With the forced lobotomization now taking place at the News-Press, reporters and editors who’ve accumulated any body of knowledge of the town or their beats are being chased out by a series of management “reforms.”
The most recent involves the reshuffling of the beat assignments. Normally this is something many newspapers do to keep their reporters fresh. But at the N-P, the motivation is to make working conditions sufficiently odiferous that those who are young, footloose, and relatively fancy-free will seek employment elsewhere. The desire is to cull the herd of potential union sympathizers. By the time any union election gets held, there will be no one left to vote in the affirmative.
Admittedly, some of the shuffling makes little difference. For Dawn Hobbs to be re-assigned from cops to courts seems a natural progression. But for Barney McManigal to go from the county beat to cops makes no sense at all. The county beat is among the most politically charged, tedious, and important. Barney has spent the better part of the past two years developing contacts, trust, respect, and rapport. He hasn’t been there long enough to become tired, bored, or jaded. Shifting Barney is bad enough, but even worse, there’s no on in the new scheme to replace him.
But the N-P is hardly the only institution sterilizing its work force. The County Planning and Development Department—long the whipping boy for just about everybody with a megaphone—has lost about 50 employees since last January. That’s an alarming number for one department. The new pro-growth Board of Supervisors have made their impatience with the department keenly felt; the supes have been far less skillful, however, at fixing things.
Efforts to reform the department have been akin to whacking one’s computer. The last one to leave is deputy planning chief Steve Chase, who will soon be taking a new gig as planning guru at the City of Goleta. This suggests that Chase is a glutton for punishment, but at least there he’ll be a better paid glutton.
Chase’s departure will be a huge loss for the county. That’s because he’s surrounded by an invisible Buddha Bubble force field that effectively deflects and dissipates all the free floating hatred, hostility, suspicion, ire, wrath, and general distrust that’s directed at high ranking planning directors as a matter of course. On controversial development projects—Naples, for example—Chase has ability to calm a room that might otherwise explode. Combatants on all sides sense that Chase is actually listening to them. They know if he lived in a parallel universe, he might actually do something to alleviate their concerns. This is an exceptional quality for someone routinely in the line of heavy fire. As the county confronts a host of hornets nets, we’ll all discover how important it is.