Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Column 110 – Sore Winners

My mother used to say that the louder you proclaimed something, the less sure you were that it was right.


In the aftermath of the beach decision, there have been an awful lot of letters from folks loudly proclaiming that the Board's decision reflects the position of the majority of residents in the District excoriating Bea Epstein and Bob Wolf for voting in the minority, and taking the Bonanza to task for its supposedly biased coverage of the issue. There are a couple of problems with these positions.


First of all, the same people that laud Gene Brockman for voting his convictions in the matter rather than going with the recommendation who are at the same time scathing in their condemnation of Epstein and Wolf for doing the same thing. The basis of the condemnation is that classic Incline argument, "you don't agree with me, so you're bad." Epstein and Wolf had the same right as Brockman to call it as they saw it. Further, the Board of Trustees are just that – Trustees – not representatives. Their job is to hold the assets of the District in trust even when their view of how best to do that conflicts with the popular view. If residents don't feel they are being good Trustees, they can vote them out in the next election, but while they are in office, their guide must be their view of what is best for the District in the long run, not what is popular.


Second, the letter writers have protested (too much, methinks) that the views expressed by a majority of the people at the IVGID meeting were the views of a majority of the residents. What evidence do they have for this? There is a great deal of data that indicates that, in any political debate, those who turn out are those who feel most strongly about an issue and not necessarily a representative sampling of opinion. That's why reputable pollsters go to great lengths to balance samples in order to get a truer picture of opinion. While I wasn't here, my understanding is that the audience at the meeting was overwhelmingly, loudly, and sometimes insultingly against beach access. Good – they had their say – but I see no basis to conclude from this that they represented everyone or even a majority. Maybe they did, but that is yet to be shown.


Finally, because I was away on business for the past two weeks, I read the Bonanza's coverage all at once and found no bias in the reporting. The much-maligned headline did not say that residents or the Bonanza were "disappointed" in the Board's vote, it said the committee that worked hard on the rejected recommendation were disappointed, which I don't find hard to understand. The losing side in any debate is usually disappointed. Big deal. The Bonanza reported, I think accurately. Yes the paper's editorial position was for access, and the editor and publisher have the right to take any position they choose and to express their disappointment, disapproval, or even disgust editorially, but they did not do so in the news coverage.


So, unless I fall back on my mother's dictum I don't see what all the gloating, excoriating, and asserting a majority position is about. Some of the same people who accused me of being a "sore loser" in the IVGID election are now acting like "sore winners." Well, at least their consistent.

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