.

Op Ed: City Communication Needs Upgrade from Telephone Game

Pam Drew writes in response to the Feb. 7 Marin IJ article covering City Manager Michael Frank's 'State of the City' address, where Frank and Mayor Denise Athas cite a lack of trust in public officials due to rumors and misinformation on the internet.


Michael Frank addressed those with the money and time to spend $25 per head for a breakfast gathering pulled together by the Novato Chamber of Commerce for the third time. This meeting was obviously not designed for the people of Novato. They were mostly working, many working at low wage jobs, some serving those gathered together.

"In addition to financial troubles, the city faces a political environment that has become more contentious over issues such as affordable housing, Frank said. He said debates have been inflamed with ‘rumors and misinformation’ that spread over the Internet and contribute to a lack of trust in public officials." (Marin Independent Journal, 2/7/2012)

Athas said she agreed with Frank's statements about a lack of public trust.

"There can be a lot of misinformation when it goes from one person to another and the story can change," she said, citing a false claim that a commuter rail station in Novato would require thousands of new housing units.”  (Marin Independent Journal, 2/7/2012)

This is another example of a party line of fake moral outrage (misinformation?) put out by not just Athas and Frank with the aid of the slant of the IJ but by a host of others.

Notice that the North Novato Station was delayed precisely because of the need for an average of 2200-units within a half mile of SMART stations. Does Athas think people are too dense to remember that the North Novato Station was put on hold?

Yes a lot of people get the numbers wrong, and a lot of people will continue to get the numbers wrong. Mostly people do the best they can.

I have been a math teacher for 35 years. I myself failed last year to apply full understanding of the phrase "an average of" in a letter to the editor to the IJ about the rule requiring an average of 2200-units within a half-mile of the SMART station. I found my mistake, corrected the mistake, got an editor of the IJ to agree to correct it before printing it. He printed the incorrect version anyway and apologized later in an email. You the public never heard the correction. Denise Athas didn’t.

That incident was ONE way misinformation got out there on the net. It was published. Even the MTC/ABAG aggregator picked it up. So Athas herself in some way was perhaps citing misinformation from the very newspaper that was quoting her.

Second, since when have rumors and misinformation NOT been spread over the Internet, except before the Internet was invented? Rumors and misinformation are part of the human package. If Athas and Frank haven't been aware of this before, we elected or hired two fools.

Third, mistrust of elected officials is increasing and should increase. Does anyone remember the recent national meltdown caused by the sale of high-risk mortgage securities as virtually risk-free to the unsuspecting, or am I mistaken?

Have our public officials resolved this situation? Did they have a hand in it? The more scrutiny the public process is subjected to, the more likely our elected officials will remain honest.

Anyone who carefully reads the agendas and packets for City of Novato meetings understands how abstruse the documents are. These documents are not designed for ordinary citizens to read and to understand. These documents sometimes appear to be constructed deliberately as shields of verbiage to impede understanding. Does this style produce trust?

The legal maneuvers that this city council and city manager have resorted to thwart the state in their bid to retake redevelopment funds are extraordinary. The reports of such actions are definitely not designed for simplicity and transparency. Should we conclude that Michael Frank and Denise Athas, very familiar and connected to these documents, are personally saddened and shocked, presumably, by the lowering of moral standards among a public which is stooping to misinformation? Tut. Tut.

I would hope Michael Frank and Denise Athas in the future would devote some energy to correcting the communication problems mentioned above created within the City offices rather than publicly opining in the IJ like a pretend mother and father watching a row of children playing 'Telephone'.

Let’s all give each other a little more of the benefit of the doubt, and try to communicate clearly about things that matter.

Pam Drew is a resident of Novato and the chair of Novato Community Alliance.

C. Harris February 15, 2012 at 04:29 AM
Is Michael Frank working for the good people of Novato who pay his salary OR The Chamber? It is getting hard to tell. Why wouldn't Mr. Frank do his speech where everyone (the public, Novato residents) could hear him at City Hall for free? The average Novato household income is approx $61,000 a year. Most cannot pay a $35.00 (non Chamber member fee) to hear Mr. Frank and are working at that time just to be able to put food on their table. Who is Mr. Frank catering to? Perhaps Mr. Frank figured noone cared about what he had to say except for the Chamber who appear to be pulling his puppet strings.
C. Brown February 15, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Is Michael Frank working for the good people of Novato who pay his salary OR The Chamber? It is getting hard to tell. Why wouldn't Mr. Frank do his speech where everyone (the public, Novato residents) could hear him at City Hall for free? The average Novato household income is approx $61,000 a year. Most cannot pay a $35.00 (non Chamber member fee) to hear Mr. Frank and are working at that time just to be able to put food on their table. Who is Mr. Frank catering to? Perhaps Mr. Frank figured noone cared about what he had to say except for the Chamber who appear to be pulling his puppet strings.
Born & raised February 15, 2012 at 07:21 AM
You can say that again.
Trish Boorstein February 15, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Thank you Pam for your oped. When City meetings are conducted on Holidays, like last night, they can pretty much do what they want. Little if any public comment is ever heard. I went last night to try to speak on behalf of Dennis Cooper. I was quickly encouraged to silence myself after my allotted 3 minutes. I counted maybe 4 folks including the Architects. During the first public comment, only 3 residents spoke. City meetings should not be conducted during any holiday that will prevent folks from attending.
Tina McMillan February 15, 2012 at 07:22 PM
For the city to be accountable on projects like the downtown offices we need a meeting with only that issue on the agenda and enough time to get interested citizens to attend. My experience is that council meetings are a lot like an "opt out" program. You are assumed to support their agenda unless you "opt out." That means each project has the support of 50,000+ residents and so the 500 to a 1000 that have concerns are seen as trivial. The council counts on the fact that people will wear down after pursuing an issue through reasonable channels and eventually give up all together because they feel so hopeless. The city has an area on their website for "hot topics". How much effort would it take to make this a vehicle for online comments so that the city can actually see how residents feel about the way their tax dollars are being spent? The current council seems intent on pushing through the downtown offices no matter how many obstacles surface. As Mr. Frank has pointed out, once people form an opinion about something they are hard pressed to change their minds regardless of the facts.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »