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In reading the Mountain Democrat article “‘Slow-growth’ advocates battling EDH projects” on June 23, 2013, I felt compelled to do my own research. I invite anyone concerned with land use planning of EDC to read the report written by Beebe and Wheeler referenced in the article.
The report makes for interesting reading. I learned that as an El Dorado County resident I am probably regarded by the authors Wheeler and Beebe a “selfish escapee from suburbia” who is seeking an “idealized” view of rural life at the expense of “service-oriented persons who have interests [that are] at odds.” It is interesting to note, in their own admission, not one “service-oriented person” was included in their study, even though those persons are abundantly available.
They go on with their view of the typical EDC resident as probably fearful of change, fearful of other people, driven by selfish motives, inept in planning processes, prone to petty in-fighting and blatantly disregarding of the impact of lifestyle and planning processes on environmental concerns. Oh, yes, and because I was raised here and am part of an intergenerational El Dorado County family, that probably makes me guilty of “defensive nativism.” And because I like slogans like “Keep us rural,” because the communal term “us” is used, it is presumed I am on the same wavelength as racists or elitists.
This idea of El Dorado County being essentially racist is furthered in their characterization of the county having a “racialized (their word) context of landscape purity and who belongs.” They rely on comparisons of demographic statistics on ethnicity from neighboring Sacramento County and the state, both of which have high overall representations of ethnic diversity, and thus they create an exaggerated discrepancy to bolster their desire to portray this county in a negative light.
Wheeler and Beebe go on to say that the county is guilty of having language in their planning documents that reflects an intolerance of racial diversity. That language was from the 1940s and wasn’t untypical of planning and title documents from communities across the state and nation at the time. The language was archaic and wrong. They are singling out and chastising El Dorado County now for this wrongdoing of over 60 years ago.
The authors claim there is hope for us “backward” residents. This is the hope — in order to “break through “provincial nativism,” we need only participate in discussions in which the rhetoric reflects our local values, hopes, and ideas — this will avoid the (our) perception that this is “outsider influence.” Oh, yes, and we also should be “supported by higher-level government” lest, left to our own devices we shall continue to squander the remaining resources of the county as we indulge our selfishness. Wow.
As we are portrayed as amoral or immoral, the authors, in comparison, occupy the moral “high ground.” If we are “selfish,” then they are “unselfish.” If we are racist, then they are not. If we are environmentally destructive, then they are ecologically sound. If we are provincial, they are inspiring with their smart, compact growth concepts. Without them, according to them, we won’t know what to do.
According to them, we cannot cooperate, we cannot work through our differences with healthy dialogue, we cannot tolerate differences to effectively self-govern. All the while their scholarly credentials are being used to erode the lifestyle here and our very voice in the matters that matter most. Scholarly? I think not. Their model for their study was inadequate to the task as evidenced by the lack of factual data, an abundance of unsupported assumptions and outlandish pejorative language in their characterization of the citizens and planning entities of this county.
The entire tone of their report reeks with contempt for locals or anyone seeking to maintain rights to have a say in the planning processes. I say let’s roll up our sleeves and prove them wrong. We can navigate these highly contentious waters without their help. We can reconcile our differences without getting into gridlock ourselves. We can honor and embrace differences and know the value of free expression of ideas and opinions. Unlike the authors, we can do all this without unjustifiably attacking the integrity of one another.