By Mayor Debra Lewis
Glancing through entire threads of online comments, no matter how mundane the initial comment, a troubling pattern often appears. A commentary that starts out harmless enough devolves into what Stephen Colbert calls “truthiness.” What is “truthiness?” It’s the concept of the truth you know not with your head, but with your gut. And once the gut takes over, well, all sorts of offensive noises can emerge. And they do.
Invariably, some intrepid writer ventures in, trying to calm the passions. Rather than soothing, the attempt seems to do just the opposite. It feeds the beast, producing even more unpleasant gut reactions, with the most unsavory racket coming from those hiding behind fake names and pseudonyms.
Recently, an unnamed writer personally called me out in an online rant, chastising me for failing to address his/her/its “facts.” I must admit I had dismissed the assertion on its face and believed a response would only further enrage the anonymous poster. These “facts” supposedly proved that a disproportionate amount of the city’s money was spent in Capo Beach over the last 10 years. The author’s persistence in repeating the misinformation as incontrovertible fact got my attention. I offered to engage in a direct dialogue on the subject if he/she/it would identify him/her/itself and talk to me. My offer was declined, or rather more accurately, ignored.
It is true that the city had previously maintained a spreadsheet for internal use to track approximate capital project costs over 10 years, including a column for Capo Beach. This spreadsheet had issues however. It included millions of dollars in outside grant money awarded to the city to underground utilities in Capo Beach, skewing the results against Capo Beach. Also, the project costs did not align with the city’s public financial reports.
Recently, the new City Manager instructed the Public Works department to prepare a more rigorous Capital Improvement Program (CIP) historical summary of projects completed within the last 10 years, separating outside funding and city funding and delineating projects by geographic area. Turns out, of the $71,452,347 total project costs spent over the last 10 years, $18,165,323 of the city’s money was spent in Capo Beach. That seems reasonable. Not 42 percent. However, unlike other areas where spending for beautification, trees, medians and the like is visible, much of the spending in Capo Beach has been underground, making it literally invisible.
A final word. The city spends its money maintaining city improvements, such as streets, storm drains, parks, facilities and developing new projects solely on the basis of need, not location. Since there are more places to spend money, than money to spend, the city prioritizes spending giving preferences to must do’s, then to need to do’s and finally to want to do’s. We all want the city to look its best and be attractive to our residents and visitors alike.
“[F]acts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” – John Adams, December 4, 1770, successfully defending the British soldiers on trial for the Boston Massacre.
Wherever we live in the city, we are one Dana Point.
The summary document can be viewed at www.danapoint.org/home/showdocument?id=23703.
The Citywide Project map can be viewed at www.danapoint.org/home/showdocument?id=23693.
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