Thursday, February 24, 2011

Who Sees the Forest for the Trees?

For some time I've peripherally observed the issues surrounding the proposed Caltrans' project at Richardson Grove State Park. That is until I read the February 8, 2011, Times-Standard's rather hyped news report headline: Richardson Grove rally takes a violent turn - protest against road construction project spills into Caltrans lobby. That is when I realized matters had become more ominous and I wondered why. One of the local blogs that I follow, Redheaded Blackbelt by Kym Kemp, was writing about this project after she became alarmed at some of the language being used by people objecting to the project. Since her husband works for Caltrans she has in inside connection and vested interest. I've posted links for her current postings at the end of the article. Some of the commentary is very revealing why there is such a issue and why it continues to escalate.

Watching this dispute unfold produces several questions about why certain situations are allowed to happen. For example here is a short excerpt of Eureka City Police Chief Garr Nielsen:
Aside from minor injuries to the two officers, Nielsen said that none of the protesters was injured during the demonstration. No officer used his baton, Taser or pepper spray during the incident. 
"All in all, it went as well as it could have given the situation," Nielsen said, adding that the protesters could have been arrested at any time during their more than three-hour stay in the building but that he decided to let the protest continue until 5 p.m. "It's just too bad that it had to get confrontational like that at the end."
Chief Nielsen had previously said:
"Quite frankly, I didn't think these people were going to get so defensive," Nielsen said, adding that multiple people kicked officers, while others simply lay down on the ground.” 
I'm not quite sure how someone laying down on the ground is “violent.” He says “he didn't think these people were going to get so defensive.” How he can justify that statement is beyond me when he opened the door to these people and let them illegally occupy that area for three hours. If they were outside the law, and as he says, “could have been arrested at any time,” why were they allowed in there in the first place? It seems to me he was setting these people up for a confrontation.

I've illustrated the above news article and police commentary to demonstrate what, it seems to me, is the root of the problem. Notice what the Times-Standard reported both from demonstrators and Caltrans. First, at no time I can ascertain has the Times-Standard has reported nothing of substance on these contentious issues that fully addresses the demonstrator's concerns. Consistent with that, notice what Caltrans District 1 Director Charles Fielder says:
Fielder said that work for the project, which is dependent on a water quality permit he expects to receive later this month, will be up for bid in the spring and could begin as soon as May. 
Plans do not call for any old-growth redwood trees to be removed. 
'This particular project is very minor in nature, and yet when you look at some of the information that gets posted and a lot of it is simply incorrect," Fielder said. "Either people are misinformed, or they choose to be misinformed.'” [Emphasis added]
"People are misinformed," for that he bears no responsibility? Some people think differently: 
Perhaps due to the advocacy of the project by our elected officials and inadequate media coverage dismissive of our concerns while unquestioningly accepting the Caltrans spin. 
What has been lost in the latest round of media coverage, as has been the case all along, is the fact that this project cannot be justified on any grounds whether practical, economic or moral. [Emphasis added]
"Cannot be justified on any grounds."These are strong words. Has Caltrans adequately answered these issues to any reasonable persons skeptical judgments? Personally, I don't think so and here is why.

His statement, “choose to be misinformed” demonstrates a "dismissive," condescending and disparaging attitude that is wholly offensive. These people have genuine concerns with questions that need answering in a respectful and decent manner. They DO NOT need to be told how to think or what to believe. At the same time these protesting against this project DO NOT need to be hyping clearly indefensible issues when they are promoting another agenda.

If, as Mr Fielder says, these people are “misinformed,” why hasn't he seen to it that the proper information is put forth in such a way there can be NO dispute or contradiction? That would require Caltrans talking TO the general public, in particular those objecting, and not AT them. So far Caltran's efforts to communicate clearly hasn't got the job done. In so doing they, in particular Mr. Charles Fielder, are partially at fault for the current impasse and unnecessary public demonstrations.

Simply put, if what Mr. Fielder says is true and from what I've read seems so, what Caltrans has posted: “Plans do not call for any old-growth redwood trees to be removed,” then that issue comes off the table or becomes mute. Anyone that can prove otherwise needs Caltrans to accept such evidence and properly deal with that matter in timely manner. If not, then anyone that continues to promote Caltrans' cutting of old-growth redwoods is simply lying and trying to cause trouble – they become illegitimate and Mr. Fielder's attitude and statement is justified.

What would it take for Caltrans to accommodate these people's “misinformation” by taking these known issues that are in dispute, designate a website to this matter and one by one lay out the facts for each of these issues that everyone can see and present that information in simple, straightforward, comprehensible language? Let the facts speak for themselves. 

It may seem to Mr. Fielder, Caltrans and the Times-Standard newspaper that this whole matter is nothing more than misinformation-caused “tempest in a teapot.” It may be great for the Times-Standard to publish these kinds of misleading headlines: “Richardson Grove rally takes a violent turn” when publishing the proven facts rather than the personal opinions of someone responsible for enforcing a contested project, would eliminate such escalating possibilities – real violence.

Links: 1) Here. 2) Here. 3) Here. 4) Here. 5) Here.

No comments:

Post a Comment