The all-important middle class has been slowly abandoning Novato as well as other parts of California. Candidate Toni Shroyer, candidate for Marin County District 5 Supervisor (Novato) has made this issue a major plank in her campaign platform. This immensely important economic shift has dramatic implications for the financial stability of the cities in Marin County.
The cost of living in Marin is and has been increasing faster than its residents’ incomes. Its financially squeezed middle class is steadily leaving. Particularly in Novato and San Rafael, it is transitioning into a bifurcated economy dominated by a low-income sector and a high-income sector. Marin’s changing economic profile indicates a shrinking middle class who currently pays and/or generates most of the local tax funds to pay soaring State public employee pension obligations as city services are cut.
Yet, in a recent District 5 Novato candidates Marin IJ front page article featuring Toni Shroyer and Arnold by Richard Halstead, the lead political reporter for the Marin IJ, this significant development received no mention. Why? Has the Marin IJ’s cozy relationship with the county propaganda machine become so strong it has co-opted the IJ’s editorial and news rooms? Is not a disagreement over a key policy between a cautioning challenger Shroyer versus a tax-happy incumbent Arnold worth a mention?
Richard Halstead’s presentation of the head-to-head interview between challenger Toni Shroyer and incumbent Judy Arnold affirms the partisan situation. Halstead is perceived by many neutral observers as leaning heavily towards Marin’s political establishment’s existing policy and as dismissive towards those with a differing opinion.
Biased journalistic opinion posing as “news reporting” is endemic in today’s print and broadcast media. Marin County is not immune to this infection of its once even-handed reportorial style. One person’s bias is perceived by someone else as insight. Fair enough, but the absence of an equal opportunity for rebuttal of contentious statements converts bias into slanted advocacy – especially when the gatekeeper for access to the platform for public rebuttal is prejudiced.
Apparently, the candidacy of Toni Shroyer is to be subtly and intentionally undermined by the Marin IJ. This goes with its history of perfunctorily endorsing incumbent politicians. The IJ knows how mediocre Arnold’s performance in office has been. Her record speaks for itself.
The IJ’s temerity towards change is understandable when you are the only county-wide print media in the market. Why rock the boat? This flat-earth approach to fresh new ideas is confirmed by its love affair with political incumbents.
The lead reporter who is covering the District 5 Supervisors race for the Marin IJ is Richard Halstead who is very skilled at making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear – especially when he likes the sow. The present case in point being his attempt to subtlety remake the very remedial incumbent Judy Arnold into something more than that.
Halstead writes as if he has taken a seat on the Arnold campaign team’s back bench, deflecting legitimate criticism of Arnold’s supporting of a potentially unpopular State initiative by saying she tried “to distance” herself from the unpopular Plan Bay Area. Rather than stand up and say her constituents have serious doubts concerning this plan, Arnold ducked the responsibility of speaking up publicly about their concerns and acquiescently faded into the background. That’s not representation. It’s abdication of responsibility.
Next, Halstead minimizes Shroyer’s multi-year efforts to make it easier to add second units to existing housing by discounting her successful efforts stating “…which the county supervisors are already doing”. Yes, the supervisors are doing it because responsible people like candidate Toni Shroyer spoke up and forced them to do something by publicly calling them out for not making it happen. The passive Arnold was not at all a leader on the issue. Toni Shroyer was.
Also, on Halstead’s journalistic chopping block was Toni Shroyer’s suggestion that non-partisan citizen’s review committees could be used to assess and advise “…the County on cost cutting…”, pensions and environmental issues. Arnold’s response implied that such subjects were too complex for people not paid by the County. That’s ridiculous. Not only does Arnold insult her constituencies’ intelligence, she denies the reality that existing citizens’ groups such as the County Grand Jury have been functioning very effectively doing just that. Her self-aggrandizing bureaucratic arrogance verifies just how out of touch she is with the sophistication of her constituency.
You can see where this is going. Bit by bit Halstead frames each contemporary issue from the perspective that Arnold, for the past four years, has done an excellent job presiding over the interests of Novato’s middle-class residents. If a shrinking middle class is Arnold’s goal, then she has been successful.
The predetermined format for Halstead’s article is to state Toni Shroyer’s campaign initiatives and then have Arnold confirm there is no problem. There is no space allotted for a rebuttal by Toni Shroyer.
The dead giveaway for Halstead’s prejudicial approach is his statement at the beginning of a paragraph that “Shroyer’s primary line of attack hasn’t changed much from four years ago.” Really? If Arnold has disappointingly done nothing for four years then Toni Shroyer’s approach is spot on. Any pretense of neutrality on the part of Halstead vaporized immediately.
Curiously, Arnold’s campaign donations, the majority of which are from out-of-district, are understated by Halstead at $133,000. The actual amount reported by Arnold on the County web site is an embarrassingly rich more than $300,000 as of today. Much of that $300,000 plus kitty is out-of-district pay-to-play money from special interests such as building contractors, developers, anonymous political action committees, etc. Where is her support from Novato residents who are not property investors, contractors, etc.?
Toni Shroyer campaign funding at $40,000 reflects the fact that she is free of special interest donations and the implied committed favors to those donors. Halstead implies this is a bad thing and implicitly criticizes Toni Shroyer for putting her money where her mouth is and supporting her campaign with her own money. Halstead later implies that Arnold’s special interest donations are a good thing. Good for whom? Certainly not Novato, the very district she supposedly represents. Follow the money. It’s Southern Marin money.
Arnold and her big Southern Marin money obligations are more influenced by San Rafael than Novato. Toni Shroyer, with a perspective more in tune with Novato families and their values, reflects their honest openly down-to-earth grass roots approach to solving problems. In contrast, Arnold is comfortable with constantly raising taxes and the papering over of serious issues while kicking the financial can down the road despite the future consequences on such issues as the looming increases in pension obligations.
The bottom line of Halstead’s piece is that he personally thinks Arnold is a better supervisor than Toni Shroyer would be. His opinion comes through as not-so-subtle bias in the article. This is understandable, as Halstead is dependent upon being in the good graces of Supervisor Arnold to provide pre-packaged information for his work as a Marin IJ “reporter”. One hand washes the other.
Receiving no mention in the front-page article was Arnold’s catastrophic mis-judgement of Novato’s voters on the failed Measure E. She arranged for $30,000 of pay-to-play donations from her personal cadre of building contractors and consultants in her failed attempt to place another unnecessary tax on her already overburdened constituents.
The opposition with only $3,000 to back them, won with a two-thirds majority victory. Arnold and her “big shot” buddies were stunned. Novato voters were much smarter than Arnold realized once voters had facts rather than advocated propaganda posing as “information”. Toni Shroyer campaigned against the tax.
Novato’s voters will once again reject Arnold and her money-grubbing consorts who think their interests are more important than Novato’s interests. Voters know that energetic and hardworking Toni Shroyer is much more representative of Novato residents than the distant and manipulated Arnold.
Toni Shroyer will do a far better job of representing Novato residents with her energy, intelligence, and fresh ideas. She is the grass roots candidate of Novato’s hardworking middle-income residents who feel their interests are increasingly ignored while those of special interest groups are maximized. Now is the time for positive change.
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