Thursday, July 26, 2007

The "Sheehanization" of Mary Souza

This is an opinion piece. Just like the one Mary Souza writes for the Coeur d'Alene Press entitled The City's Pulse. At least it's her view of the city's pulse. I don't have a local paper to get my thinking out so I'll settle for my blog.

In the six years I have lived in the area I have watched the local political scene deteriorate to the point of deep concern. I have lived all over the country and have never see anything like it. I'm glad the local blogs are read by so few. I'd not like public opinion to be formed by much of the content. The tone is contentious and self serving. The offenders do themselves and their points of view little, if any, good.

There seems no middle ground. If you are a member of the serving city council you are corrupt, in the pocket of developers and big money and just plain stupid.

If you are an activist you are against everything that's good regardless of it's merit, self serving and just plain stupid. Wow. What a town.

Each side patronizes the other. No questioning of city activities allowed. No explanation ever above board. Not living in the city limits I've stayed away from the fray, but this morning's column compels me to have my say. I've often cheered Ms. Souza for asking tough questions. I've also been concerned with the vagueness of some of her facts. I've felt at time her opinions and those of her like minded associates were pilloried for that sake alone.

Her column today, however, threw down the gauntlet with such broad assertions about the integrity of incumbent council members up for re-election I'm surprised the Press ran it. In a nut shell, she called for the out right defeat of all three so the balance of power would be changed.

Now unless I'm missing something very important here, it seems to me they deserve some scrutiny. They are all long serving members of the council and two are former mayors. That means they were voted into office. If they are so bad what must their competition have been? If they are to be voted out of office I would like to know why. What are their individual voting records? Why was their judgement in error? Why is the opposition's judgement better for the community? For those who would run against them how would your being on the council help the city?

Why should a volunteer member of the Planning Commission's assertions be taken as gospel? It seems like she has become the mouthpiece for the opposition much as Cindy Sheehan became the poster woman for the anti war movement. Her ego was stroked until she got sucked in and was used not so much for her concerns but those of those who backed her - and yes, funded her.

I'd hate to see the good intentions of Ms Souza diminished. She has a right to her opinion. I have a right to mine. We both have the right to state it. I should hope that can be done without the belittling of either of us. To the Press - put her column on the editorial page along with other opinions. It is not news. It is one dimensional. It is OPINION.

11 comments:

Word Tosser said...

The Press is owned by Hagadone... those who write for it..be it opinion or else wise... write what Hagadone wants. And if they are in line with Hag.. then of course he promotes it. Who wants to get rid of the concil out more than anyone... HAGADONE..
Mary Souza=Press=Hagadone...

Anonymous said...

The Spokesman-Review is owned by the Cowles....those who write for...be it opinion or else wise...write what the Cowles want. Who wants the council to stay more than anyone...the Cowles. DFO=SR=Cowles

Dogwalkmusings said...

So where do you get "fair and balanced"??

nic said...

You are assuming that Mary has good intentions. I'm sure she does have good intentions in her personal life, as well as in her volunteer position with P&Z. However, I doubt that her City Pulse column is motivated by good intentions. Otherwise she would not need to insist that she is nothing more than a "concerned citizen" in the disclaimer at the end of each City Pulse.

Bill McCrory said...

Mari,

The answer to the question you asked in your 7:32 pm comment is that you must scrutinize the agendas of all public meetings, attend all public meetings held by the city, you must review the "official" minutes of the meetings, and then (when - not if but when - the city's "official" minutes don't seem to square with what you saw at the meeting)you must spend $30 for a DVD of the meeting (if a DVD was made) so you can compare what actually happened with what was reported in the minutes.

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? It is. But when you live in a community where both the local newspaper and the regional newspaper have significant financial conflicts that clearly bias their news reporting, what is your alternative?

Neither newspaper adequately covers the Coeur d'Alene city government. Unless a city flack calls to alert the newspapers to something newsworthy (read: the Council members have learned their scripted lines to deliver so once again the city will look exemplary and critics will be dismissed as fools), there is unlikely to be news coverage of Council meetings let alone commission meetings. Both newspapers, most especially the Spokesman-Review though, have become public relations flacks for the Coeur d'Alene city government.

If the newspapers were doing their job of asking probative questions and providing citizens with timely and accurate information about city government, it's doubtful that anyone would read Oliveria's outhouse blog or Mary Souza's opinion column.

The public record reveals that Mary Souza was justified in forming her opinion about the integrity of Al Hassell, Ron Edinger, and Dixie Reid. You may reasonably disagree with her opinion, but it was an informed opinion.

When the Mayor and City Council acknowledge in an open council meeting that they willingly and knowingly violated the state open meeting law by conducting an unscheduled meeting and voting over the telephone to give a permit to a contractor, reasonable people will question their integrity.

When the executive director of the city's urban renewal agency intentionally misleads a newspaper reporter, telling the reporter he must leave a public meeting (held at the agency chairman's home!) because the organization is going into executive session when in fact there was no executive session and selected members of the community were allowed to remain, and when the Mayor and City Council don't sanction the executive director for his deception, I'd say the city has an integrity issue. Most newspaper editors, regardless of their papers' biases, would have been up in arms about that. They would have been outraged that a newspaper reporter was excluded by deception and that the exclusion was endorsed by the Mayor and City Council. Not in Coeur d'Alene. The Press reported it as a news story without editorial indignation (shameful that Mike Patrick didn't vocally defend his own reporter), but the Spokesman Review ignored the story.

When a council member was asked by a citizen why he voted the way he did on a particular issue and the councilman's response was to deny that the issue ever came up for a vote, and then the citizen shows the councilman the meeting minutes and the recorded vote that shows the councilman voted in favor of the proposition, I'd say that councilman has an integrity issue.

When city officials think it's permissible, even desirable, to use law enforcement information as political intelligence so the city staff can try to smear and discredit those who are trying to get answers to the very questions you asked, I'd say the entire city government has an integrity issue.

You are correct: The three city councilmembers she named in her column deserve some scrutiny. So to the Mayor and the other three councilmembers whom she did not name. But you will not get the scrutiny from either newspaper. You need to dig the answers out for yourself by spending countless hours reading through public records. Don't expect to be warmly welcomed.

What Mary Souza's column has done, quite effectively, is cause more and more people to realize the unquestioning trust and confidence that Coeur d'Alene residents once had in their city government was badly misplaced. More and more people are beginning to ask questions, to make public records requests, and to show up a public meetings. The city's response has been to revile and impugn the motives of the people who dare to ask questions and seek answers. If you doubt this, just read Oliveria's comments about your post.

Why don't you contact Mary Souza and meet with her? While you still may not agree with her opinions, you will at least have a better understanding of how she formed them.

Wondering said...

As always, Bill nails it. There is nothing that I can add, nor could I have said it better. Bill is always the voice of informed reason. Mary has a great deal of integrity and courage. She researches her facts and puts herself on the line. And for this, she is egrigeously attacked. Any elected official that demeans a legitimate question from a citizen instead of answering that question, needs to be replaced. And it is never in the best interest of a city to have a governing body that can vote in a block. The current CDA council reminds me of that famous phrase; Tora Tora Tora.

And sorry, but I know for a fact that Mary is not a puppet of Duane Hagadone.

And this is my opinion.

Dogwalkmusings said...

Bill,

I agree with what you've stated. However, that leaves John Q. Citizen out in the cold because most have neither the time or the knowledge of where to look for the "facts".

I'm not criticizing Mary's efforts. I am suggesting she might be more effective with backing up her allegations with her resources. Having her column in the Press doesn't help either. It just gives fuel for the opposite side.

My main point, which I apparently wasn't successful in making, is the name calling and one sided, disparaging comments do nothing to clarify anything. It causes greater divide.

As you stated, the papers take opposing views - that leaves the average citizen in a quandry. Maybe we should look to the Inlander?

Wondering said...

Oh absolutely! Name calling should end when one leaves the sandbox. But Mary doesn't indulge in name calling. That is the weapon of her detractors. And what is it they are afraid of? And you made an excellent point. Where does that leave the public? Why does the elected government make it so difficult to ferret out the facts? That alone should leave the synapses tingling. And to nic...well not worth the effort.

Bill McCrory said...

Mari,

She's a columnist that writes an opinion column. She's not a newspaper reporter or researcher required to cite sources. The value of her column is more in that she's demonstrated courage which has encouraged and empowered others to raise legitimate questions about city government. If you read her responses on the Press blogs, you'll see she tries to keep the discussions issues-oriented rather than attacking the poster (the way Oliveria encourages and allows). She doesn't always succeed, but she tries.

You're right about JQC being left out in the cold. That's a very fair and valid criticism of both newspapers. If we're forced to rely on newspapers (forget about TV and radio) for news, we're also forced to try and understand the biases that underlie and undermine the news stories.

Again, Mary's column is clearly labeled an opinion column. Even in an opinion column, however, there is danger that some may blur the distinction between opinion and news, between opinion and verifiable fact. In the S-R's blog "A Matter of Opinion: Will the paper's blogs hurt the paper" post, I commented on that point. That seemed to be a prime example of how a newspaper had a great lead for a valid news story yet consciously chose to report it as gossip. As I noted in my comment, if the Email message was factual and verifiable, it should have been followed up on as a news story. If it wasn't factual, it shouldn't have even been posted on a blog in a form that made it appear factual.

There is no easy answer for the newspapers, but blogs and opinion columns are not substitutes for timely, accurate reporting.

Anonymous said...

One can also look at the recent history of the SR. They have been soundly criticized by their professional peers for A). The manner in which they railroaded Mayor Jim West and, B). For manipulating the printed news for financial gain in the Riverpark Square story. Also, the SR has a clear and vocal agenda to smear anything Hagadone. It is a personal vendetta for DFO and the SR supports and encourages it. The SR routinely publishes story that debase Hagadone, his papers and their reporters. While many bloggers at the Press do not like DFO for a range of reasons you never, ever see anti DFO/SR information presented by the CDA Press.

So the motivations to diminish anything Hagadone are clear and a recent history of overt underhanded news manipulation relating to politics and personal wealth place anything coming from an SR source under suspicion.

While many may have Hagadone problems I'll say this for the man. He does do things that clearly are for his benefit. But, he asks for, perhaps expects only accommodations from the city for his projects. Then he builds them using his own money and resources, not public funds. Taxes generated from his endeavors immediately go back into the public coffers.

Wondering said...

Don't know who you are anonymous. But I surely agree with all that you say. Reasoned and factual. The kind of post that gives one hope. Civility and democracy in action. What a concept!