Sunday, August 13, 2017

“Neighbors concerned over boat lift project”. Be prepared. The news reporting by WPTV is the exception. Not the standard.

The quote in the title is the headline of WPTV reporter Alanna Quillen’s latest news segment about the Blueway Trail.

For the first article by Quillen and more information use this link.

The first two news segments by Quillen about the Blueway Trail have been very good. Before long though this reporter and WPTV will be on to other things and then the next reporter and news organization will come along. Don’t expect anything close to the same standard; expect the news reports going forward to be much different. Dramatic quotes. SEO-driven content. Eye-catching headlines.

Here is an excerpt from the latest news segment by Quillen:

“It’s perfect [the C-51 Canal], beautiful. You can see all types of marine life, you can see sting rays and manatees . . . It can look as beautiful as it can but it really comes down to the cost and safety issues.”

Now imagine a reporter interviewing this person who is more concerned with impressing the editor instead of educating the public? Residents east of the S-155 Spillway near the C-51 Canal are not unaccustomed to attention from TV reporters and press reports about the canal. For example, there was CBS12’s outrageous news segment about the “Green Tide” with the warnings:
[O]fficials warn folks recreating nearby should avoid direct contact with the algae.
Of course, everyone now knows this was all complete nonsense. Then more recently we learned about the “new scourge in Palm Beach County”: beta-Methylamino-ʟ-alanine (BMAA) in the water via Lake Okeechobee.

But seriously. . .

From a political and strategic perspective, the opponents and outspoken critics of the Blueway Trail project have an easy job. Whereas the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council (TCRPC), Blueway Trail Coalition, and cities in support of this project have to work hard creating the “four-legged stool”, all the critics have to do is create doubt and suspicion in the mind’s of the public.

It’s a tactic that works from time to time but it’s not the most effective one, especially for the community and the neighborhood(s) nearby.

The most effective strategy is to work with the SFWMD, TCRPC, and governments (local, County, and State) and along the way get the most benefit for your neighbors and the community. We all saw this most recently vis-à-vis the Meritage Homes housing project in the City of Lake Worth just east of I-95. The initial reaction from nearby neighborhoods was opposition and then cooler heads prevailed. Solutions were found to please nearly everyone. That’s how the process should work.

Here’s another excerpt from Quillen’s
latest news segment

     On Friday morning [August 11th], leaders with Lake Clarke Shores, Lake Worth and West Palm City  -- the three municipalities affected most by the boat lift -- worked out dozens of hurdles the project still has to clear. [emphasis added] Known as the Palm Beach County Blueway Trail Project, city leaders, engineers and other planners have joined forces to sort the details of the boat lift proposal. The project has been in the works for at least five years.
     “We made a lot of progress today and there’s always more work to do to figure out the finer details,” said Dr. Kim Delaney with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. “The question for the local governments is whether or not they want to advance it.”
     With three municipalities and the county working together, there’s also ongoing discussions of who would be the lead entity on the project.

Whether planned, or not, as the Meritage Homes project proceeded through the planning and political process, no one ran to the press and media to make their case. Instead, the public worked with their elected leaders, City staff, and boards and worked things out. Every vote taken along the way by the P&Z Board and City Commission was unanimous for the project.

Everyone worked together to make the best outcome possible. The press and news media had nothing at all to do with it.

However, the Blueway Trail project is a much different story. It’s bigger, much more complex, many moving parts, and a big target for a reporter looking to gain attention. So as much as we appreciate the work by Alanna Quillen, the quality of work is not going to continue for long.

So be prepared.