he must have bought them off". And based on his experience he has qualifications that no other applicant could match.

yes, maybe I'm naive. certainly in my past i've erred in being too gullible, but my gut says that with a few people, even if you don't know them well, you can tell. There are people who are sincere and there are people who are not. There are people who take cheap shots and there are people who do not. There are people who are authentic and people who are not. There are people who do sleazy things for personal gain and people who do not. And, obviously, vast majorities lie in between.

Please excuse naive earnestness here; it's temporary.
And I count David McKay and Bruce Conklin among those whose integrity is obvious; they are cut from the same cloth as Jimmy Carter. The media was hostile to Carter too; remember the scoffing that went on, when he announced that "human rights" would be a consideration in determining which countries to have good relations with? When he confessed to feeling lust for women other than his wife? When he said "I will not lie to the American people"?

ie. executive summary: while it is good to be on lookout for less than straightforward motives it is not good to just assume that that must be what's there.

(for other articles and letters on the Bruce Conklin/Land Trust issue, on The Union's Search Page type Conklin "Land Trust".)

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