A while back, Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen mentioned a relatively new Claremont blog. Unlike other blogs about our fair city, Allen wrote, Conscious Claremont avoids being hectoring in its tone, which is a good thing. The last thing Claremont (and the blogosphere) needs is another whiny blogger.
Here's the anonymous blogger self-description:
I moved to Claremont in the 3rd grade & went to elementary, junior,& high school here. I went away for college, into the ‘big city’, Los Angeles. I was, like most Claremont kids, eager to leave. But, after 4 yrs. there, I felt city life wasn't for me. I've resided here the past 6 yrs. I have not been active in civic life before & only started to follow city hall in depth since last Aug. I have a b.a. in business economics & accounting. Thank you for reading, & I appreciate your feedback.
The posts cover a variety of Claremont issues, usually with a cost-benefit analysis weaved in. The sampling we read included posts about redevelopment (with a comment on ex-city manager Glenn Southard), changes in Claremont's financial policies, our zany, conflicted city council, and the real cost of the new Padua Park. The new blog also covers other items of interest, such as local architecture and local art events.
The park post had a comment that seemed fairly representative of Conscious Claremont's analyses:
An observer can't help feeling strange at the vast & expensive construction occurring while we experience serious fiscal problems.While in recent years we've terminated employees & funding, we were able to spend almost 4 million from the general fund to finance this site, including this year's costs of $1.7 million. Even with an $850,000 conservancy grant, projections of city spending are upwards of $4.7 million.
Observations like the one above show why blogs like Conscious Claremont exist in the first place. They fill an informational niche that most newspapers, including the Daily Bulletin or the Claremont Courier can't or won't address because the stories are too complex to fit into 15 or 20 column-inches.
So it takes a Conscious Claremont to put things into their proper context. To take the example of Padua Park, that one project accounts for virtually all of the City's budget deficit over that past two fiscal years. Our town mothers and fathers have bemoaned the loss of staff and services, yet they are the very ones who insisted that the park be completed now, costs be damned. The project could easily have been deferred until the economy and the city finances improved, but people like former mayor Ellen Taylor, current mayor Linda Elderkin, and our mayor pro tem Sam Pedroza, remained inflexible in their refusal to see how their project would end up gutting the city's balance sheet.
Ironically, some of the staff members whose jobs were eliminated because of Claremont's financial problems were the ones most responsible for the park's construction. Those employees were victims of the karma wheel coming full circle, like soon-to-be executed prisoners ordered to dig their own graves.
There are any number of ways a real news story could have been constructed out of the Padua Park project, but the traditional local news sources took the cheap, easy way out and failed to connect the dots. They simply wrote pieces about the park's grand opening without one single mention of the project's destructive fiscal effects.
Readers do notice the lack of context in such stories, contrary to whatever marketing reports editors are studying. As newspaper readership continues its downward death-spiral, we can't help wonder if papers themselves aren't doing more than a little of their own grave digging by not taking the time and energy to report the real news.