It’s a good thing our newly hired CSD Public Information Officer is a veteran of Desert Storm. Landing in the hot zone of the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Wars, such experience will stand Mike Drake in good stead. But in the verbal wars now underway with the pro and anti-Recall election and Sewer Initiative campaign underway, I’m afraid he’s already made a horrible blunder.
In the August 10th issue of the Bay News, he’s quoted as saying, “Whether it’s good news or bad news, I don’t spin it no matter what.” Oh, Dear. If Mr. Drake actually believes that, he’s probably found out by now that he’s landed in the wrong town, at the wrong time, in the wrong job because being an Information Officer for the Hideous Sewer Project has to involve spin because somewhere along the line the Hideous Sewer Project itself became nothing but spin.
I’m not quite sure just when that happened, but as it stands now, this Ginormous Sewer Plant In The Middle Of Town has become nothing but a spinning miasmic cloud of smoke and mirrors trailing footnotes and addenda like a diva trailing her feather boa. There is no way anyone can honestly, truthfully and “spinlessly” discuss the issue without pages of caveats, chapters of cautions, selective omissions, careful conflations, volumes of contradictory qualifiers and a credulity that allows one to swallow as true the most absurd things. In short, the only clear thing anyone can say about the Hideous Los Osos Sewer is that it is located smack dab in the middle of the Spin Zone.
Even a seasoned combat veteran and public relations word-crafter like Mr. Drake had better pack a sandwich and bring a flashlight when he leaves the house every morning to go to work. Like the Bermuda Triangle, the Sewer Spin Zone has been known to swallow up people whole only to have them pop out in some other dimension years later babbling about pies flying in the skies. You can see these Sewer Spin Zone Veterans wandering the streets of our town buttonholing anyone they can to ask Famous Unanswerable Sewer Koans.
For example, the CSD has staunchly, adamantly maintained, to the Coastal Commission, among other permitting agencies, that keeping the sewer plant in the middle of town reflects a “strongly held community value” of wanting a much needed, centrally located public park, a park that will include a Tot Lot built next to this busy, industrial sized sewage treatment plant. No central location, no desperately needed Tot Lot.
In reality, young families with lots of tots have moved away from Los Osos because they can’t afford to live here. Sunnyside Grammar School has been closed due to the lack of tots. The town is filling up with aging baby boomers, but no tots. Yet we are told the sewer plant MUST stay in the middle of town so it can have a conveniently located, strongly held community value Tot Lot built next to it.
You see the problem? How do you explain that without spin? Right. It can’t be done.
And if that weren’t enough of a challenge, Mr. Drake is now stuck with the difficult subtext of trying to “neutrally” “explain” things to a community that’s in the middle of a heated campaign to recall three of his bosses, a community where many have lost trust in their elected officials and lost faith in anything coming out of the CSD office. Trickier yet, these various taxpayer-financed bulletins legally must be accurate, no-spin, non-advocacy, factual information-only publications. Alas, everything in the Sewer Spin Zone is positively Byzantine, so, practically speaking, simple, accurate “no-spin” anythings are impossible. Happily, the laws concerning such non-campaign campaigns have enough loopholes in them that a savvy Public Information Officer can legally drive a whole fleet of plausibly deniable, properly spun “advocacy” Humvees through them while using our tax money to do it.
After all, a spin-free, accurate, information-only campaign for or against the recall and for or against the sewer initiative would require all those pages of caveats, chapters of cautions, selected omissions, careful conflations, volumes of contradictory qualifiers and files of footnotes. Which means we’d end up with TV spots lasting for hours and campaign literature too heavy to lift off the porch. And can you imagine the number of campaign posters you’d need? Thousands, all trailing off down the Los Osos Valley Road like those old Burma Shave signs, endlessly ‘splaining and ‘splaining all those No-Spin details.