Greener’s Law advises “Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”
It seems particularly true when speaking of curmudgeonly columnists who seemingly delight in ripping people to shreds in public.
So, I decided to stay silent when I first read Trevor Lautens’ most recent screed on the proposed Centre for Art, Architecture and Design (Aug. 14). It is abundantly clear that he has opposed the project from day one and there isn’t a hope of balance in his writing on the subject.
Mr. Lautens certainly has a way with words and a fertile imagination. He is a columnist and is entitled to disseminate his opinions far and wide. I am sure that he brings readers to the News. However, to paraphrase former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, while everyone is entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.
About 10 days after his CAAD column was published, I was contacted by a member of the Hollyburn Sailing Club.
Apparently, the column had fuelled a rumour that the District of West Vancouver was going to evict the Club from the waterfront. A number of people were very concerned and a petition has been circulated to oppose this eviction. This is the point where it became necessary to respond.
Mr. Lautens’ columns are not based on facts. They contain liberal doses of conjecture, rumour and fantasy. While not strictly making false factual claims, he excels in creating false impressions. The CAAD column was no exception, and is riddled with misleading statements.
For example, there is no intention or plan to have the club “depart” from the waterfront. The club’s fate isn’t in jeopardy and hasn’t “been decided.”
In contrast, the district values the club as a community institution.
Unfortunately, once a rumour has been disseminated in print, it is very difficult to squelch no matter how baseless.
Columns like Mr. Lautens’ are destructive not only because they sow fear and anger where none is warranted but also because they undermine the community’s faith in its local government.
Contrary to his assertion about government wanting to keep the public “in the dark,” the district has and will continue to consult widely and frequently on most everything, including plans for the waterfront.
The district doesn’t do Grosvenor’s bidding, nor the bidding of any corporate interest. Our task is to serve the public.
While I have certainly disagreed with Mayor Smith on particular council decisions, I have never once doubted his commitment the community and the public good.
Reasonable people may differ on whether the CAAD project is worthwhile. However, any reasoned debate has to be based on facts.
The present design of the CAAD will not interfere with views, nor will it shadow the John Lawson playground (there being no sunshine from the north to block).
It is hard to imagine how safety will be compromised. There is no evidence that children dislike underground parking; in fact, my children prefer the heavily used underground parking at the community centre.
If anything, CAAD will increase business for nearby coffee shops and restaurants.
While it may be easier to make a powerful rhetorical point if one ignores the facts, it is not a sound basis for a community debate.
No matter what I say, Mr. Lautens is going to continue to write mean-spirited, inflammatory and irresponsible columns like that of Aug.14. They will continue to get published.
The most I can ask, I can hope for, is that the public take his writing with a grain of salt – if not the entire Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Read Mr. Lautens as you would read a weekly horoscope, for entertainment not information. And please don’t base your opinions on his words. Inform yourself. Visit our website. Email district staff. Talk to your elected officials.
You may find the truth is less strange (and more comforting) than fiction.
Councillor, District of West Vancouver
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