We are in a post-truth era. I know this because Tucker Carlson can go on national television and sow doubt as to whether Russia is responsible for the mass carnage in Ukraine. We are in the post-truth era, because any skeptic of Sandy Hook, the 2020 elections, climate change, COVID-19, and a round earth can conjure their own truth based on the “experts” they consult in their echo chamber. By the way, did you know that chickens have lips? You could perhaps trot out some pesky science to dispute it. But trust me, I read it on the internet from someone with a Ph.D. in Poultrology.
This is the world we are in, with free speech activists maintaining that it’s up to the reader to parse the information with something called discernment. Not our strong suit. I’m not sure our Founding Fathers had destructive slander, violent threats, and malicious lying in their playbook when they wrote the First Amendment to protect religious and political freedoms.
But enough about the national scene. I’m here to talk about the weekly head fakes and truth trashing propagated in this paper in their editorial and letters sections.
There is a well-organized cabal out there trying to convince us that Laguna is on the precipice of ruin. That three of the five councilmembers are in the pocket of rapacious developers who are hellbent on eviscerating downtown and replacing our historic buildings with high-rises, parking garages, and, brace yourselves, food. And that those of us with tourist-facing businesses want more, more, more, even if we live here and have to suffer though the same traffic, defecation, and bad fashion sense.
Take the false narrative of the library purchase and Council’s intention to convert it into a parking garage. It all started on that website of gravitas and truth, Nextdoor. One of the frothers-in-residence click-baited to the highly discerning audience, in all caps, “PAVE THE LIBRARY, PUT UP A PARKING LOT.” He went on to describe the nefarious plot that Council was in secret negotiations to buy the library and replace our beloved landmark with a multi-story parking garage. It was disturbing enough that this lovely little repository of precious, tactile books was in peril, but my gosh they were going to bulldoze those fairies in the adjacent fairy garden into the ground! And then erect a parking garage in the stupidest, most ill-conceived location possible. The heat turned up to pizzagate levels, even though there were plenty of sane, rational comments debunking the whole notion with that boring anachronism known as truth. But they got mauled by the mass consciousness of outrage, anger and fear. Also known as social media.
Let’s be clear. The Council had never, ever put forth an intention to move the library. The reality was something called good governance. The city had a 50-year option to purchase the library from the county that was about to expire, and of course we would buy it, just as we should whenever we have the opportunity with any important landmark, road, or civic building. Now we can help steward some of the $2.8 million taxes we pay the county to maintain a building they only spend about $800,000 a year on. A library in need of upgrades and repair, as well as blighted adjacent parcels in need of significant improvement.
But then, never one to miss an opportunity to irresponsibly misrepresent the facts, throw his colleagues under the bus, and portray himself as some kind of whistleblower, censured Councilmember George Weiss sent an email out with the headline, “URGENT – HELP SAVE THE LIBRARY,” describing the situation as a “swirling controversy.” He then went on to impugn Mayor Sue Kempf and Mayor Pro Tem Bob Whalen (the Parking Subcommittee) in a later email by asking, “Why is the city looking to buy the library site if not to build a parking structure?”
As if that wasn’t shameless enough, his supplicants fawned all over him in this paper, proclaiming George as the savior of the library, when all he actually did was turn something benign and bureaucratic into his own cause celebre. It was strangely like that moment when, with New Orleans underwater from Hurricane Katrina, that other George W (aka Bush) proudly told FEMA’s Michael Brown, “You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie.”
So what’s next? What will happen when the city finally purchases Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road from CalTrans so we can steward our antiquated transportation grid? I can see the posts in Nextdoor now: “REMOVE THE ROADS, PUT IN BIKE PATHS.” And then Council will have to endure 50 raving people showing up on a Tuesday night and accusing them of pedalphilia.
It’s amazing that anything gets done in this carny show. But I’m thankful that the council is actually doing—in what is often a Sisyphean task—one heckuva job. We have more outdoor dining and pedestrian access than ever before. We are working to safeguard our burgeoning biking community. It’s easier to get approvals on home remodeling. We have a working infrastructure. There’s less traffic than many other popular tourist destinations. We are cash positive. And there’s not a single large-scale development anywhere on the horizon. Thank you!
Billy hosts Laguna Talks on Thursday nights on KXFM radio. He’s also the CEO of La Vida Laguna, an E-bike and ocean sports tour company. Email: [email protected].