There are many who probably care little about this issue, I acknowledge and understand it. Frankly I would have simply ignored it but at some point when a person is challenging your integrity, you ought to at least clarify the issues from your perspective. For those who read the Davis Enterprise, I wish to thank Davis Enterprise Editor Debbie Davis for being willing to print a shortened version of this in today’s Davis Enterprise. She certainly was under no obligation to do so. So for that I am grateful. For those not interested in this issue, don’t worry, we have some major breaking stories you won’t get anywhere else coming out in the next two weeks, so stay tuned.
These days I feel the glee that Olbermann must have had in that very first moment when the behemoth took time to swat this gnat from his brow and resume his merry ways. I have long been a critic of Bob Dunning, having been an early and unwitting victim to his sometimes cruel humor … having watch the destructiveness that his column and ink supply could wield on unsuspecting victims … having watched the ease with which he could misconstrue and twist comments and innocent errors into a grand conspriracy of lies and corruption … and finally having watched the fear under which angels tread in his presence.
The irony of it all, is that I had no real intent to irritate Bob Dunning this month. In the spring, early April to be precise, the Vanguard was looking to promote itself and we created a brochure with quotes from various elected officials, citizen activists and community leaders. I solicited and received a great quote from Jim Provenza and put it on the front of a brochure that contained a total of 10 individual quotes from people that Jim would happily claim as peers. He and his wife loved it. Several months later, I came up with the idea of taking the front cover off that brochure, and turning it into a mailable postcard. Despite the fact that it was the same already approved quote, 20/20 hindsight says that I probably should have checked back in with Jim, but there was absolutely no malice in my failure to do so.
Mr. Dunning has been very clear that he perceived the postcard as a specific attack on the Davis Enterprise. The opening of the brochure was: “As Local Newspaper Coverage Wanes, More People are Turning to the The People’s Vanguard of Davis.” It was not meant as a shot against the Enterprise but rather commentary on the nationwide newspaper industry. But be that as it may, it was also a true observation about the Enterprise, which has (if my information is correct) laid off perhaps one-fifth of their employees, seen a loss in revenue, and even ceased production of a physical Monday paper. Regardless, what I thought was an innocuous header, inflamed the Wary Eye.
The unfortunate complication in all of this was the involvement of Supervisor Jim Provenza. He did himself no favors when he told Dunning:
“I regret that I trusted the Vanguard to use my name and quotation in a responsible manner.”
Dunning ran the story under the header: “Provenza: I did not authorize mailer.” And concluded: “Jim has always been a straight shooter whose concern for the ‘common good’ guides his efforts as an elected official – I continue to respect his opinions and his efforts – case closed.”
The events of the past week have an ironic element because Dunning never bothered to check with me to understand any to-that-point unspoken additional elements of the story. The irony exists because when I first got started writing the blog back in July 2006, I presumed to know his opinion on a particular issue, got it wrong, and he very correctly let me have it. He wrote: “No wonder you print things The Enterprise doesn’t. The Enterprise actually does research and prints facts… You could have called me.”
So here we are with the tables turned. This time it is the Enterprise’s Columnist Bob Dunning that did not do his research and as a result did not print facts. If Dunning had called me, he would have quickly found out that I had an April 2009 email record of the exchange between Supervisor Provenza and me. That exchange showed that I asked Mr. Provenza for a quote for a Vanguard brochure and he had sent me the quote without any qualifications or stipulations as had the other nine individuals quoted.
Setting the Provenza matter aside for a moment, as the week has progressed Mr. Dunning has expanded his attack to denigrate my reporting about the features of the Wildhorse Ranch project. He has very specifically accused me of taking payoff money from the Wildhorse Ranch developer. I have been very upfront about the fact that in September of 2007, I accepted a paid ad from Senses Magazine which ran for six months. The owner of Senses Magazine is indeed the spouse of the Wildhorse Ranch developer. It is an enormous stretch to tie any support for WHR to that advertising money which went directly to the Vanguard.
But that point aside, for all of his research skills, it is amazing that he did not come up with a search from a Vanguard article in January of 2008 when the project first came before council –only four months after the advertising purchase. At the time the Vanguard was very critical of the project. The difference between the project then and now is of course night and day in terms of density, in terms of scope, and in terms of sustainability. The Socratic question I posed to my readers challenged them to educate themselves on just how far the project had evolved since being rejected by Council.
What has changed between then and now is not another purchase of a Vanguard ad for Senses Magazine or a donation from the WHR developers, but rather a vast and dramatic improvement of the project which has seen the size trimmed from 259 to 191 units, the project shifted to the east to mitigate impact on the neighbors, the accomplishment of 90% GHG emission reduction with 100% solar photovoltaics, the accomplishment of 100% accessibility in the affordable units, the elimination of fourth stories and nesting of the third stories between two story townhomes to reduce the impacts on sightlines, etc.
But instead of looking at these facts, Mr. Dunning is drawing on comments taken out of context to suggest a more sinister force at work.
As he writes:
“But he insisted that his blog ‘has not endorsed the (Wildhorse Ranch) project,’ which is interesting, not to mention entertaining, since the blogger in question did write, ‘When will we see another opportunity like this, one that causes little impact to the community, does not convert productive farm land, and delivers so much toward meaningful progress toward reducing the impacts of climate change?”
Sorry but as Dunning would be the first to point out, notice the little punctuation mark at the end of the paragraph — that is a question mark, which means that (as I noted above) my closing line was in fact not a statement but a question, meant to spark discussion and debate (which it did in the form of 166 comments) rather than convey an opinion. Lets be clear, am I more positive about this project than I was 19 months ago — that answer is a very emphatic yes. But at this point the Vanguard does not endorse it, rather only discusses and analyzes and reports. I might add, much in the same way that Dunning does not endorse.
I have more problems with his next line:
He goes on to note that taking developer money is no different than the “‘Davis Enterprise and other publications accepting advertising from businesses such as Tandem Properties, Covell Village Partners and the Yes on Measure X Campaign in advance of The Enterprise’s endorsement of the Covell Village project …’
Yes, yes, but this would be the same blogger who told his readers in one post about another project: ‘the nice thing about not accepting money from the developers is that there is no question in anyone’s mind about the promotion of one property over another.’ … indeed … too bad he didn’t follow his own advice.”
This is completely taken out of context and also misses my point entirely. Dunning fails to differentiate between a newspaper or blog taking advertising money and a candidate accepting campaign contributions. The quote that was used was in reference to city council candidates taking money from developers. A city councilmember has voting authority over a project. A newspaper or a blog can only express an opinion.
Is Mr. Dunning suggesting that the Davis Enterprise, which took $35,680.53 in advertising from the 2005 Smart Planning – Yes on Measure X – Yes on Covell Village campaign and then turned around and endorsed the Covell Village project in November of 2005, should not accept advertising dollars from developers? The second he makes that claim, I’ll follow suit. In the meantime, can you think of any reason why the Vanguard should not continue to accept paid advertisements from anyone stepping up to purchase ad space? I will assume the answer to that question is a no for both the Vanguard and the Enterprise.
Hey we know the Enterprise is facing challenging times . . . we all are. Perhaps Mr. Dunning showed what his intent really was when he tipped his hand as he wrote:
“Summer is supposed to be a slow time for local politics, but a check of the mailbox shows that this town is as opinionated as ever.”
Perhaps this is all an effort to increase the entertainment value of the Enterprise during the slow time. If that is the case I’ll continue in my role as Mr. Dunning’s scapegoat. He doesn’t even have to acknowledge that that is what he sees me as.
—David M. Greenwald reporting