Thursday, March 02, 2006

Classic column, and comments

Friday update: in response to my 'trackback' email requesting corrections*, Jeff demurred ("That would only provide credibility to your efforts.") Local bloggers Sadie and Russ have contributed comments.
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This morning a coffeehouse friend alerted me to the most recent column by Jeff Ackerman, who is publisher of Nevada County's local paper The Union, one of the Swift Newspapers chain. If you're not familiar with Nevada County or The Union or its publisher, please read this very informative column.

Jeff also recently wrote this characterization:
...the screeching, caterwauling, howling, yelling, demanding, ranting and other noise that generally overrides any meaningful debate these days...*


Not wishing to engage in screeching, caterwauling etc, I'd like to extract what I believe to be the logic of Jeff's column. (And Jeff, or anyone else with greater skills in perception or logic than me, if I got anything wrong, please add a comment to this post, to set me straight.)
(I tried to strip out the hyperbole/strawmen/caricatures and emphasize the logical assumptions; while this does make the arguments less entertaining, it also makes their substance more visible.)

The logical statements/arguments/assumptions from Jeff's column:
  • Longtime local developers who are known to be nice, good people can be trusted not to 'despoil'* a community.
  • If one can traverse an intersection with ease at 7:15 a.m., that intersection is not a "traffic problem".
  • For people to despoil a community, they must set out with 'despoiling' as their goal.
  • Any project which only increases an existing problem by a small degree should be handled as though it does not increase the problem at all.
  • People who oppose these projects should run for office, instead of trying to oppose the projects as citizens.
  • People who oppose these projects tend not to go to community fundraisers (at least not the ones that Jeff sees his "builder and leader" friends at).
    (BTW, to anyone who missed the one for Hetty Williams' daughters...you missed something special. Thanks to the members of the Key Club and their supporters for putting this together.)

Remember, corrections in the comments to this post...I'll incorporate them if any come in.

Some comic relief in the column's comments:
Re: Builders, leaders aren't out to ruin our town
by Anonymous on Tuesday, February 28 @ 11:42:30 PST
With Jeff Ackerman's reputation in the area I sure wouldn't want him to defend me, that says a lot.

Re: Builders, leaders aren't out to ruin our town
by Anonymous on Tuesday, February 28 @ 18:23:22 PST
In order for you to know anything about my reputation you'd need to expand your circle of friends WAY beyond the little weasles who occupy this anonymous space.

This one's good too, on a more substantive level:*
by Anonymous on Tuesday, February 28 @ 08:11:28 PST
I wish I was their friend too. I could become a planning commissioner and have my house remodeled by the president of the contractors association while I recommend that his proposed development projects are approved. I guess it's not a conflict of interest if they are your friends. I guess Abramoff and Delay are just friends too, so it's ok.

23 comments:

Sadie Lou said...

I went over to the blog and navigated through that nightmare of comments and then comments to comments. Man, can't they get a different format for comments? It's ridiculous the way they have it set up over there.
I can't make sense of it and everyone is anonymous. Kinda spineless if you ask me--but we've been through that argument before.
*smile*

Anna said...

re anonymity in comments, and whether it's good or bad thing - the best analysis I know is Ano-, pseudo- ... what's the best -nymity? (Poynter, Jan. 2006) by Steve Yelvington, who is a wise guy (in the best sense) -
"...more than two sides to this argument...anonymity and the use of pseudonyms [not] the same thing...
... if we're setting some positive social goals for our Web-based interactions -- say, for instance, 'advance the cause of participative democracy' or 'help people understand one another through conversation' -- we need to look carefully at our options and judge them for their practical outcomes."

And Sadie, I think the reason we part company on this issue is because we're using different criteria for our judgements - I look at it from "we're designing a society; what's the best design?" and you look at it from "these people are behaving badly by the norms of our existing society"

Do I have that right?

(BTW I really liked your and Jewish Atheist's arguing each other's side - very well done)

Anna said...

just a p.s. on Yelvington's piece - it also contains guidelines for "other, equally important factors that affect the quality of online conversation".

If I was in charge of the online comments section of a well-run newspaper, I would follow those guidelines slavishly.
(i.e. in our community they wouldn't be optimal)

Sadie Lou said...

mm--true. I think people hide behind being anonymous to say "bad" things as opposed to "good" things. I rarely see people say positive feedback anonymously, do you?
I just want people to be responsible for what they say and the backlash they may create.

Thanks for the posotive feedback on the Jewish Atheist challenge--'twas fun!

Russ Steele said...

Dear Anna:

Well my logic analysis is not real sharp, but I do have a few comments to share. I thought Jeff’s column was a nice parody of the public comment that goes on in Western NC. Since we have not formally met, I would not recognize you. We might travel in the same circles, ie attend public meeting and go to political fund raisers, but I would never know. On the other hand my face is well know and I am willing to stand behind my words. More on the spinless anonymous in another post.

Now lets look at your analysis of Jeff’s column:

• Longtime local developers who are known to be nice, good people can be trusted not to 'despoil'* a community.

Most of the local contractors, members of the Contractors Association, have been building here since 1957. Perhaps you can point to some specific project that have built to “despoiled” this community, and suggest alternatives for your opinions. Even better yet, how about something that Keoni Allen has despoiled?

• If one can traverse an intersection with ease at 7:15 a.m., that intersection is not a "traffic problem".

Testing the intersection for one hour during the peak hour does not tell you how the intersection operated the other 23 hours of the day. That one hour is a little over 4 percent of a single day. During this 1 hour, if a new business increases traffic delay by 2 seconds, GV should stop all farther development? In other words, Moule Glass must leave their old building vacant, should it generate more traffic, and Matt Weaver must leave two service bays vacant lest they increase traffic by 2 seconds. Now, those vacant building/bays could be generating tax revenue for GV, which could be applying to solutions for traffic congestion, or more police protection, or whatever services citizens need. But, no we are going to give up those benefits generated over a 10 hour business day, just so some drivers are not delayed another 2 seconds during one peak hour at the Idaho Maryland / E.Main Intersection.

• For people to despoil a community, they must set out with 'despoiling' as their goal.

Keoni and Peg Allen have worked hard to make Grass Valley a better place to live and work. Have you ever been in his office opposite City Hall, the restoration of this building speaks highly of Keoni’s work. Can you point to one thing they have done to despoil GV?

• Any project which only increases an existing problem by a small degree should be handled as though it does not increase the problem at all.

See my intersection discussion above.

• People who oppose these projects should run for office, instead of trying to oppose the projects as citizens.

Right, most of the complaints by citizens are in the negative, “we do not want any more of (put in your favorites term)” When asked what they do want, they go back to the argument of “no more of this or that” No, jackass tell me what you do what. Those elected to public office have to come up with a vision of for the community, they have to run on a platform. Would’t it be nice of those who oppose projects would come forward with ideas on how were are going to solve affordable housing, provide transportation for seniors living in rural areas, reduce traffic as booms buy property and build in the County and shop in GV. Or, better yet, entice those boomers to shop in GV rather than Roseville, which has multiple shopping choices and lots of PARKING!

• People who oppose these projects tend not to go to community fundraisers (at least not the ones that Jeff sees his "builder and leader" friends at).

I will match the NC Contractors Association public donation record against Citizens Concerned About Traffic or GV Neighbors any day. Show me where these organizations have done anything more than complain! They are the leading proponents of “we do not want any more of ....” What have they built? What community organizations do they donate to? I could be wrong, but show me where and how much?

Anna said...

This comment contains responses to the previous one (from Russ Steele)

Hello Russ and thanks for coming over (Russ's blog is here; allows registered commenters only)

Russ, just to clarify - my post was about the [il]logic of JA's reasoning; I wasn't arguing the truth value of his conclusions, just showing that (IMO) you can't get to them from the reasoning he provided, unless you are a Chinese acrobat or Evel Knievel.
(or have been spending entirely too much time tending a patch up in North San Juan...)

Whereas in your comment you're not addressing Jeff's logic, you're addressing the conclusions, much of which I have neither the knowledge nor the inclination (esp. given said lack of knowledge) to wrestle about.
However, since you were kind enough to come over, I'll make a feeble attempt:

(RS=Russ Steele; I've paraphrased his points for brevity.)
------------------
shorter JA: Longtime local developers who are known to be nice, good people can be trusted not to 'despoil' a community.
[and]
For people to despoil a community, they must set out with 'despoiling' as their goal.

RS: [well, has anything that they've done been bad? name something]

me: Can't. I'm not politically or historically hooked in enough to know. (BTW, I think I remember reading that Keoni did the building that I work in, which excels in form and function and is perhaps the most attractive office building in Nevada County. Thank you Keoni.)
But were this a quiz question, I'd answer "traffic and other infrastructure"

And the point I meant to make with the "goal" statement (obviously, no one wakes up in the morning, stretches, says "I think I'll ruin my piece of the planet today") is one you're fond of, the "law of unintended consequences" - e.g. the (undoubtedly kind and responsible) shopping center parking lot designers/owners don't say to themselves "we want to fry customers in summertime", instead they say "water's expensive", or "we want to maximize the number of parking places" or "we want visitors to be able to read our signs" - but the end result is still no or tiny trees in parking lots, and cooked customers in summer.
(and in this instance while the consequences are unintended, they're not unforeseen.)
------------------
shorter JA: If one can traverse an intersection with ease at 7:15 a.m., that intersection is not a "traffic problem".
[me: what it's like at 7:15 doesn't tell you how what it's like at lunchtime.]

RS: Testing the intersection for one hour during the peak hour does not tell you how the intersection operated the other 23 hours of the day.

me: I see peak hour (lunch) as a more meaningful measure of capacity, you see averaging over many hours as more meaningful. Presumably the field of traffic analysis has agreed-upon standards for this?
(personal experience: I just don't go out at lunch anymore, it's not worth facing the traffic. So for me, any further lunchtime increase makes no difference.)
------------------
shorter JA: Any project which only increases an existing problem by a small degree should be handled as though it does not increase the problem at all.

RS: enforcing the existing "increased traffic quota (2-second)" rule is unreasonable to those who built in violation(??) of it, and harms city residents since it means less city revenue.

me: wouldn't using that (RS) logic result in no limits to commercial construction? Increasing the "business footprint"(??) will always increase city revenue, so you (Russ) would always argue for it. Am I right? (Russ, under what hypothetical circumstances would you conclude that the incrementally increased traffic should constrain or preclude a construction project? are you arguing that the 2-second-rule should be a 4-second rule, or are you arguing that there should be no such rule at all?)
------------------
shorter JA: People who oppose these projects should run for office, instead of trying to oppose the projects as citizens.

RS: yes; the "opposers" are always against things, not for them. They don't propose solutions to community problems. Those elected to public office have to come up with a vision for the community

me: it's a problem, because those (of the opposers of "unregulated growth") who do have a vision for the community get derided (or smeared) by the local newspaper's publisher, and those who are forward-thinking in other areas get attacked by the good ole boys, orchestrated by right wing interests from outside the county. (NOTE I'm going far beyond hard knowledge here, but it's the impression I've formed; we can discuss it sometime but not in this post's comments thread, ok?)
And as for my own situation - at this point, given the warm cozy relationship I've established with the local paper in general and its publisher in particular, and the degree of professional behavior I've seen exhibited, I'd fear that my publicly supporting any project would serve as its kiss of death. So I serve by not serving, if you know what I mean. (Jeff Ackerman's already told me he's opposed to Smart Growth; so do you understand why I'd be afraid to open my mouth in favor of anything?)

Which is a pity.
(and may also be a rationalization; take with salt)
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shorter JA: People who oppose these projects tend not to go to community fundraisers that I go to.

RS: yes; I will match the NC Contractors Association public donation record against Citizens Concerned About Traffic or GV Neighbors any day.

me: Counter-question for Russ: under what circumstances would comparing financial donations be an appropriate metric for community concern, and under what circumstances would it not?
(hint: "comparable income")

RS continued: What have they built? What community organizations do they donate to?

me: this has the smell of the Kiss of Death again - if I bring any project or any group up, it becomes tarred with "those bleeping dogooders" and lies under suspicion forevermore...
(in other communities, saving the Julia Morgan House would count as a plus, but this is nevada county where the J.M.House's outbuildings got burned by the fire dept as a training exercise, and I DONT WANT TO GO THERE EITHER RIGHT NOW thank you very much so let us change the subject.)

What I support? Leverage and investment. What can be done today that will have a long-term benefit - like the Supe (name?) whose foresight in dealing with Boise-Cascade and Lake Wildwood brought us Gateway Park. And frequently the actions that have the greatest return on investment involve stopping something from happening - e.g. the reason why Lake of the Pines(??) doesn't have quarter-acre lots on septic systems ringing the lake (with the consequent lake, uh, "fertility", after failed leach fields) is that someone said "No" when it counted.)
And what does sitting here typing do to achieve that goal? Answer: let's change the subject again.
:-)

Another perspective for you to view things from, Russ (though not knowing the people involved I can't vouch for its relevancy here): some people are more money-motivated than others, and the latter group typically doesn't appreciate the negative externalities resulting from the former group's endeavors.
(and yes, there will also be positive externalities, and people being more motivated by fear these might not be given sufficient weight)

Finally, a disclaimer: Russ is talking about "them", and in my responses I am projecting and answering "I". Truth is I'm a spectator, I'm not down in the trenches or over at the city council meetings, I'm not ready to lay down my life for the 2-second rule; and I can't reliably speak for "them" since "they" aren't likely to be a uniform body and will vary in their activism and opinions and convictions (in the positive sense) from each other and from me. Please keep this in mind.

and Russ I look forward to seeing your answers to the questions above....

and thanks again for coming over to comment.

Anonymous said...

Want to look at a "despoiled" area of our county? Try the entire Brunswick Basin. It's Little Roseville. And as far as charitable contributions...as if it matters...the NC Contractors Association has just within the past few years begun making such contributions to combat their negative reputation. Just ask Keoini Allen.

Anna said...

Thanks "anonymous" for coming over and contributing.
- FYI a house rule, as yet unwritten - you have to sign your posts with a pseudonym (and "anonymous1" is already taken)

Yes, Brunswick Basin is Anywhere USA, although I confess that its Burger King enhances my quality of life (not health)

re your statement about NCCA charitable contributions - can you back that up? Is info on their contributions public?

Anna said...

BTW, Terry Lamphier made some good points relating to this issue here on Russ Steele's blog.

Russ Steele said...

Anna:

Yes, cleaning up the posts with some formatting, change of type, color, or something would make them more readable. Now to your questions.

QUESTION: Under what circumstances would I conclude that incremental increases in traffic should constrain, or preclude a construction project?

ANSWER: The reason that our roads exist is to promotes and sustain our economy. Without roads, people cannot get to work, businesses cannot bring in raw materials, and move their products to market. This economic activity, generates tax revenue for the government to provide general use services, including road maintenance and road network improvements. Using the lack of adequate roads to constrain business, hurts the business, the employees at those business and the general public who benefit from the taxes paid to government. The solution is to build more and better roads, not constrain business, just because in delays some drivers for more than 2 seconds during the peak hour of the day, when the intersection works fine for 23 other hours and meets most drivers level of satisfaction.

The satisfied drivers never come to the City Council Meetings only the dissatisfied drivers. If NC has at least one driver per register vehicle, we have 120,000 drivers in Nevada County, with only about 20 complaining about traffic at City Council Meetings, that is .0166 percent complaining. Let’s say only two thirds live on the western slope, we get .0255 percent complaining. So, less than one quarter of one percent are complaining about traffic. CCAT claims 300 members, that still only brings the complaint percentage to .37 percent, or less than half of one percent. You want less than half of one percent to constrain the businesses that benefit the other 99.5 percent. Really?

QUESTION: Should the 2 second rule be the 4 second rule, am I arguing there should be no such rule.

ANSWER: As I wrote here about level of service. http://ncwatch.typepad.com/media/2006/02/do_you_know_wha.html
The 2 second rule is an arbitrary rule that does not take in to account traveler satisfaction and traveler choice. There are several ways of getting to and from Glenn Brook to Grass Valley. Each driver has a choice? If they choose to drive through a particular intersections when it is congested, when other options are available they have made a choice that makes 2 seconds, 4 seconds, more even more seconds not relevant. So, my answers is that we should not have these arbitrary rules, especially if less than one half of one percent of drivers are complaining about traffic congestion.

QUESTION: Under what circumstances would comparing financial donations be an adequate metric for community concern.

ANSWER: None. On the other hand, NCCA members have invested thousands of hours in community projects for years, from habitat for humanity houses, to house repairs for our deployed troops, to putting dog poop bag dispensers on hiking trails. And the other players, how many volunteer hours have they invested in community projects? And they are?

As for Mr. Anonymous, I do not waste time answering anonymous posts. But, I will note that the Basin was built to the standards that existed in the 1970s. And, where else would you build a shopping center with easy access by both GV and NC citizens?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Steele doesn't mind appearing on the Union's message board where 99 & 9/10's % of all messages are signed "anonymous". Otherwise, it's a crock to state that the Brunswick Basin WAS built to 1970's standards. There is building and construction going on there today...night and day...that is in no way keeping to the city charter of "historical." We're 30 years plus removed from those 1970's mandates. Does JimBoys Tacos or any of the new apartment tenements in any way, shape or form form conform to the modern standard? You've mentioned that you need to hear what we want not what we don't want...here's what we want...keep the buildings from looking like Roseville strip malls.

Russ Steele said...

Sorry, Mr Anonymous, no time for faces less people. When I post on the Union boards, I use my name.

Anna said...

anonymous, get thyself a pseudonym. Please.

> You've mentioned that you need to hear what we want not what we don't want...

What I would love to see, is Jeff Ackerman laying out his vision for the future of Nevada County, and what measures he thinks we could/should take now to get it there.

Unfortunately, he's not going to listen to that suggestion from me. And anyone who did make it would either be ignored or risk retaliation. So it probably aint gonna happen.

Oh GOD I miss Margaret Wade. Why does Swift Newspapers hate Nevada County?

maxr999 said...

You're right about retaliation and that's why some choose to remain anonymous. Remember William Weismann, the LOP whacko who attempted to hire a hit man to murder a neighbor because the neighbor's gazebo extended 16 inches onto his property? Well, Mr. Weismann was president of that private property 'rights' organization who contributed heavily and supported the campaign of John Spencer. Mr. Steele is Spencer's public mouthpiece. These people are dangerous and they're in power. By the way, Mr. Steele believes the government seeded clouds to cause the Katrina hurricane disaster. Koo-Koo. I don't care to have these people know my identity, for safety sake.

Anna said...

> You're right about retaliation and that's why some choose to remain anonymous.

Yes; thanks maxr for giving an example (the Weismann case); I can give a related, extremely recent example, from, like, 3 minutes ago:
* I saw your example;
* I thought, "I should compile a list of examples that I know of, then other people could add to it";
* I second-thought, "No, I'd better not do that; they know who I am."

So if anyone is still wondering why our community needs to allow anonymity in public discourse....

maxr999 said...

So Anna, prove my statement wrong. You cannot because it's factual. The LOP lunatic was in fact one of the 'private property rights' leaders who propelled Spencer to the rank of county supervisor...and...Spencer's man, Mr. Steele publicly proclaims that the federal government intentionally seeded clouds to cause the Katrina disaster in order to increase oil profits. It's all a matter of public record.

Anna said...

a couple things -
First a clarification - in my previous comment, by "a list of examples..." I meant examples of intimidation or retaliation that have occurred in this county, I didn't mean all of them were politically motivated.

Second - maxr(999) - give references for your assertions please - e.g. I just now googled for
"russ steele" katrina seed OR seeding
and nothing came up.

or I suppose we could go to the source.... Russ?

maxr999 said...

Here's the latest raving from the mind of Russ Steele:

The 2 second rule is an arbitrary rule that does not take in to account traveler satisfaction and traveler choice. There are several ways of getting to and from Glennbrook to Grass Valley. Each driver has a choice? If they choose to drive through a particular intersections when it is known to congested, when other options are available they have made a choice that makes 2 seconds, 4 seconds, or even more seconds irrelevant, it was the choice they made.


Why didn'the man of Steele enlighten the public as to what 'choices' are actually available to drive to the Brunswick Basin? My guess is because he doesn't actually know, Steele is simply blowing smoke up our collective asses. If Mr. Steele is qualified to address the issue he raised, then let him inform the public of the 'choices' they can make when driving to to the Brunswick Basin from: incorporated Grass Valley, Nevada City, Lake Wildwood, Alta Sierra, Rough & Ready, Harmony Ridge. I'd like to know average commute times & streets used, as compared to the targeted highways and city streets.

Waiting for a response...

Anna said...

maxr999, it is clear that you are POd but using terms/expressions like "raving" and "blowing smoke up our collective asses" makes it sound like you are raving, and detracts from the credibility of your points.

If you want to rant freely, please don't do it in comments here, you can get a weblog of your own - after all, a blogspot-hosted blog (via Blogger) is free.
But keep in mind that if you want to reach those who aren't already in the choir, making your points calmly would be more effective.

And another way to increase your comments' credibility is to provide URLs to back up your assertions.

maxr999 said...

Thank you for the lesson in deportment. Mr. Steele insults my inteeligence by stating that's it's the citizens fault for the traffic woes by commuting to work; i.e.. the choices we make by driving on surface streets. it's never their fault, it's ours. Here's another beautiful example from the Union March 2005:

"Of course, I'm opposed to losing what little parking we do have," said Carl George, who owns an East Main Street building. He called the traffic situation "a real nightmare."

George said drivers make U-turns in the middle of East Main Street, then back up into traffic when they can't spin all the way around.

The trouble is caused by postal customers waiting to snag a prime parking space and delaying traffic behind them, several observers at the meeting agreed.

"I think our greatest problem is the ignorance and impatience of the public," Councilwoman Patti Ingram said at the meeting. "I'm frustrated."

This is is in response to the traffic nightmare that the city created at the post office intersection. Then planner Lisa Swarthout and Company clearly did not study traffic flow at the tiny parking post office parking lot. It was their design and when it immediately failed, it became the fault of the public.

We are being buried by the incompetence, greed and short-sightedness of those currently in power. They're excusing it by calling you and me and the rest an ignoramus. Your response is to be polite. Exactly when should we start callin' like we see 'em? By your measure, it'll be when it's really too late. You are getting exactly the government you deserve.

Anna said...

> "...Your response is to be polite. Exactly when should we start callin' like we see 'em? "

We can call 'em like we see 'em without resorting to tactics we find abhorrent when used against us. It's more effective, or so we civilians like to think.
(Taking the high road will still get you there, with your honor intact)

(and see Ed Cone's classic Don't Talk While I'm Interrupting )

BTW for other readers, the March 2005 Union article quoted in previous comment is here.

maxr999 quoted this:
>""I think our greatest problem is the ignorance and impatience of the public," Councilwoman Patti Ingram said at the meeting."

Yes, that was attention-grabbing. I write software, and in that world a "blame the users" response to problems just shows that the blamer is unclear on the concept: you must design for your actual users, not for the ones you wish you had.

(although it is the most natural reaction in the world, when it's your product that the users are having trouble with)

> You are getting exactly the government you deserve

Them's fightin' words. Java John's, 8am; show up if you think you can defend them.
(or send mercenaries)

Anna said...

> "show up...

On second thought, it's better that you don't, if you value your low profile.

Anna said...

First, apologies to anyone who's come back here expecting to find something other than a monologue.

Second, for clarity, to keep locals from jumping to a very wrong conclusion:

I don't know who maxr999 is, I have no reason to believe that s/he has ever set foot inside the coffeehouse that I frequent, and sh/e is certainly not a (different) person who (until very recently) would periodically drop by and talk/argue with us, who is not of maxr999's political persuasion and would not be happy to be mistakenly identified as him/her.

got it?

People who are willing to interface with everybody are in short supply here, and I'd hate to think that I had just made the supply even shorter.