Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Politics/tactics explained: How everyday, local government functions such as planning are getting hijacked

[This is the fourth or fifth time I've re-posted this. The first time I posted this (in early March) within 24 hours the blog traffic was off the charts and was getting emails and phone calls from people wanting to talk about it. What I think struck a chord is it speaks to truth: it only takes a few people with clever tactics to alter public perception. And the other truth is this: even otherwise very intelligent people, people who know what is happening and are involved, can be manipulated to believe something that is untrue. If you have time study up on what's called a meme. A meme is like a virus; instead of an actual virus this is an idea or thought that spreads from one person to another. And once you "catch" the 'virus', like any real sickness, it takes a long time to recover.

So without further ado, here is that op/ed that has gotten so much attention (the first two paragraphs are my intro):]

If you live in a small city in south Florida such as Lake Worth (it could be any city) and you've wondered how even the most reasonable and popular projects get thwarted, the excerpt from an op/ed below will explain a lot.

This is a sobering op/ed by Patrick Fox, "Broken Planning: How Opponents Hijacked the Planning Process" [an excerpt with emphasis added]:

     Grassroots movements do not organically spring up to support a project, but opposition groups driven by fear, self-interest and cynicism can take off like wildfire. The proliferation of digital tools like Facebook and Twitter give average people the ability to find like-minded project opponents and to build effective grassroots opposition movements. While project supporters certainly have access to these same tools, they are far less motivated to use them. The process is overwhelmingly dominated by opponents.
     Why should an elected official support a project and subject him or herself to the slings and arrows of angry opponents? Standing with opponents and harnessing their passion and energy is the politically expedient path. Standing with opponents and dramatically pounding your fists in opposition is the right political posture for today's elected official seeking to build a political base and grab headlines.
     Imagine a grocery store is proposed in your community that will redevelop a vacant retail site. The developer is well known and respected and promises major site improvements and community amenities.
     On a Tuesday night, a public hearing is held at Town Hall by the Planning Board or the City Council to get public input prior to voting on the developer's application. Who shows up and makes their voices heard? Not the supporters. While the vast majority of residents may fully support the project and welcome it to their community, the hearing is packed with those who vigorously oppose it.