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It was somewhat encouraging watching the National Geographic documentary, “Water and Power: A California Heist,” and that’s because it showed that water politics throughout California are as messy as they are right here on the Monterey Peninsula. What with the decades of unproductive sparring over solving our water supply problem and with the rapidly escalating cost of tap water hereabouts, I had started thinking that maybe we were alone in our inability to fix anything.  I was thinking maybe it was something in the water.

The focus of the documentary, produced by Marina Zenovich with able assistance from author and investigative reporter Mark Arax, was the manipulation of groundwater rights and some remarkable profiteering that is going on, principally in the San Joaquin Valley but also just down the coast in San Luis Obispo County.

Which points me toward the purpose of this piece, a June 3 forum on new groundwater rules and what they mean to us in Monterey County. More specifically, it will focus on California’s long-delayed but hugely important effort to begin actually regulating groundwater instead of simply letting the fellow with the deepest well call the shots.

The speakers will be Tom Moore, vice president of the Marina Coast Water District board of directors, and Keith Van Der Maaten, general manager of the district. It’s not just an academic topic for these two because the desalination plant that California American Water plans to build would draw some of its water from underground supplies theoretically controlled by Marina Coast.

The terribly long title of the forum is “To learn how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act may affect your water bill, your access to water and what groundwater sustainability agencies mean to us locally.” Under state mandate, Monterey County has formed a groundwater sustainability agency, which naturally is dominated by agribusiness interests.

In previous Partisan posts, I have labeled Moore as my favorite local politician, largely because of his incredibly deep knowledge of the subject matter and his ability to explain it all to folks like you and me.

The forum is set for 7 p.m. Saturday June 3 at the Marina Public Library, 190 Seaside Ave., in Marina. It is sponsored by the Marina Democratic Club, the Monterey County Democratic Central Committee and Citizens for Just Water.

In case you’d like to printout a reminder, here’s the flyer for the event.

BTW, the National Geographic special is available for rent on Netflix.

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Baseball teams wear khaki and camouflage hats and jerseys today. Sunny beaches are packed with “summer’s-here” crowds. Newspaper columns chew over the serious meaning of the day.

In every town, cemetery lanes are lined with flags. Alongside weather-beaten markers and others engraved far too recently, eyes fill with tears, chests heave with sobs and trembling hands reach to hold ghosts in the living air.

Fallen U.S. service members are to be remembered this Memorial Day for doing their duty and the ultimate sacrifice it exacted from them. As a people, we must cherish those who give of themselves for a greater good. Sincere prayers of gratitude are deserved, but they are not enough.

As a people in a country in its 16th year of an ever-shifting war on terror, we must also pray for wise citizens and wise leaders who truly understand the greater good before — as politicians are wont to say — “sending our troops into harm’s way.”

In recent weeks, American servicemen have died in Syria, Yemen and Somalia. Since 1945, when World War II ended, tens of thousands of U.S. troops have died in wars and military incursions in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Grenada, Lebanon, Panama and other “hot spots.”

What were the national goals, the greater goods served by their deaths? In many cases, these questions are still debated by historians and veterans alike.

Fifty years ago, the question that tore through American society was, “Why are we in Vietnam?”

Today almost no one outside professional military ranks and national security symposia wonders: “What are we doing in Yemen?” or “Why remain in Afghanistan?”

In 1968, Richard Nixon won the presidency running, in part, on a promise of “a secret plan” to bring American troops home from Vietnam. Last year, President Donald Trump boasted at campaign rallies of his “secret plan” to defeat the extremist Islamic State.

While under increasing political fire over the Russia scandal, the president has quietly increased the number of U.S. troops in Syria by several hundred and intensified air attacks on Syrian and Iraq fronts against ISIS. He will soon decide whether to give his generals more troops to battle the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan. His bellicose words grow against Iran.

Unlike the widespread outcries over the Vietnam and Iraq wars, the American public seems largely mute or plain disinterested as the metastasizing war on terror keeps growing into a third presidency.

If we as a people do not understand why we send our sons and daughters to war, we fail our most important civic duty. We will not be worthy to stand at their graves on future Memorial Days.

In early June 1969, my father received a letter from one of his younger brothers, a conservative Southern California businessman who likely had voted for Nixon the previous year. That month, 1,254 U.S. troops died in Vietnam; 2,954 more were seriously wounded.

Between  tidbits about family and friends, my uncle wrote:

“This war situation pains me greatly. It seems so utterly useless. I had hoped Nixon would do something — but then, I knew down deep it would be more of the same. You cannot help but wonder how God in Heaven can let such a horrible thing go on and on and on. I just can’t understand why it has to be this way.”

Today, as always, we must add understanding to our prayers, memories and paeans to the fallen if we are to make proper memorials for their lives.

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The news this week out of Missoula, where a congressional candidate let his fist do the talking after he ran out of words, caused me to reflect on the times when I, too, was on the receiving end of a overly vigorous response during my journalistic career.

There are only two occasions I can recall, if you don’t count the time a steelworker poked a gun in my ribs and suggested I stop poking into a deeply flawed construction project. Unfortunately, neither of my encounters was witnessed by FOX news, so I never received either the acclaim or derision I deserved.

The first occurred while I was working on a long and involved story about the since-departed Vang Pao, the Hmong general who had worked for the CIA during the Vietnam war. After the war, the general had settled in California and was running a giant scam, telling the Hmong refugee community that he would lead them back to Laos if they would send him money each month. If they paid enough, they could make the trip. Their money, however, was paying for Vang Pao’s fancy living and gambling debts, not for the resistance army he claimed to be forming.

With another reporter, I had gone to a social service agency catering to Hmong folks in Fresno to ask the director, Tony Vang, what he knew about the payments. He said he knew nothing. I said sure you do. He said no I don’t. It went on like that for a while until I looked down at my notebook and he let go with a karate-style jab that landed squarely on my chin.

I saw stars but didn’t fall. I said something witty like “What the hell?” and a couple of Vang’s associates rushed out of their nearby office and led me away into a hot Fresno afternoon.

The other reporter, well, what can I say? She said she was looking in another direction and didn’t see anything. I don’t know why.

Our story about Vang Pao came out a few months later. It was pretty much ignored by the authorities until several years later when the feds charged him with extorting money from his followers, the same scheme we had written about. But because of his old CIA ties, Vang Pao had some hardcore connections in the U.S. government. The charges were eventually dropped. Now there’s a Vang Pao Elementary School in Fresno.

The other encounter also occurred while I was a reporter for the Fresno Bee. Election time was approaching and I was working on a story about how a serious candidate for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors had run an insurance scheme years earlier. He was an insurance agent specializing in crop insurance, especially for raisins.

Here’s what he did. When a freeze hit the San Joaquin Valley, he declared that some of his customers had lost their crops even when they had not. So the insurance company he worked with paid for their losses. He then took the perfectly good raisins and sold them on the black market. These were raisins, not peanuts. There was some serious money involved.

Anyway, it was a hard story to put together and we didn’t have anything ready until very close to the election. It is considered bad form journalistically to raise new allegations very near an election but we broke the rule because we felt what we had uncovered was compelling. We published on the Friday four days before the Tuesday election. It ran across the top of page 1. The candidate’s name wasn’t Smith but let’s just call him that. The headline read “Smith implicated in raisin scam.”

Smith was not pleased, so not pleased that he called me up that night and said he wanted to tell his side of the story, which he had repeatedly declined to do before the story ran. So on that Saturday, we met at his campaign headquarters. His lawyer, Brian Tatarian, was there and so was my city editor, Dana Heupel.

We sat on opposite sides of a table. I was on about the third question when Smith snapped. Although he was slightly smaller than I was, he was one of the strongest Smiths I have known. He jumped up, grabbed me by my shirt and arms and essentially dragged me across the table. It was a fairly impressive move given that I carried around a few extra pounds, even then.

Judo-style, he then tried to flip me up against, or through, a floor-to-ceiling window but by then the observers had stopped merely observing. Dana grabbed Smith’s left foot while Brian grabbed the right. Dana and Brian both ended up on the floor, still holding feet, and Smith and I soon joined them there.

By the time we were standing again, there seemed to be consensus that the interview was over. Dana and I went to a bar. Later, we took pictures of the bruises on my arms and shoulders but nothing ever came from any of it.

I believe Smith was the favorite before our story ran but he went on to lose to the incumbent on Tuesday, which was a good thing. I never directly encountered him again but I heard from numerous others about the speech he gave some time later. He was receiving a big award for sports boosterism. He told the assembled crowd how it was one of the great moments in his life and that the only thing that could have made it better would have been for me to have succumbed to a painful disease on the same day.

Overall, the journalistic life isn’t particularly dangerous in the United States, at least not compared to the way things are in many other countries, Mexico in particular. As far as I know, none of the many reporters I worked with over the years was ever attacked but we have all seen stories of reporters and photographers being assaulted at crime scenes or other newsworthy events. I don’t know whether any arrests ever resulted but obviously such occurrences should be taken seriously.

I am writing this, I suppose, as a reminder to folks that it isn’t easy being a reporter but it ridiculously easy to be critical of reporters, to diminish them and their work. I get a little tired of the way reporters are portrayed on TV and in popular literature. Even Michael Connelly, the extremely popular crime novelist who worked at the Los Angeles Times, depicts many of them as the sort who might warrant a poke in the chin or a toss through a window. The truth is, there are times when I probably deserved worse because I could be more than a little pushy, a little obnoxious in my righteousness, but for the most part, reporters are only doing what they do so you won’t have to. Cut ’em some slack.

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Ratepayers, let’s make this plain and simple: Cal Am has got to go and public water has to replace it.

“Where should Cal Am go?” Away from the Monterey Peninsula for good, that’s where.

“Why should it go?” The answer is simple and obvious. They’ve increased rates and fees, not only to cover water delivery costs but also costs arising out of their bad decisions and negligence. Those costs should not have been placed solely on your shoulder. Instead, Cal-Am should have borne their fair and equitable share, to say nothing about the almost 10% profit that is guaranteed by California regulation. The result is you, a customer innocent of any wrongdoing, has become the pot of gold at the end of Cal Am’s rainbow, to the tune of being hit with the highest cost of water in the entire country. If you are still asking if Cal Am should be be made to go away, consider:

Will Cal Am ever change colors like a salamander and rebate past unfair rate hikes back to you?

Second, will the local commercial customers who benefit from favorable rates not available to you change their colors, find a little equity and reason, and offer to use their influence to help you out of the deep rate abyss into which you have fallen?   I am not kidding, but I might as well be. It ain’t gonna happen.

Third, will your elected representatives, including city councils, mayors, supervisors and  those in Sacramento, come to their senses to understand they were elected to see the light and aggressively  protect your interests? Hasn’t happened yet, and such a sea change not likely in the cards.

“Why then, don’t our politicians understand the burden of very high and uncontrolled rate hikes on the average guy/gal?” Go figure – they don’t

“So what’s left? What WILL cause Cal-Am to leave town?”

Any realistic solution to  Cal Am must replace it with a workable public agency. You deserve an agency that represents all of you, not just some, that knows what it is doing, is transparent, is committed to working for you and that will deliver cheaper water.

Only one existing agency fills the bill — the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District. It far from perfect, but it’s the ONLY one with all the elements necessary to actually manage a water supply system.   Creating a new agency would be time consuming, and a waste of time without an assurance that what you need will be what you get. If you are unhappy with the decisions made by the district board, remember they are elected by you and if they can’t get their individual or collective acts together, you could vote them out and replace them with persons who will.

It may take time, but don’t minimize the importance of getting educated, and actually voting. A landswell of public support for public water can make it happen. It has happened elsewhere. No alternative option can realistically provide you the representation and accessibility and ensure your ability to be running the show with your votes. Strong and unyielding public pressure can turn the district around and it’s more than worth the effort.

Your last question should be “Where and how can I get on board?” Call Public Water Now. The first step toward success is that group’s effort to pass a ballot referendum to initiate the process. They need you and your support. If costs are a concern for you, PWN is your best option. Get going, get educated and get involved!

Hood, former executive director of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, divides his time between Carmel and Columbus, Ohio.

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After a flood of inquiries, four or even five, I have decided it is best to share with Partisan readers the explanation for the recently slow flow of mirth and enlightenment from those who have brought you the Monterey Bay Partisan for close to three years now. It is a simple ankle injury. Well, not so simple, perhaps. It is a major sprain and a break of a sort that required surgery a week ago. The culprit was a car that opted to enter the crosswalk while it was already occupied by me and my wife, whose injury has caused her just as much pain and suffering without resulting in as much complaint.

Never fear, or do fear. We will return. We are currently on assignment, probing the vagaries of Monterey County planning policy and in the not too distant future there will be other works to entertain or confound. It’s just that, well, we were never particularly quick or agile,  and time we might have spent poring over campaign expense reports is now spent studying precautions against deep vein thrombosis.

In the meantime, please feel encouraged, as always, to submit your own writings, particularly those about local affairs, and we will see what we can do to keep this operation hobbling forward. calkinsroyal@gmail.com is the place to send them.

Cheers

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A 31-unit subdivision proposal going before the Monterey County Planning Commission this week carries a sizable load of controversies. The lots are too small, the location is too rural, the neighbors don’t like the idea at all and the county would have to bend various planning rules to make it work. There are water and traffic issues and more.

The property is along Val Verde Avenue on a pretty stretch of farmland just east of the Crossroads shopping center. The neighbors have hired lawyer Molly Erickson to combat the proposal and she has responded with considerable evidence of the project’s inadvisability. (Click the link for Erickson’s letter to the county planners in advance of Wednesday’s public hearing on the project. The county staff, by the way, recommends approval, largely because the project would add some units of affordable housing albeit on substandard lots)

But what is unusually interesting about this venture is the ownership. The property owner and applicant is  Carmel Rio Road LLC, a limited partnership headed by Ray Wirta, who is the CEO of international real estate giant CBRE and president of the Irvine Company, the real estate behemoth that made Orange County what it is today.

The names of CBRE and the Irvine Company don’t’ show up in the thick county file on the project, which, in slightly larger form, was turned down by the Monterey County Board of Supervisors in 2012. But Wirta’s name on the application creates speculation that it may represent an unlikely attempt by the Irvine Company to dip a toe into Monterey County’s development waters to find out how accommodating they may be to Irvine Company-style mega development.

A call to Wirta’s office in Orange County went unreturned Monday, but the project’s local representative, Brian Clark of Sand City, answered a few questions about the venture. He said Wirta’s involvement is simply that of an owner  and that it amounts to a personal investment unrelated to the Irvine Company. Clark, who is in the loan business, said he has known Wirta for 30 years and persuaded him to invest. When the venture went before the county five years ago, noted Big Sur builder Bill Mcleod of Post Ranch fame was listed as a partner and he remains involved in some capacity.

The Central Coast would not seem to be fertile ground for an operation as big and aggressive as the Irvine Company, but land anywhere near the California coast has proved to be an irresistible investment lure for those who prefer subdivisions to sand dunes.

Raymond Wirta

The Irvine Company practically invented Orange County, which grew from 220 residents in 1950 to more than 700,000 in 1960. Worth more than $15 billion, the Irvine Company’s principal owner, Donald Bren, is the nation’s richest real estate investor. According to Forbes, he owns 57,000 apartment units, mostly in California, along with 500 office buildings and more than 40 shopping centers, including the sprawling Fashion Island in Newport Beach. From its Orange County base, the Irvine Company has expanded into major real estate markets across the country, including Silicon Valley in the past couple of years.

Unlike Donald Bren, whose name has been attached to numerous of his ventures and philanthropies, Wirta is largely unknown outside real estate circles – but he is a giant within them.

For the last several years he has simultaneously been CEO of CBRE, the world’s largest real estate investment conglomerate, CEO of The Koll Company and managing partner of at least two other real estate enterprises. At the same time, he is president of investment properties for the Irvine Company. He previously served as CEO of the Bolsa Chica Company, which for decades pursued one of the the most controversial real estate ventures in California history. Several years ago, he formed an entity known as Rich Uncles REIT to solicit small investors into the real estate investment trust market.

LandWatch Monterey County and the Carmel Valley Association also have written letters of opposition to the project.

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The Monterey Peninsula College faculty, of which I am a member, have been without a contract since June 2013. That year, and the year before, the faculty agreed to pay cuts of 2 percent to help the college get through financial difficulties. Also that year, we got a new president, Walt Tribely, and a new HR director, Susan Kitigawa. Since their arrival faculty have not been able to achieve a current contract–it will be four years in June!

In the school year 2013-14, the college continued to claim a “structural deficit” but the end-of-year actuals showed almost a million dollars in new money.  Faculty filed a grievance to get the 2% cut from 2012-13 restored and an additional 1% owed by contract’s salary formula. We had to go to mediation to get a 1% raise that was contractually owed.

In 2013-14, the college requested more sacrifices and offered no raises. The faculty had agreed to a considerable compromise on health care.  In the midst of voting on the contract an email from the state surfaced that showed the president had lied to faculty about the state of the college’s budget. Early in the year he had claimed the state had put the college on warning about the budget and he used this as leverage to force concessions during negotiations. While faculty were voting we discovered the state had written to him and said that in fact the college was not under warning and that employee salaries were not at all unusual–in fact, they were below average.  This discovery ended negotiations that year and the contract was not approved.

In 2014-15, the district negotiators continued to seek concessions and offered nothing in return.

In 2015-16, faculty learned that the college budget actuals again showed new money and our salary formula dictated a raise of 4.39% retroactive to June 2015.  But the college refused to honor the contractual obligation and we had to grieve. Again it went to mediation. The mediator agreed with faculty but because we are out of contract we couldn’t go to binding arbitration. In order to give our faculty the first meaningful raise since 2007-2008 we agreed to 3% when we were owed 4.39%, and we agreed to defer it–with 1% in 2016-17 and 2% in 2017-18, and we agreed to remove the salary formula from our contract.

Each of these years the college has claimed a structural deficit anywhere from $1 million to $2.5 million. Yet again in October, 2016, the college revealed that its end-of-year actual for 2015-16 showed $2.5 million in unspent money, despite a budget for 2015-16 that projected a $2 million deficit. Thus, the college missed on the budget projection by $4.5 million on a $35 million dollar budget. And in negotiations for 2016-17 they continue to maintain that the college is in deficit and they continue to seek workload concessions that will lead to larger class sizes, faculty with more classes, and less time to grade and prepare for class.  All of these clawbacks will hurt students.

On April 21 the college regressively bargained: they had a 2% raise on the table going back to October and had not brought salary up all year during negotiations. At that meeting they said they could not offer any salary increase to full-time faculty and a 1% raise only to part-time faculty. Throughout negotiations that year the district had sought to coerce unpaid work from part-time faculty who are among the lowest employees of the college, have no job security from semester to semester, and who are only paid for the time in the classroom (no pay for time spent grading or prepping).

We had been fighting to get the district to recognize long-time part-timer faculty by allowing them to receive two-year extended contracts if they had a positive evaluation record and had taught at the college for at least seven years, but the college refused to do so.  We also had fought to ensure that part-time faculty who often teach at two or three colleges just to survive would not be required to do unpaid work, but the college continued to seek language that would allow them to coerce part-timer faculty to do unpaid work like program evaluation.

To give you some perspective: a part-time faculty person makes about $3,000 for a semester-length course.  To make $50,000, they would need to teach 17 courses. They get no benefits. Plus, they are prohibited from teaching more than three courses/semester at any one college.  Fifty percent of our courses are taught by part-time faculty.

The salary for our faculty is 61st out of 72 community colleges in the state and we are the lowest paid faculty in the area: as much as $10,000 a year lower than Hartnell and Gavilan, and nearly $20,000 less than Cabrillo and Foothill.

Meanwhile, this year the college has embarked on an ambitious expansion of administration and is in process of hiring five new deans and a new vice president for planning. It has reclassified the director of the foundation as a vice president, giving her a $100,000 raise.  They are spending over $800,000 a year on lawyer fees. They ignored faculty’s recommendation to bring in the state accountants to get an objective fiscal audit that would tell us the true state of the budget.

On May 5 after leading us to believe they wanted to make a deal, they gave us a last and best final offer that includes all kinds of workload concessions that are bad for students as well as other clawbacks in benefits, with no proposed raise to the salary schedule.  They are offering some raises to coaches and some small pay for part-time office hours; that’s it.

Please come out to support us at the next board meeting, 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 31,  at the Marina Center, 289 12th Street, Marina, room MA-404.  Public comment starts at 1:30.

Also, the board has scheduled an “emergency” meeting for 8 a.m. Tuesday  to evaluate the president. That meeting is at MPC’s Sam Karas Room, next to the library. We fear that they are going to extend President Tribely’s contract! This would be a huge mistake.

Please share with friends who care about labor and education.  And if you can come to either meeting to speak or show support, we appreciate it.

Haffa teaches at MPC and is a member of the Monterey City Council.

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The incredible shrinking newsroom(s)

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It wasn’t a good sign a couple weeks back when the Salinas Californian announced it would no longer concern itself with breaking news. The once-proud daily had been reduced to a three-days-a-week schedule, and who wants to read about a Sunday-night fire on Wednesday?

Unfortunately for all involved, it was possible for things to go down even from there. Now that copy editors have been removed from many newsrooms, the growing trend is newsrooms without editors of any sort. For evidence, look no farther than Wednesday’s announcement that the Californian will now join the ranks of newspapers without any editor on site.

Californian Editor Pete Wevurski already had been spread mighty thin, also serving as editor of the Visalia Times-Delta and the closely related Tulare Advance-Register. As you may or may not know, Visalia and Tulare are not within shouting distance of Salinas. They are, however, part of the Gannett chain, which never met a cost it couldn’t cut.

The new arrangement has the Californian, the Times-Delta and the Advance-Register operating under the editorship of Silas Lyons, the longtime editor of Gannett’s Redding Record Searchlight. If your California geography is rusty, all you need to know is that the drive from Salinas to Redding is three times longer than the drive from Salinas to Visalia. And it’s in a different direction.

Lyons is a fine editor, highly capable, and he may prove to be an adequate overseer of three-plus news operations with little  in common. The Gannett public relations team managed to put the best possible spin on it with a news article that presented  him as uniquely qualified for the geographical challenge. It notes that he grew up in North Fork, a scant 60 miles or so from Visalia, and that his first job out of college was as an intern for the Monterey Herald, for which he covered the California Rodeo in Salinas. It did not mention whether he had visited the city since.

In case you’re not catching my drift here, what concerns me is that readers are best served when the journalists serving them know something about the community whose name is in big letters on the front page. Creating clusters of newspapers led by one person off in Timbuktu might appeal to the bean counters at corporate but I’ll challenge all readers of local newspapers to point to a time when doing so led to improved coverage.

I’m not an objective critic of this trend. I was once the editor of the Monterey Herald. That ended three years ago when whoever was in charge decided it would be better if the editor of the Santa Cruz Sentinel was to become the Herald editor as well. Given the resource constraints, Don Miller has worn both hats well though some readers complain that the two papers seem too similar on some days. There are some readers who believe Miller has done a better job than I did. I might be able to name each of them and I wouldn’t think of arguing with them.

My regular golf partner chides me when I grouse about the demise of local newspapering, and he’s right to complain. It’s just the way it is and pointing it out probably does no one any good. I guess I go on and on about it because, in a lifetime of local newspapering, I have seen how much good can be accomplished by competent newspapers and how much important, even critical, news is being ignored these days. That’s why the Partisan exists but it is like a minnow swimming against a tsunami. The bad guys like what’s going on with newspapers.

I was discouraged as well this week when my former former employer, the Fresno Bee, announced the layoffs of eight writers and the transfers of a couple of editors. The Bee had not been spared from any of the previous rounds of cuts but there are those who had thought the bottom had been reached. Not yet, apparently. Among the casualties, Donald Munro, the arts writer. He’s the only person who had been covering music, theater, art, etc., in a city of more than half a million.

As usual, the announcements in Fresno and Gannettland made mention of the digital age, not by cursing its role in weakening the printed word but by promising a warmer embrace in the future. In both cases, it was an example of doubletalk that almost suggested that eliminating some journalists amounted to an improvemernt.

Said Lyons: “The newsrooms in Salinas, Visalia and Tulare have incredibly rich histories covering their communities and are extending that local journalism into the digital age.”

Said Bee Publisher Tom Cullinan: “We must remake our newsroom to drive digital readership while at the same time reckoning with budget and expense realities that necessitate a smaller, more focused, nimbler newsroom.”

Good luck, Tom, and good luck, Silas. If you can figure out how to drive digital readership by shrinking your newsrooms, maybe you can also figure out how to stop my paper from landing in a puddle.

So, you ask, what can you do to help reverse the trend, to help the struggling minnow, to help convince publishers to embark on a strategy of improvement rather than degradation? Simply this. When something important to you is approaching, call the newspaper and point it out. And when something important to you isn’t covered, call the publisher and complain. It might not do any good but it certainly can’t make things any worse.

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