Claremont Insider: Malice Towards None

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Malice Towards None

Back in March, we posted a commentary by root2 titled "Kremlin Watching" that likened the constant need to decipher the actions of the Claremont city government to the old Cold War study of Kremlinology.

We thought of that as we parsed former Claremont Mayor Diann Ring's comments from last week regarding our humble blog:

"It's someone without a job or a life," she said. "Someone with too much time on their hands. It's done with malicious intent and some of it is downright lies. Some day someone's going to get so mad they call (a lawyer)."

The key to Ms. Ring's thinking, we think, is the word "malicious." You see, to defame a public figure, according to the standard set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964, the public figure would have to show "actual malice" on the part of the person making the statement in question. Ms. Ring's no dummy. She's spent a great deal of time in the public eye, and she's chosen her words with care. She's trying to create an impression of malice to try to quell criticism.

Of course, Ms. Ring is not yet a U.S. Supreme Court justice, though she may sometimes act as if she were one. Also, as we noted previously, Ms. Ring threw the word "lies" around without any support or justification. We ask her now, as we did last week, to produce support for her claims. As of today, she has not responded.

But, that is really the modus operandi for Ms. Ring and the Claremont 400. Speak as if you are the authority, and because your name is Ring or Wright any contrary facts can be discarded. By the time the reality catches up and the crisis hits, it's too late and people have likely forgotten the root causes (the 2003 Padua Fire and the resulting $17.5 million settlement by Claremont's insurer, for instance).

In Claremont, who you are means more than what you are saying. That's why the City Council election ads alway feature long lists of supporter names. They say: I, Diann Ring, am voting for this person, and so should you.

So it isn't really that odd that there is so little communication between Ms. Ring, former Mayor Judy Wright, the Claremont 400, the Claremont City Council, city commissioners, city staff, the Claremont Board of Education, the local League of Women Voters (LWV), any number of other city organizations and the citizens who've been on the other side of a number of issues now and in the past.

As of today, there has been more talk between the Iranian and U.S. governments than there has been between most of the organizations above and the majority of opposition groups in town. What little talk is usually one way and from on high: We talk, you listen.

For groups that define themselves with words like dialogue, diversity, tolerence, consensus and inclusiveness, they display a stubborn unwillingness to listen and to adopt a wider range of ideas. Real leaders build bridges, reach out to other groups and seek to construct communities of all different sorts of people. This group, the Claremonsters, for want of a better term, has constantly and consistently done the opposite to the unending detriment of our town.