November 28, 2017 > Editorial: Seduction
Most successful seduction is done surreptitiously, without fanfare or overt actions. In literature, movies and reality shows, such action is often exaggerated to focus audience attention on the process, but sophisticated and real-life situations can be subtle and less obvious. An example of the seduction process can be seen when budding politicians struggle for voter attention and accolades. Whether first elected or appointed to positions of power and prestige, there is a natural tendency to treasure the fruits of such labors and attempt to retain a hold on it. Even more coveted is advancement within the system leading to more power, prestige andÉ separation from constituents and responsibility.
Just as in the sports world, many try to grab the brass ring of higher elected office, but a relative few actually hold it within their grasp. City halls are filled with aging photos of those who sought and achieved local office but few who, seduced by the Ògreater good,Ó traveled up the political ladder. To be fair, many citizens truly believe and serve at the city level Ð and beyond - to better their community without succumbing to the seductive call of corruption and endless rounds of nonproductive bureaucratic labors. Even if relatively benign in scope, political discourse is often nothing more than a morass of mediocre conversation and flowery soliloquy leading to political dithering and uncertain expediency.
Fremont has recently faced the political dynamite of comprehensive zoning to curb the mega-home phenomenon. An influx of home buyers with priorities that do not coincide with current neighborhood character have created a schism between those who desire extreme remodels and others who want to preserve the status quo. This is not a new problem; confrontation between change and status quo can be seen in almost any quarter of our society. The solution can be one of moderation and compromise. However, when this discussion enters the political arena, decisive action is often not a forte of lawmakers. Pulled from all sides, trying to make a universally popular decision is not possible. This is an unfortunate reality of a local Ð or any Ð political decision.
When a constituency is interested and aware, there is little room to hide. Deciding on a course of action, the Fremont City Council passed an ordinance with a specific square footage formula to allow administrative review without the time and expense necessary for a commission or council public hearing. However, at the second reading of the ordinance, enough public attention focused on the formula to create an uncomfortable situation, so instead of addressing the issue directly, the council punted, kicking the can down the road, hoping for a happier and less confrontational situation in the future. Unfortunately, this is not an issue that will go away; rhetorical gymnastics is a poor excuse for decision-making. If current requirements are good enough, then it is best to say so instead of burying a decision. Although many aspects of the zoning regulation were finally passed and at least some important measures are in place, the lack of fortitude to follow through completely is troubling.
Will we see more of this as the election season swings into action in the new year? The desire to subvert and manipulate district formation to enhance political prospects for some councilmembers in the coming year was evident (and stated) during discussions earlier this year. As we move toward a changed composition of the Fremont City Council and re-election or first-time election hopes for sitting councilmembers, will the proverbial can be kicked down the road again and again? Has the call of power and prestige once again seduced officeholders? Will rhetorical and lengthy presentations continue to be cloaked as questions rather than officious statements? Seduction can be soothing and innocuous or a thinly cloaked source of corruption. Which of its faces will emerge?