Mission Viejo city manager’s attempt to “direct” new Register reporter

Earlier today I promised two new Mission Viejo stories. The following being the latest and last.

Not too long ago the OC Register hired a new reporter named Lindsey Bagulo, to cover stories relating to the city of Mission Viejo.

Ms. Bagulo recently provided an overview of two local blogs and citizen activism in a new series. My sense is that this series was triggered by a resident who found numerous easels dumped down a hill behind a shopping center. That story was picked up by the blog editors which were included in her series.

In my hands I have a copy of an email sent from MV City Manager Dennis Wilberg (see picture above) to the new Register reporter which reads as follows:

“Thank you for the opportunity to provide input for your assignment. In our last exchange a few weeks ago I stated that I believe it is important to have an open dialogue when discussing/reporting on an issue so again thank you for contacting us. I also stated that I felt it was our mutual goal to provide a fair and accurate representation of both sides of an issue. With this as a background, I would once again request…please, please, please, please…that you contact members of the community who are actually involved in the numerous events that take place in the city…those who volunteer to help out at the events, and those that attend the events. By doing so you will be able to get a balanced perspective and more accurate and broad based representation of what the views of the residents and businesses of the community are on the topic. As it appears at the moment, you are only setting things up to be a handful of residents who have a specific agenda against the views of “City Officials.” Hearing from a greater cross section of the community would certainly provide for a more fair and accurate representation of both sides of the issue and it would be more interesting. It would also be a benefit to all of us at the City as we are always trying to get feedback from the community as a whole and not just a few “activist” (though we do in fact appreciate and listen to their views).

So once again let me provide some suggestions of people you should try to contact.”

I wonder if President Bush sent a similar email to the heads of MSNBC, CNN or NBC.

Without listing “Dennis’s suggestions,” he goes on to provide names of 30 people in the city, yet excludes many others who have lived here upwards of 35 years and know the history and where the bodies are buried. While our “helpful” city manager provided these 30 names he failed to include some of the most long time, politically/policy knowledgeable residents of Mission Viejo. No, not myself (although I would qualify). Current residents such as former City Manager Dan Joseph, former Mayors Butterfield, Craycraft and Withrow; Neil Lonsinger and Richard Schweinberg each of who recently served as Chairman of our Planning Commission.

Talk about trying to “sway” or control the local media.

A side bar. Many years ago we even threatened to cut off our city ads and announcements due to the local newspaper publishing hard hitting stories written by local activists.

Later in his lengthy email the city manager goes on to say that “we live in a free country and we all have the right to free speech including blogging.”

Thank you Dennis. Those of us who are bloggers know our First Amendment rights.

Gilbert comment. Ms. Bagulo’s short series, covering local bloggers, was a first by the local Register. I commend her for giving some of our residents an opportunity to express some of the issues which their readers bring to their attention. City staff and some council members in just about every city are troubled by bloggers as they cannot control our content. Generation “Y”, also known as the Millennium Generation, is very skilled in using the Internet. For many the Net is the main source of news that they access.

It is still the responsibility of the reader to “trust but verify” the data which they read.

Juice readers. What’s your take on this story?

You might recall a prior post in which Mr. Rattay told his supervisors to immediately notify upper management if a member of the city council starts asking questions. What does this say about Mission Viejo?

About Larry Gilbert