Mission Viejo city council fires back over local bloggers news coverage

Over the past few weeks the OC Register’s local newspaper, the Saddleback Valley News, started a new series covering two Mission Viejo blog sites which represent an alternative method for residents to become informed on city activities and misdeeds.

In today’s issue the city council fired back. Each of the five council members were asked about their opinion of these two local blogs. This series was triggered by a specific blog story relating to the grand opening of the expanded community center in which the city purchased hundreds of custom easels to display photos representing the history of our community. The blog was contacted by local resident Lisa De-Paul Snyder after she found hundreds of these easels in a trash heap.

The cover page of today’s issue includes a photo which brings back memories of our former Committee For Integrity in Government (CIG). The photo is of two members holding picket signs protesting city’s out of control expenditures. What’s the connection you might ask?  Both of the men who created the local blogs in this dispute were active participants in CIG at that time. Through our mutual efforts, in 2002, we soundly defeated both our mayor and vice mayor in that same election and worked around the clock to replace them with Lance MacLean and Trish Kelley, both of whom are serving today. We also assisted Councilman John Paul Ledesma get reelected as part of operation clean sweep.

It’s OK to walk precincts, donate time and money, design and distribute campaign flyers and yard signs, draft candidate statement and speeches, give (and obtain) endorsements, hold fundraiser coffee’s on their behalf and stand on street corners holding their signs.  Larry, that’s old news. We no longer require your services. Furthermore, we are not happy when you write blog stories about our actions on the council. How dare you.

If you recall I recently blogged about an email from an upper City of Mission Viejo manager to his staff. To paraphrase: The memo instructs them that should a council member ask them any questions they are to immediately report that contact to their superiors so that we are all on the same page.  Same page or damage control?  The same applies to the city council reaction. Yes, we should ask questions but when you take the time to address them at the podium under Public Comments and they ignore your plea you eventually lose the confidence and trust in your elected officials. The best way to get their attention is to get it in print be it Letters to the Editor or the latest in the world of communication, the local blogs. Before we had bloggers, and before the sun would rise over Saddleback Mountain, the council members would race out to their driveway to see if they are named in today’s paper. Now all you need do is turn on your computer.

As to the blog’s themselves. If your data is out in left field most readers will simply ignore a biased article. But to tell us that we need to contact them every time for an explanation as to why hundreds of easels are found in a dump speaks for itself. The deed was done.

While the Orange Juice and my posts were not referenced in this series, the same guidelines apply for most blogs. Be as factual as possible and do not engage in personal attacks. The same applies to those wishing to comment on our posts.
To have us contact them after the event accomplishes what?  This is the same City Council that removed transparency where we previously had the right to pull routine Consent Calendar items off the Agenda for discussion. In fact that was one of my requests to the mayor in helping her get elected in 2002. At that time the vote was 5-0 in support of that change. Now we must either address the issue under Public Comments or contact a council member, give them a heads up on our reason for the request, and hope they will pull the item on our behalf. It’s like playing poker with all your cards face up.
Back to the Register story. Council Member Lance MacLean. “There is a frustration that, not everything that is written in a blog, isn’t necessarily true or accurate, and when people read the blogs they assume the accuracy. There is a small element of fact and a whole bunch of opinion and hyperbole.”

Gilbert comment to Lance. Blogs are intended to offer opinions on government actions. When you approve 13 Change Orders on the expansion of our community center, and the CIP takes off like a rocket ship to Mars, going from the $5 million we thought you were spending and see check Registers exceeding $15 million, there is no need to call you. Don’t low ball the initial project and add “feel good”additions when we were not informed or permitted to challenge them.

Council Members Trish Kelley and Gail Reavis both commented that the stories are written by anonymous authors. My guess is that they both read the editorial pages of the OC Register. Do you see the authors name in the daily issues? No, you don’t. Their editorials represent the opinion of the publisher. With regard to blog authors. Most authors do include their name. At the Orange Juice we once permitted an anonymous author who was protecting their full time employment but had a factual story to tell. However, I would say that over 95 percent of our stories are not anonymous and contain the author’s name. Don’t CO-mingle authors with those who may comment on our stories who are permitted to sign on without divulging their names. The threads of our stories draw input from around the state. While some of these writers may be off base on their opinion we do work to defend our position in responding to their comments.

Councilman John Paul Ledesma stated that “in my opinion, I’m glad we have a very active citizenry that’s why Mission Viejo is a nice place to live because you have people who care about what’s going on.” At least, our elder statesman, John Paul Ledesma, gets it.

Our last council member once had his own blog where some of us were active contributors. However, as one of his bloggers, after I posted a story of a citizen running as a write-in candidate for a seat on the SMWD Board, that post was pulled without any discussion with me. There were no personal attacks nor inappropriate language in that announcement.  In responding to the News question,”have you ever been contacted by a blogger regarding a post” he responded “Never one call to get the facts.”  What did he say again??
Sometimes we do not find out about the character and integrity of an individual until after the fact. Sadly for me it was after helping him get elected in 2004.

Gilbert comment.  How effective have blogs been in our news coverage?

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