CBW wrote:

As a way to dig out of the cynical spiral, how about asking people to provide ideas on how to make San Diego better. And not suggestions like ‘fire all those corrupt idiots!’ lets try to keep it productive.

See, CBW clearly knows exactly what I mean when he says, not to suggest firing “all those corrupt idiots.” Because that’s the precisely tone the dialogue has taken.

It seems these days that every time a mistake is made, or a measure is passed that in some way might possibly benefit a business, or where the vocal opponents didn’t get their way, it’s evidence of corruption. There is no other answer.

The fiasco with the Sunroad building near Montgomery Field is a perfect example of what I’d call a “race to the base.”

The public still doesn’t know what really happened with this unfortunate situation. All we know for sure is that it’s truly an unfortunate situation. We know that, at a minimum, there were pretty serious crossed wires between the entity with authority to permit the work (the city of San Diego) and a federal agency (the FAA). We know that a developer thought strongly enough that it had the right clearances to have put capital behind it.

What we do not know is whether Sunroad had reckless disregard for pilots’ lives, or that they just decided to say, “Oh well,” to the FAA safety warning. Another thing we don’t know is whether anyone at the city engaged in any untoward behavior.

We don’t know a lot of things about what happened in what appears to be a pretty complex situation, and thus it bears some investigation. But this is just one of many examples in which people were ready to show up with torches and pitchforks to have Sunroad’s Tom Story drawn and quartered. Leading the pack, as usual, was our city attorney, who publicly declared Jim Waring corrupt without so much as a shred of evidence that this was some conspiracy.

Understand, I am not declaring the Sunroad mess not Sunroad’s fault. What I’m saying is, it’s just one of many examples in which the public immediately jumped to the conclusion that there was corruption and incompetence, rather than reserving judgment until all the facts came out.

It constantly astounds me how eager people are to think the worst. It’s as if we can’t get enough of our civic misery. We’re addicted to the drama of corruption.

The first reaction to the Sunroad situation was that the developer just thought it could play the easier-to-ask-for-forgiveness-than-permission game. They just wanted a profit at any cost.

Of course, there are a ton of holes in that theory. Just as easily as someone could think the developer was being greedy and trying to cut corners, you could think that a developer after a profit doesn’t cut the corners that are bound to bring on huge delays.

Just as easily as you could think Tom Story is a politically connected guy with friends in the Mayor’s Office, you could think he’s politically savvy enough to know that his work and dealings would attract enormous scrutiny, and you can’t just brush off process and not expect to be called on it.

Yet time and time again, we conjure the worst scenario and grasp to it.

One problem — and I know I’ll catch hell for saying this — is that Joe and Jane Citizen want to participate in the dialogue, but they don’t want to take the time to actually understand a complex issue. Particularly in a swapsidy-type land-development deal, there are all sorts of complex pieces and moving parts that you really need to dig in to understand.

Unfortunately, understanding the particulars consumes more time than most people want to spend and requires a base of legal or policy knowledge they don’t have. So instead, most people rely on news reports to figure it out.

The trouble with that is — and I know this from experience — the rule at metro dailies is “write to 8th-grade comprehension levels.” Implicit in that as well is, “Write to 8th-grade attention spans.”

Combined with space constraints, those limitations are ruinous to providing a robust picture of something that could help people make up their minds and take action.

RACHEL LAING

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