Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Column 125 – Facts and Opinions

I've often commented in these pages about the readiness of some IV/CB residents to jump to conclusions about public matters, conclusions that they consider to be absolute truth, even when they are based on the scantiest of factual information. I have a friend, a man not noted for his innate humility, who reminds himself and his listeners that his opinions are not facts by prefacing statements with "now God doesn't whisper in my ear, but I think…" Around here, though, many people do seem to think that they do have the privilege of divine communication.


Two cases in point from the past week are responses I've heard to the stories in the Bonanza about the proposal by Independent Incline to explore taking our community's legal structure from a GID to a town and the report in Friday's paper of the IVGID Board's adoption of Policy and Procedure Number 136 "Policy concerning access to district property and the use of district facilities for expression."


When I see something that seems not to make sense my first move is to check on the facts. My second, and I think this is a good policy, is to find out what I can about the thinking behind what was said or done. From there I think one can form an intelligent and reasoned position.


For example, there was a letter in the paper a couple of weeks ago taking the Red, White, and Tahoe Blue project to task for holding the parade on the second rather than the fourth of July. Had the writer asked, she would have learned that law enforcement authorities would not permit the parade on the Fourth because of what it would do to traffic.


In the case of Independent Incline, an enormous amount of work, thought, research, and consultation has gone into the group's recommendation (full disclosure: I am a member of the Independent Incline Board and helped prepare the presentation to the Trustees). I'm not saying there are no arguments against the Town proposal, just that many of the arguments that have come across my desktop since Wednesday's vote have been long on opinion and misconception and short on accurate facts and understanding of what a town is and what it would and would not accomplish.


And finally, the "free speech" access to IVGID facilities, which many people seem to have already drawn a lot of conclusions about. After several conversations and downloading the text of the proposal I must admit I don't fully grasp all the implications of this action. On the one hand, the only substantive change in P and P 136 is that people will have access to the beach parking lots, grassy areas, and walkways to "exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. What doesn't change is that only card-carrying District residents will be allowed onto the sand and water area (i.e., the beach) that is not covered by the change. It's my understanding that First Amendment rights are part of the beach lawsuits, and this would seem to weaken if not eliminate that argument. What more there may or may not be seems to me to remain to be seen.


The point is, with complex and important issues, it behooves us to (a) get our facts straight and (b) keep clear the difference between our opinions and the facts. They aren't the same thing unless the Deity is whispering in your ear.

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