by Dahvie James and Philip Watt
We are concerned that information that was published in the Winters Express on both August 18th and August 25th is drifting away from what would be considered news without bias. While bias certainly can play a role in journalism, it is still well outside of what would be considered ordinary for the subject who is directly involved in the news to also be granted the advantage of reporting on it.
In the August 18th issue of the Winters Express on page A-6, Robin Rominger is featured as a guest columnist purportedly “reporting” on the Field & Pond project and Planning Commission hearing. Nowhere in the paper or the column written does it indicate that she is also the primary obstructionist and most vocal antagonist to agritourism, and in particular to the Field & Pond project. The readers should be made aware of this.
In general, the article is duplicitous because of the lack of transparency about the writer, and her direct involvement with the project. In particular, the article asserts a number of false statements, and there are also critical omissions.
One only need to read as far as the headline “Planning commissioners vote to protect Yolo County farmland”, to recognize her intent to mire the truth.
Readers should be aware that the county staff actually recommended approval of our project. They should also be aware that only four out of the seven commissioners were present for the hearing. One Commissioner recused himself following a publicly made allegation that he was operating an event center without proper permits.
In fact, the chair of the commission, Leroy Bertolero, who was also asked to recuse himself, due to longstanding employment history with the Romingers, also read a personal statement insisting that he still be allowed to preside over the hearing, because he felt that despite this fact, he could still remain unbiased and offer a fair vote. Surely, these circumstances would have been of interest to your readers, and arguably would be germane to the subject matter. Yet they were omitted.
During the hearing, two commissioners accepted the staff’s proposal to approve our application, while two did not. However, worth noting is that there was confusion amongst the Commissioners throughout the hearing. Listening to the audio of the meeting substantiates this; it’s available at www.yolocounty.org.
Proposed motions for approval were not formulated clearly, and therefore were not appropriately acted upon. Commissioner Friedlander proposed 16 events as part of the approval for Field & Pond. No other commissioners provided a Second to the motion. Commissioner Bertolero later proposed 12 events as part of the approval for Field & Pond.
However, to everyone’s surprise and confusion, Commissioner Friedlander who originally put forth a proposal of 16 events did not follow-up to act on the proposal of 12. One could hardly characterize this as “Planning commissioners vote to protect Yolo County farmland.” Further, the stated reason for denial was about concern for safety on the road; not protection of “Yolo County farmland.”
We would also be remiss if we didn’t share how much we resent the accusation in the August 18th article that we are in some way “illegal.” The quote shared indicated “the attempts by the applicants to pursue some agricultural uses on the small usable area are incidental to the event center and therefore illegal” simply has no basis.
How are our “attempts” to farm “small usable area” illegal? Further, the very basis of this statement which clearly acknowledges that our land is not prime farmland is in blatant contradiction of the very title and subject of the article, which purports that there was some sort of vote for the salvation of farmland.
Similarly, the article published August 25th also underscores the same misplaced bias. While we appreciate the opportunity to have given input to the story, and take no issue with its content written by Justin Cox, we do find that the tile is incorrect, and completely deceptive; “Supervisors oppose rural event center.”
As a point of fact, the Board of Supervisors has not reviewed our project yet, nor have they commented on whether they oppose or support it. However, this title gives the impression that there is outright rejection of our project.
We have filed an appeal of the Planning Commission decision for some of the obvious aforementioned reasons. This means that the project will go before the Board of Supervisors for consideration.
Nonetheless, again, the title is misleading, and our concern is that it really does misrepresent the facts in a way that does drive bias amongst your readers, in favor of Bruce and Robin’s very personally motivated agenda.
Dahvie James and Philip Watt are the owners of Field & Pond