By TOM HONIG
There's a strain running through a lot of political commentary -- both locally and nationally -- that's starting to sound hollow.
It's this: "... but I remain optimistic."
A new book by co-authors Tom Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum called "That Used To Be Us" describes an America that's struggling in both achievement and in the public dialogue. It's a call to arms, with all kinds of examples of how America is losing its ability to compete internationally. I haven't reached the last chapter yet, but even in the early stages of the book they insist: "We remain optimistic!"
I'm not sure I do. Take a look locally. There's a big decision facing many Santa Cruz County residents, and that's whether to use desalination as an emergency water supply in the event of a future drought. Some feel that desal is a kind of insurance policy to make sure that people won't suffer in the event of a drought such as the one in Santa Cruz back in 1976 and 1977. Others feel it's not needed.
What should happen is a thorough investigation of the costs and benefits -- both economic and environmental. And that's going on.
However, there is a group of people who have gone histrionic on the issue -- accusing anyone who might favor desal of all kinds of things. Here's one, taking verbatim from the Sentinel's website: "Shame on Rotkin and Matthews. Check their (likely gold lined) pockets"
Are you serious? Isn't it possible that some people honestly feel that the public good (not to mention the public's health) depends on a good water supply? How about a real debate?
Full disclosure: From what I know, I'm leaning toward supporting desal. But I haven't made up my mind -- pending more education.
Second full disclosure: I'm sitting in on a committee that's sponsoring an invitation-only informational meeting on water next Monday. For reasons I don't understand, desal opponent Paul Gratz is angry, telling the Sentinel that he's troubled that "two esteemed former mayors should organize an invitation-only event that features highly paid department managers whose salaries are paid by taxpayers. It just brings into question transparency versus privacy?"
Huh? Isn't speaking to interested people part of their jobs? I think he's angry that he's not invited. But he -- like other desal opponents -- have already made up their minds, so an informational meeting would be of little use.
I don't like the direction that this is going. Not all desal opponents are leveling bizarre accusations -- but enough are that I'm worried whether a rational public conversation can even take place. Stay tuned.