Seeking Civilized Discourse
It's been interesting to read articles in the Daily Pilot over the weekend about events of concern to our good neighbors over in Newport Beach. They are still dealing with the issue of just where to build their much-needed new City Hall and now the fate of the Banning Ranch oil field has jumped into the headlines again. The former involves a controversy over 12 acres near the current Main Library which is, in my humble opinion, the perfect spot for the new City Hall. The second involves more than 400 acres on the bluff overlooking the Santa Ana River and West Newport, the plans for which range from lots of houses, a combination of houses and park space or purely park land.
I contrast this with Costa Mesa's current "land" issues. At the last council meeting that body approved the acquisition of nearly two acres contiguous to a current park on the Eastside and, it is assumed from the comments made, plans to have that entire area become a park. And, there is still the steady drum beat from so-called "improvers" to raze apartment buildings around town - displacing the Latino residents - and turn those locations into parks, too.
I was interested in the way Newport Beach residents handle their comments attached to the articles in the Daily Pilot. In the recent past many of the Costa Mesa-related articles have had many comment threads that resembled school yard shouting matches. Not so in the case of our good neighbors. One article regarding architect and yachtsman Bill Ficker's most recent proposal for the use of that 12 acre plot as a combination City Hall/Park generated more than 60 comments - most of which were generally well thought-out and clearly presented. One fella, undeterred by the 100 word maximum, posted 6 consecutive comments to make his points - and did so quite effectively. A companion article emphasizing the "park" aspect of the space in opposition to a city hall being considered for that plot generated 11 comments, most of which were calm, reasonable responses. An accompanying editorial by the Daily Pilot also had 11 comments as I type this, each of similar thoughtful nature. So far, not a single "zinger" attempting to defame a previous viewpoint, unlike so many of the comments posted on the Costa Mesa-oriented articles recently. No personal attacks on other commenters, just clear, thoughtful viewpoints expressed with passion.
I make that observation because it seems that our good neighbors in Newport Beach, even though issues are many times quite polarizing, somehow manage to maintain a level of decorum in their debate that seems unattainable, or at least forgotten, in Costa Mesa. That's a real shame, too, because there appears to be a new group of voices trying to be heard in my town, but they are continually "shouted down" by folks who have strong allegiances to the "improvers". It reminds me of the actions of one of that mob who attempted to stifle a demonstrator in the city council chambers last year as she sung the words to "We Shall Overcome". This guy is a rabid "improver" who, as he scrambled across the auditorium to get in her face like some berserk chimpanzee, tried to drown her out by screaming the words to "God Bless America" at the top of his lungs. It was shameful and actually pretty darn funny. This guy and his peers seem less inclined to frame a reasonable argument, preferring instead to attempt to discourage differing views by using spiteful invective and overwhelming volume - a literary spitting match.
I long for the return to civility in discourse in our city. I long for the time when divergent viewpoints would be considered and debated by mature people who had only the best interests of my city in mind without degenerating into personal attacks. I long for the days when political operatives from national parties didn't try to use our city as a farm team, and exercise their influence over elections and subsequent political appointments. I miss the good old days, when local politicians were not influenced by those among us with a not-so-transparent radical racial agenda. Yes, I'll say it - I long for the return to reason in our city.
Labels: civilized discourse