The infiltration of the Novato scene by influences from the outside is smothering local identity, local enterprise and local government.
The computer and telecommunications revolutions have made it possible for huge organizations to direct local activities remotely and that is exactly what they are doing. Just because they can, it does not follow that they should. Political parties, business associations, unions, philanthropic, environmental, religious and special-interest organizations all have built local networks to support their national and global aims. The same has happened at state and regional levels.
The constant pressure from these sources has complicated the process of local governance so much that the average citizen has difficulty separating self-serving distortions from fact. In the absence of balanced journalism, we sometimes cede our votes to the last doorhanger in a local election.
Most of us would agree that running government from the top down does not produce superior results. What it produces is propaganda in the form of "outreach" and a state of constant war between the two national political parties. That same effect occurs when news associations blur the line between advocacy and reportage and philanthropy mixes good works with particular views of world order. Similarly, running a town through networks that are operating at higher levels often has disastrous results at the local level.
When you read an opinion piece about what the city of Novato ought to do on ANYTHING, ask yourself what network the writer belongs to, what set of assumptions he is adopting and what groups will be advantaged by the adopted policies. Does this measure primarily benefit Novato citizens or does it primarily benefit Marin County citizens? Does this measure primarily benefit Novato or does it primarily benefit the Bay Area? Does this measure primarily benefit Novato or the state of California?
If some one identifies himself as working with a countywide, regional, statewide or national organization, immediately dial up your status alert for what he says next. If you hear this triple linkage "affordable housing, environmental integrity and social justice," know that you have gone from local to global in just six words even if the emphasis is mostly on the United States.
Your next step is to look for words and phrases such as "a fact-based, respectful housing dialogue," "support our local economy," "delay compliance with housing element law at our [read 'your'] own peril," "[sites] located near transit, jobs and retail," "vitality," "vibrant," "small multi-unit, environmentally friendly residential developments."
If you can find these, know that you have found the one-size-fits-all label on the piece of goods you are being sold.
Your last step is to find one purported fact and to consider debunking it.
Try this one: "The unmet need for deed-restricted, truly affordable housing is obvious. We see this need in teacher turnover rates in the Novato Unified School District …"
There are many reasons for high teacher turnover anywhere. The No. 1 reason that applies to most districts is that salaries and working conditions are better elsewhere. This idea is not rocket science.
Just as biology is not destiny, propaganda affects but does not determine the fate of every town. When affordable housing is recommended indiscriminately for Novato with no limits in the number of poor families welcomed, no nod to the additional subsidies required beyond that of housing, no awareness that there is a tipping point beyond which a town cannot produce the necessary social services, and only the presumptuous refrain that [the group] "recognizes the vital importance of affordable housing to our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," you must realize that this person is not showing the whole picture encompassing Novato's well-being.
Those quotes came from "Marin Voice: Affordable housing need is obvious" by Ron Albert (Nov. 27, ). Mr. Albert is the former mayor of Sausalito, a town that not only does not have an approved housing element for this 2007-2014 general plan update cycle but also does not have one for the last cycle. Perhaps Mr. Albert has not cultivated his own backyard.