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By Casey Christie / The Californian
By Robert Price
Reader: I am so disappointed in a recent story about Bakersfield City Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan ("Sullivan is longest-serving," City Beat, Aug. 22). What should have been a story about her service to the citizens of Bakersfield was marred and sullied by publishing information about the tax matters of a charity she is involved in.
As a public person who is involved in charity fundraising, I was horrified that reporter Theo Douglas felt the need to weave this unrelated information into his story. Why?
This feedback forum is designed to give readers a way to voice criticisms and compliments or ask questions about The Californian's news coverage. Your questions -- which may be edited for space -- are answered here each Saturday.
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At a time when Sullivan is actively seeking sponsors for an upcoming charity event, this information could be crippling to those efforts. Her charity work has nothing to do with her committed service to the city of Bakersfield in the capacity of a council member. As a personal friend of Sullivan's, I can tell you this matter had to be an accounting error. If Sullivan knew that the charity owed $60.18, she would have written a check from her personal account if needed. I have called upon Sullivan many times to support my own fundraising efforts and her checkbook flies out of her purse to help with amounts far exceeding $60.
I have supported Sullivan since her campaign was announced. I have admired her ability to serve our council well. I truly admire the intestinal fortitude to say, "I was wrong" and change her vote knowing the media would pounce on her. She has always had an open ear to our citizens and with more than 19 years on the council has certainly had a steady hand in growing Beautiful Bakersfield. Instead of taking a cheap shot, Douglas should have expended more ink on her council accomplishments and stuck to the headline -- "Sullivan is longest serving."
-- Jim A. Luff
Reader: Theo Douglas, you have a strange way of honoring someone. All the years Jacquie has served Bakersfield and you could only come up with three items that you felt needed to be written about, and you had to put a negative spin on the In God We Trust event by bringing up the Franchise Tax Board. Do you really think $60.18 is enough negative gossip to write about?
This "latest scoop on municipal government" reads like a backstabbing. The Californian is a better paper than that and Jacquie Sullivan deserves better than this.
-- Irene Edmonds
Price: All of this grief over Theo Douglas' mention of the fact that Councilwoman Sullivan's nonprofit, In God We Trust, lost its tax-exempt status two and a half years ago? I thought Theo's article was quite positive overall. He wrote of the circumstances that brought Sullivan into office, her change of heart -- and change of vote -- on the council's 1994 stadium-construction decision ("the community didn't want it," she said), the successes of her In God We Trust organization (which encourages local governments to display that national motto), and her support of the Human Life Ordinance (the mention of which underscores Sullivan's conservative position on social issues). Douglas cited City Manager Alan Tandy's description of her as "fair and kind" and possessing a "positive orientation" -- all of which, I believe, by the way, is true.
It is unquestionably newsworthy when a local political figure's nonprofit encounters financial or legal issues, and I believe elected officials need to have thick skin about such things.
That said, the news of her nonprofit's suspension should have been reported as a separate story. I can see why she and others were jarred by the revelation in a story that was ostensibly a simple acknowledgement of her record-breaking 6,973 days in office.
It is human nature to have one's overall perception of an article colored by one distasteful detail, and that's what I see happening in this case. No "backstabbing" here.
Price: We kicked off a new feature this week: e-Extra -- additional pages in your Californian that are visible only to those who are viewing the paper's e-Edition on a mobile device, such as a tablet. Why, you may ask, are we creating these e-Extra pages? Because we can. We fill your daily, printed newspaper with as much in the way of news, features, advice and other information as we can manage, but we are bound by finite constraints: number of pages, press deadlines and delivery considerations, among other issues. Those restrictions are diminished or nonexistent with the e-Edition. We're limited in the number of bonus pages we can produce only by the speed with which we can produce them. So, if you subscribe to The Californian's e-Edition, you're getting something extra.
For now, e-Extra pages appear three days a week, but we'll be expanding that in the near future.
We're not ignoring our print-only subscribers, though. In Sunday's paper we'll be announcing some new features that kick off next week. A lot of new features.
Reader: I get sick and tired of you guys always writing this (stuff) up like in Community Voices ... (with) this black guy (Danny Morrison) telling how the blacks had it bad ("Black community, 'boys in blue' have work to do in order to heal," Aug. 21). Why don't you guys write the truth? Blacks kill blacks about 90 percent of the time. And you act like this guy (Michael Brown of Ferguson, Mo.) was going to church or something. Because he's a bad guy.
Why don't you tell both sides of the story instead of putting this (stuff) in the paper all the time? You guys never get it right. That's why I hate your liberal paper. ... Why don't you write an article about the Attorney General down there investigating blacks killed in Chicago? About 14 of them are killed on the weekend. I don't know why anybody buys your paper. You guys go screw yourself.
-- Robert O' Barton
Price: Shame on us for giving a black man the opportunity to share a black man's perspective on a racially charged, news-dominating incident involving the death of a black man. Nobody -- black, white or other -- complained to me when we published Rich Lowry's Aug. 23 column: "What justice demands in the case of the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in disputed circumstances is a full and fair deliberative process that goes wherever the evidence leads. But is anyone marching so that Wilson can go free if the facts don't support charging him? No, the demand is for him to be arrested immediately and to be prosecuted no matter what. This is noxious." Lowry reiterates that point in his column in today's Opinion section. We may have our liberal newspaper membership card revoked for having allowed those in the paper.
Danny Morrison of Bakersfield has written before about race in America, and he never fails to stir up at least a little controversy. My quick archive search of his past work found two references to the scourge of black-on-black violence. In his Aug. 21 op-ed, Morrison again acknowledges that "we (blacks) already have our own issues with guns. ... Gun violence is the leading cause of death for black teenagers." And we have published articles about Eric Holder's efforts to turn things around in the embattled city of Chicago. So nobody is running away from the facts, Mr. O'Barton.
My most heartfelt apologies, though, for publishing an opinion that does not precisely match yours.
Reader, referring to the posting on our Facebook page of a link to the sfgate.com (San Francisco Chronicle) story headlined "Wife: Robin Williams had early Parkinson's":
So, you were either unable or unwilling to write the story yourself so you simply re-posted an article from another news source. Remind me again why we need you?
-- Tami Tallman Hubbell
Price: We post stories from other media outlets all of the time, just as stories from The Californian are posted elsewhere with regularity. The same goes for the actual newspapers themselves; if everyone printed only the stories their staffs personally reported and wrote, most newspapers would be thin indeed. It should not be surprising to anyone that the San Francisco Chronicle has easier and more immediate access to Williams' widow, who lives in Marin County, than we do.
Reader: (In reaction to our Facebook posting of a Dallas Morning News article about a fatal officer-involved shooting Aug. 11 in Dallas): I get it! Media are going to hype every cop-related shooting in America until our law enforcement is so crippled by regulation they're afraid to patrol at all. Worse yet, an officer, mindful of media coverage, will hesitate one second too long and become the victim of a criminal.
The overwhelming desire to be politically correct in these kind of cases is turning reasonable people into parrots. And law enforcement? It's the new whipping-boy for every disgruntled idiot with a grudge.
I see anarchy on the horizon because nobody thinks they have to obey authority anymore. And weak-kneed, (supposedly politically correct) politicians with a view to being re-elected coupled with a media eager for viewers are fanning the flames.
-- Audrey Baker
Price: I posted the link in question after a reader pointed it out to me, noting, in an obvious reference to the rioting in Ferguson, Mo., "A white person gets shot and there is no riot."
I was curious to see if others would make the same observation and perhaps offer theories on why it may or may not be so. Some of our Facebook followers read the article in a completely different way, though. Turns out I was "fanning the flames." Silly me, I thought I was provoking conversation.
Reader: The Californian has a way with words, but so does Barack Obama. I wonder if they both have an agenda. The Californian has given accolades and congratulatory embraces to the state of California for its No. 8 place rating in overall world economy. It has also climbed on board in support of the county supervisors' idea to take advantage of the Mills Act. The Mills Act makes it easier to register older buildings as historical monuments and allows the owner a tax credit to do so.
Here are a few things you are not hearing. California was ranked as No. 8 in world economy and this was reported as a positive growth movement. California is today rated at No. 9 in the world economy and someone has forgotten to mention California was rated No. 6 in earlier years. So why are we bolstering a decline over an improvement?
Now let's look at the Mills Act. It allows county and state inspectors to visit your newly anointed historical monument, on which you will receive a tax credit, and these bureaucrats will tell you what must be done to stay compliant with state and county regulations. The regulations will of course be non-funded and must be paid by you. So please read the Mills Act before you partner up with the state, because you buckaroos will not be able to change a light fixture without government approval.
-- William Davis
Price: True, before the economies of China and Brazil surged, California was ranked as high as No. 6. California has had a world-ranked economy since the beginning of the post-war era. I'm not sure which accolades you're referring to, however, or why that would be a problem anyway.
You make a valid point: "Please read the Mills Act before you partner up." Yes, it's always a good idea to read a contract before you sign it. But the owner of a qualifying historic property wouldn't be contracting with the state because the Mills Act program is administered and implemented by local governments. According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, each local government establishes its own criteria and determines how many contracts it will allow in its jurisdiction.
If you're suggesting that historic preservation is part of our "agenda," you're correct. Our editorial board has been urging local governments to respect and preserve buildings of architectural and historical significance for many years. As Steven Mayer reported last week ("Old building inspires new thinking," Aug. 17), it looks like they're finally moving in that direction. I'm happy to see it.
I'm still trying to figure out what Barack Obama's agenda has to do with any of this.
Reader: I got my paper today, Aug. 16, and was disappointed. My grandson graduated from the Bakersfield PD academy yesterday. The family went down and they had quite an impressive ceremony and not one mention of it in the paper. I've just wondered if The Californian is against the PD or what's going on.
-- Harry Cowan
Price: The answer is that it slipped through the cracks. But we have since posted it online. Typically that's where we put these stories -- online only -- because they involve so many names. This one lists 33 graduates. No, we're not against the PD.
Reader: I would like to put my vote with David L. Morton as well. Not only was Herb Benham's piece on Robin Williams' passing timely, it was extremely moving.
Beautiful tribute also, Price, to Herb's dedication in your own description of his reaction to Williams' death: "I texted him and asked him if he would like to write a few words. He showed up in a sweat-streaked polo shirt within minutes and cranked out a replacement column" for Tuesday's paper.
Anyone doubting this should read Benham's book, "That was Easy." Turn to p. 133 and the story called "Dominic" about Dominic Ambriz, who died after a valiant battle with glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer, an aggressive disease. (God forbid I should give one of your own a plug, but this book is worth it. Equally heartfelt and genuine. Bravo. Herb is a keeper. Thanks for showing us that again.
-- Sue Lueth
Price: Yeah, Herb's pretty good.
Executive Editor Robert Price and The Californian welcome your comments and suggestions. To offer your input by phone, please call 395-7649 and leave your comments in a voice-mail message or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and phone number. Phone numbers and addresses won't be published.