Thursday, May 17, 2007

Crowdsourcing, County Supervisors and An Inconvenient Truth

Great news from Nevada County - global warming's not a problem; or even if it is, we should ignore it; and transparency is overrated. These are the messages I read as being sent by 4 of Nevada County's 5 supervisors to their constituents.

Regular readers may recall that in early April NCFocus did an interim report on a small crowdsourcing project here in Nevada County; one person in each district* had emailed their County Supervisor to ask whether and when he or she had seen the global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and whether they were willing to have this information be public.

This project emerged from your correspondent's experience at the March 27 Board of Supervisors' meeting; during the public comment period I had asked whether the Supervisors had seen the film - by then it had been out on video for four months, after having shown in town for two months last summer - but chairman John Spencer jumped in to inform me that I was not permitted to ask questions during this period, I could only comment. His implication was that the general public had no right to know this information, that it was between a supervisor and that supervisor's constituents, if the supervisor chose to tell them.

I interpreted his unwillingness as stemming from a desire to avoid publicly answering an inconvenient question; subsequent events have not altered this impression.

The four of us contacted our supervisors to ask. The results:
  • District I Supervisor Nate Beason answered my email after a week had passed; he did not recognize the legitimacy of the questions, and was only willing to say that he had seen the film, not when.
    (My reason for asking "when" was to find out whether he had seen it before or after the supervisors' meeting at which I was prevented from asking about it.)

    (Mr. Beason did subsequently speak* at Nevada County's StepItUp 2007 event on global warming, but - as with his speech* at the Town Hall Conference on peak oil in 2005 - did not take questions from the audience or remain in the room.*)

  • District II Supervisor Sue Horne did not respond to an email asking whether her views had changed. Last summer she'd had this to say to her constituent:
    I do not believe that global warming is the impending crisis that Mr. Gore and others would like all Americans to feel personally responsible for. I will tell you quite honestly, Mr. Gore has little credibility in my view, and I have no interest in viewing a film he is associated with.

    I have attended a rural counties conference in which this subject was addressed by experts in the field. The consensus was, yes, there is global warming. It is probably cyclical in nature, and it is debatable as to what degree the earth is warming. Also, equally debatable is whether a change in human behavior to reduce ozone levels would have any sustaining altering affect on the planet's warming taking into consideration the natural atmospheric occurrences of our planet. I do believe in being good stewards of this beautiful planet we have been blessed with utilizing common sense and responsible actions.

  • District III Supervisor John Spencer did respond to his constituent and answer the questions, but was not willing to have his answers be public.

  • District IV Supervisor Hank Weston saw the film last summer, during the two month stretch when it was playing in local movie theaters, and found it informative and worthwhile.

  • District V Supervisor Ted Owens was asked by Truckee-based freelance writer Ronnie Colby for his views on An Inconvenient Truth; Colby did not receive a reply from Mr. Owens.

That, in a nutshell, is Nevada County's government.


Russ said...

Maybe the reason the Sups are not interested in global warming is because they do not see any warming. Here is a graphic showing the local warming since 1949.

Anna Haynes said...

Hey Russ (changing the subject) is it true that The Union's website redesign deleted all past reader comments on their articles? and (once again) deleted their existing weblogs and blog comments?

That's how it looks to me, but perhaps I'm missing something?

Anna Haynes said...

False alarm, looks like it was pilot error (I had javascript turned off, which is likely why I didn't see them; formerly didn't need javascript), so the only thing truly broken is the permalinks to old comments, or old comment pages. Which isn't that big a deal.

the old weblogs likely did get deleted (I think- unless it's another Javascript issue), but they weren't really usable anyway, so no real loss there.

Michael R. Kesti said...

It might be that the supervisors are personally interested in warming but, in their official capacities, choose to take no stand on an issue for which they have neither responsibility nor jurisdiction.

Anna Haynes said...

> "It might be that the supervisors are personally interested in [global] warming"

It's logically possible for (only) some of them, but unlikely - if they thought global warming was important, why would they stonewall about it? (unless they're afraid of alienating the anti-science contingent...)

I have yet to see any evidence that any of the Supes (aside from Hank Weston - Penn Valley's got smart voters) had bothered to see the film during the many months that they could do so, before I tried to ask at the March meeting.

And what that says to me is that they prioritize their antipathy to Al Gore over facing a crisis.

And Michael, I think if you were to watch the film, afterwards you wouldn't find a government decisionmaker's "personal interest" very satisfying. This is an issue that rates more than personal interest.

> "It might be that ... [they] choose to take no stand on an issue for which they have neither responsibility nor jurisdiction."

By "neither responsibility nor jurisdiction" you mean that their actions as "deciders" have no effect?

I disagree; you and I bear responsibility (because our actions affect the problem), but someone in a decisionmaking capacity bears much, much more.

Land use decisions make a difference. Facilitating car-free transit makes a difference. It's a no-brainer that decisionmakers' choices in these areas have a much larger impact than yours or mine in our personal lives.

Anna Haynes said...

re linkrot and The Union's website comments, I'd said above -

> "False alarm, looks like it was pilot error"

True alarm, it was not pilot error; as of this writing, comments are missing (again) from this column, which used to have around 20 comments.

(it's not just my eyes; the Union's webmaster sees 0 comments here also)