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A monument to people who died crossing the border

If I keep doing this, Joe Heston over at KSBW-TV is going to start thinking I’m picking on him. I’m really not. It’s just that the station manager’s editorials, often wrongheaded in my humble opinion, are great conversation starters.

His latest editorial amounts to opposition to a proposed ordinance in Salinas that would enable non-citizens to serve on city commissions and boards. The idea was put forth by Councilman Tony Villegas and was headed for a City Council agenda, with some procedural help from Councilman Steve McShane, who attracted Heston’s wrath even though McShane says he is fully opposed to the idea. It didn’t make it onto last week’s agenda but it apparently isn’t dead yet.

Anyway, Heston said letting non-citizens serve could provide non-voters with “significant control over millions of voter-approved Measure-E and Measure-G dollars.” He asks, “Would this open the door to somehow requiring that they be allowed to run for City Council, too?” In Heston’s view, the measure would diminish the value of U.S. citizenship.

It should surprise no one that I feel differently. First off, I don’t have what some would consider proper respect for borders. I’m not a big believer in the idea that a poor person from Mexico or wherever can’t come here to survive because of an imaginary line in the sand. Does that make me a hopeless liberal? Probably so. Live with it.

Secondly, there’s that thing about taxation without representation. And don’t tell me that non-citizens don’t pay taxes. Those who work, and that’s most of them, have income taxes and Social Security taxes withheld from their paychecks. I get a Social Security check now and then and it seems to me that if all those non-citizens eventually collected their due from the Social Security system, my checks would likely be smaller.

They pay sales tax and directly or indirectly they pay property taxes. Don’t tell me renters don’t pay property taxes. They might not make out the check to the county but I guarantee you the landlord includes the tax in the rental price.

If Villegas’s idea was to become law, I don’t think there would be a flood of non-citizens applying for seats on the Planning Commission or the Recreation Commission. Most non-citizens I know aren’t about to raise their profiles in the Trump Era. But a few non-citizens helping the city mothers and fathers decide which service needs to fill or which neighborhoods need better policing, that doesn’t bother me a bit.

What do you think?

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KSBW television says at the end of General Manager Joe Heston’s latest on-air editorial that the station welcomes responsible replies. Even though my middle name is Responsible, it’s hard to tell whether this will meet the standard, so here goes nothing.

The topic was surveillance cameras.

Years ago, writer Hunter Thompson was defending his style of rule-breaking journalism. He wrote that the only objective form of journalism was a surveillance camera in a store, but he corrected himself, saying that even that didn’t qualify because someone could decide when to turn it on and off.

That’s part of what’s wrong with Heston’s latest editorial, in which he gives unconditional support to installation of police surveillance cameras. (Not everywhere, of course, but in high-crime neighborhoods.) He anoints them as infallible, even headlining his piece “Cameras don’t lie.” The truth is, as even Heston knows, they do fib and they create misimpressions. Even law enforcement sees it that way. Oftentimes when a video camera catches a cop smacking someone around, the official line is that the camera didn’t record the events leading up to the smacking. “Oh, don’t be misled by what you saw on camera,” they tell us. “That’s out of context.”

When two Salinas cops recently shot and killed a man holding pruning shears, the action was caught by two cameras, but we were told they only caught a tiny bit of the part where he lunged at the officers.

I agree that surveillance cameras can be useful in the right place and the right time, but I don’t share Heston’s enthusiasm for their widespread use or his trust in their accuracy. I also am bothered by the way he dismisses people who don’t agree with him.

“With cities using surveillance cameras in public areas,” he tells us, “it should remind people that if you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to worry about.” In other words, if you don’t like it, you must be up to no good.

It is one of the worst arguments possible: I must be right because anyone who disagrees with me should be ignored.

The city of Salinas recently started using surveillance cameras and Seaside is about to start. Heston tells us that people shouldn’t worry because there are lots of cameras out there already—TV cameras, cell phone cameras, security cameras. Which is a little like saying don’t worry about a new source of pollution because there’s already a lot of pollution.

Heston concludes, “When an innocent bystander is killed during a community disturbance and a police officer is knocked unconscious by a bottle to the head, surveillance cameras may, sadly, be the only fearless, accurate, yet ever-silent witnesses to the crime. In those cases, the camera would be the Eye of Truth.”

Heston apparently doesn’t watch much baseball and hasn’t seen those instant replays of close calls. It’s a new thing in Major League Baseball this year. When the coach thinks the umpire got it wrong, he can ask for officials to watch the play again, on camera, in slow motion. As often as not, the replay from one angle makes it appear the umpire is right but the replay from another angle shows the coach is right.

Can both be right? Probably not. Can both be wrong? Absolutely. As Nietzsche said, “There are no facts, only interpretations.”

By the way, any sort of reply to this editorial is invited, responsible or not, but those of you submitting the irresponsible type are encouraged to make note of that at the beginning so you don’t startle me.

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The Monterey Bay Partisan is two weeks old now, so I thought some loyal readers might like an update.

With some 200 hits on a good day, traffic has been better than expected, considering that all the writing so far has been mine, a fact that can try even my patience. Technical assistance has been provided thus far by my lovely family and my lovely friend Paul Skolnick. Some of you Fresno types may remember from his Channel 30 days.

 YOU TOO CAN BE A BIGSHOT WRITER

Which takes me to Appeal No. 1. I thought I had made it clear early on that I am looking for others to share the writing. After you have liked us on Facebook, after you have hit the share button and gone to the site itself to hit the subscribe button, your work is not done.

You need to leave some comments at the end of the pieces your read, AND THEN WRITE YOUR OWN DARNED PIECE. Write about the topics covered here or write about something entirely different. You can write about the potholes on your street or man’s inhumanity to man, especially local man’s inhumanity to local man. Pitch your project or poke holes in someone else’s. Write about Cal Am! Write about the upcoming election! Write about how that darned Monterey County Weekly hasn’t written a word about the Monterey Bay Partisan. I can’t promise you I’ll put everything on the website, but I will tend to err on the side of putting it out there.

Sure, we’re small now, but most great, world-changing ideas started out small. You may wonder why you would write something for a blog with a three-figure circulation. I’ll tell you why. Unless you’re Charles Krauthammer, your writing isn’t getting much play in the local dailies and weeklies. This isn’t supposed to be just Royal Calkins’ blog. It’s supposed to be a community blog. Let’s get this party started. You can find me at calkinsroyal@gmail.com

 CALLING ALL ANGELS

Which takes me to Appeal No. 2. I am doing this out of passion for journalism and to fill some gaps in the local news and opinion scene (do I have to spell everything out?). I’m not trying to make a living out of it. I’ve got other things to do that actually make me a little money. But, and let me be absolutely clear about this, I COULD USE A LITTLE HELP HERE.

Some wonderful folks approached me after my much-celebrated departure from the Monterey Herald in February and offered to help me launch a site something like this (actually they were thinking bigger and better, but here we are.) A little financial help was extended, accepted, greatly appreciated and depleted before I decided to try to get this moving without the complications that committees can create.

I am finding now that despite that aforementioned passion, expenses can be the enemy of resolve. There are fees for the website host, for the domain name, for this and for that. I hope eventually to be able to pay for some of the contributions that will be prompted by Appeal No. 1. And now some of my wiser friends are telling me that libel insurance is a must if this site is to be as vigorous as the community deserves. And then there’s Freelance Guild dues and that kid in college, etc., etc.

So here’s the plan. I am getting the Monterey Bay Partisan incorporated as a non-profit, and then I will ruthlessly seek out those among you whose extra money is just sitting around looking for something to do. The aim is to raise enough to support some actual journalism, some digging into the things that need digging into, instead of relying on mere opinionizing. Or is that opinionating? At the moment, for instance, I am working on a piece about some surprising security breaches at a local defense facility and a fraud aimed at seniors.

When newspapers started shrinking, one of the first casualties was investigative reporting. As newspapers morph into 24/7 news operations aiming to out-Twitter the competition, what passes for in-depth reporting of any kind will become a memory. I won’t say that blogs like this are the answer, but I don’t see many other candidates out there.

I bring this up now as something akin to market research. I’d like to get some sense of whether the idea of private sponsorships is practicable or not. If you think you might be interested in lending a financial hand, please give me a shout at calkinsroyal@gmail.com. I won’t spread your name around, but if and when I do line up sponsors, I would hope to acknowledge them on the website.

I don’t plan to sell ads. I know how much they can taint the editorial processes. (Actually, it is less of a factor than you might expect at most newspapers, but when it happens it creates a smell that is not quickly forgotten.)

So if you’ve got a few bucks, or a buncha bucks, that could use some exercise, you’ve found the place. Again, send me a note at calkinsroyal@gmail.com, and we can talk about it.

THAT DARNED SHOE

When my friend Paul and I put that profile of a pelican at the top of this page, it never occurred to us that anyone would see anything but a pelican profile. But we have learned the hard way that some people, and you know who you are, look at the pelican and see a high-heeled shoe. Take a look. You’ll see what I mean.

This high-heeled shoe instead of a pelican is not a good thing.Branding and marketing and all.

So look here soon for another change. Obviously, our budget doesn’t allow for any meaningful testing of designs or other factors, but I’m headed out to find something new for the top. Maybe I’ll find a pelican that doesn’t look like a shoe. I have reached out to some photographer friends, hoping they might share some iconic Monterey Bay images but I guess they’re busy trying to come up with sponsorship money instead.

With any luck, I’ll find a beautiful beach scene, or some perfectly photogenic otters. And if you see the otters and think one of them looks like, say, Joe Heston, please don’t tell me.

Later.

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