Lies, Distortions, and Fallacies | The Observer | Roz Rogoff | |

Local Blogs

The Observer

By Roz Rogoff

About this blog: In January 2002 I started writing my own online "newspaper" titled "The San Ramon Observer." I reported on City Council meetings and other happenings in San Ramon. I tried to be objective in my coverage of meetings and events, and...  (More)

View all posts from Roz Rogoff

Lies, Distortions, and Fallacies

Uploaded: Apr 14, 2011
Seth Adams, Director of Land Programs for Save Mount Diablo, read a letter at the April 13 City Council meeting, about the reasons why Measure W was defeated. At one point he told the Council, "Now you can complain the No on Measure W campaign was biased or untruthful or funded by outsiders,"

I expected Adam's next phrase in that sentence to answer the complaints and prove they were false. Instead Adams changed the subject, "but the fact remains that you and whatever supporters your plan might have, had every advantage in participating in the democratic process. . . . They didn't. There was no support for your plan."

Now that's a classic Red Herring fallacy, which is to change the subject to avoid answering the question. By not answering the complaints, Adams as much as admitted the No on Measure W campaign lied and distorted the facts. Maybe that's why the Yes side didn't have more supporters, because No on Measure W was recruiting supporters with lies, distortions, and scare tactics.

When the No on Measure W signs started popping up around the city, those of us who supported Measure W didn't pay much attention. We knew the truth. The 2002 General Plan received 78% of the vote. The only opponent to that one was Curt Kinney. We thought voters would see through the nonsense spouted by No on Measure W.

We didn't know or expect the large sums of money and time the Greenbelt Alliance and Save Mount Diablo were investing in a local measure for a City's General Plan.

The contributions on the 460 forms for No on Measure W listed about $17,000 from 25 San Ramon residents and another $500 from unlisted contributors of less than $100 each. Residents of neighboring cities, e.g. Danville, Walnut Creek, or Pleasanton, contributed about $15,000, while the Sierra Club, Save Mount Diablo, and Greenbelt Alliance contributed almost $86,000.

Based on this information the Yes campaign published statistics showing most of the support for No on Measure W coming from outside sources. The No campaign countered this claim by mailing out a card with photos of 11 San Ramon residents and Dorothy Burt from Tassajara Valley, attesting that they were residents against Measure W. Those 11 were about half of the San Ramon residents who contributed to No on Measure W as of October 16, 2011 according to the 460 forms I obtained from the City Clerk's office.

As of mid-October the Yes on Measure W campaign had at least 11 supporters and $3200 in contributions, but we were not out recruiting. Our Yes campaign wasn't trying to raise money or create a political base the way the No campaign was. We just wanted voters to know the truth.

In an email dated October 17, 2010 Donna Kerger described her communication with a woman who was on the verge of contributing to the No campaign. "She was shocked to see how they had lied to her. She had gone to someone's house about W and said she was surprised because the gentleman doing all the talking was from Walnut Creek and he did ask for donations at the end. She said she was glad she didn't write a check now because she feels they were deceitful in their claims."

Seth Adams and other professional fundraisers from Save Mount Diablo and the Greenbelt Alliance, were spearheading No on Measure W, and entering their hours, mileage, and copying costs as contributions to the campaign. According to the 460 forms from October 1, 2010 to the end of the year, the Greenbelt Alliance contributed $4,422 in staff hours, mileage, and copying expenses. Save Mount Diablo contributed $3,813 in staff hours, mileage, and copying. The totals for the year are considerably higher, but I'm just going with the three months from October 1 to the end of the year for this story.

Frankly I didn't care much for Measure W, but I don't like lies and scare tactics and felt it was necessary to rebut them. That was the primary goal of the group of insiders supporting Measure W. We were criticized as "insiders," which some opponents saw as being in cahoots with the City Council or developers. I was attacked with ad hominem fallacies as "a wonkish shill for developers." I don't even know what that means.

But perhaps that explains why Measure W went down to such a lopsided defeat. It was a combination of negative advertising, fallacies, and scare tactics aided by a strong anti-government sentiment among voters last year.

Adams goes on to say in his letter to the City Council, "Our poll showed 69% opposition. San Ramon residents rejected Measure W by 72%. That's a landslide by any measure." It's also an argument from popularity fallacy to claim that because a lot of people buy your story that makes it true.

I could apply that same fallacy to the defeat of Proposition 21, the $18 license fee to support state parks, which was defeated 57% to 43%. Should I conclude from this that residents of California don't want to keep state parks open?

Save Mount Diablo contributed $75,000 to Yes on Proposition 21. The Yes campaign raised almost $7M, but was defeated by three automobile manufacturing organizations who contributed less than $75K total.

The automobile manufacturer's coalition called Prop 21 a car tax and told voters the state would grab the money before it could get to the parks. This resonated with voters, who didn't trust the state to keep its hands off the money.

San Ramon voters were cynical too after scandals in Bell, Hercules, and Herb Moniz's salary; so when No on Measure W came out swinging, voters were easily persuaded to believe the worst of our City Government.

Our City Council did a crummy job of putting Measure W on the ballot. The wording in the Measure was deceptive, and I said so. I thought the Planning Commission and Council should have put the Tassajara Valley portion into a separate measure. The dumbest thing the Council did was not allowing rebuttal arguments in the voter pamphlet. I still don't get why they thought that was a good idea.

The attitudes and behavior of our city leaders didn't help either. Speakers from the environmental organizations were treated rudely and without respect at the Public Hearings, which only added to the Council's bad image.

Conversely Save Mount Diablo and the Greenbelt Alliance came in with their environmental halos on saying, "We're here to save Tassajara Valley from big bad developers," and that's what voters wanted to believe last year.

The facts are that there were no developers poised to plop 4200 homes into Tassajara Valley, and Seth Adams knew that. So I hope people pay attention to the facts in this year's election and not whatever fallacies are thrown around by either side.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by H. Sachs, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 15, 2011 at 9:38 am

Roz- we knew Seth was really exaggerating the claims; at many points and in their literature Phil O'Loane stated that Measure W would allow for 4200 homes in TV (New Farms will be less than 200 units), the equivalent of 6 Transamerica buildings to be built in the downtown area and 1200 homes in the western hills (21 are allowed maximum for the Laborer's Camp). Absolute balderdash. Now San Ramon residents read that the county is going to allow a developer to prepare an environmental impact report for development in Tassajara Valley. Sure the environmental groups will sue but they won't stop it; they will settle out of court for land set asides and cash like they have the past 28 years. People forget that Counties and Cities thru the "police powers" have the right to create new land use designations even within urban limit lines and that is an expressed power given to cities and counties in the CA. Constitution. You can sue but you cannot deprive a county from doing what is allowed under state law. 10-15 years from now when residents of New Farm are petitoning the city to move them into San Ramon's jurisdiction so they can receive city services we can all thank Seth Adams and Mr. O'Loane and Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Gibbon and Mr. Blickenstaff and Mr. Burr and the rest of the No on W folks.

In retrospect, having said that, city staff,the City Council and the Planning Commssion were blindsided by the financial opposition that you mention was brought against W. Residents plainly are disturbed by how much Dougherty Valley impacts schools and the city budget so they just said forget it. But that vote is being used as a reason to oppose EVERYTHING else which is unfortunate.

Posted by Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it., a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Rogoff's at it again, missing the point entirely in the most condescending way possible. Her theme "Only I truly understood the Measure W issue, all of you others were misled."

Every voter in the city had access to the supposedly "unbiased" materials the city provided about Measure W, and they overwhelmingly rejected it.

What she missed: The council meeting this week was about adoption of the 2030 General Plan. Instead of listening to the voters and taking the time to make major changes, the city council is hell-bent on approving as much of Measure W as they can.

It's not surprising. Roz is so entwined with and dependent on city government for information, she mostly walks in lockstep with them. She even ran for office in November, for the Dublin San Ramon Services District, and lost.

This was Roz's opportunity to inform the public about the elements of the proposed General Plan, pro and con, but all she can focus on is sour grapes. No one believed you about Measure W, Roz, and they didn't think you would best represent their interests. Must be a bitter pill.

Posted by Straight Shooter, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm

I've followed Roz for almost 10 years. She "walks in lockstep" with nobody! Whatever information she gets from City officials is no different than what anyone else could get - if they wanted it. She has no special access. Here we go with another conspiracy theory that Roz is part of a big insider scandal. Connect the dots and show me the money trail of how Roz benefits from her comments and information she shares. They must have helped her buy that '70's Ford Fairlane (Maverick or some similar model???) Sure looks like there are quite a few dots to connect - - and a clear trail of money to follow with the folks outside of San Ramon who collectively defeated W with an organized effort to confuse the electorate. And also, Roz is "spot on" when she proclaims that these folks "....change the subject to avoid answering the question....".

Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Apr 15, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Thanks, Straight Shooter, that made my day. Yes, I shall drive my valuable 1973 Ford Maverick Grabber to Whole Foods to pick up some overpriced groceries. It's a fun vehicle, but its "value" is in the eye of the beholder, just like political rhetoric.


Posted by mloliver, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I, too, have known Roz for a long period of time. I have followed her online opinions both in the Observer and now in the Express. Sometimes I agree with her and sometimes I disagree, but her arguments are well thought out and well written. She stands behind what she writes and isn't afraid to use her name rather than hide behind a pseudonym. Perhaps "Those who cannot learn..." would be better served attacking the content when disagreeing and not the author.

I personally feel that Measure W was poorly conceived, premature, and too inclusive, but knowing as I do that a General Plan is a living document, I did support it with some personal reservations. That said, it's over and done with and it's time for the city to move forward.

Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 18, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Our City Council did a crummy job of putting Measure W on the ballot. The wording in the Measure was deceptive, and I said so. I thought the Planning Commission and Council should have put the Tassajara Valley portion into a separate measure. The dumbest thing the Council did was not allowing rebuttal arguments in the voter pamphlet. I still don?t get why they thought that was a good idea.

This is why a simple resident took the hundreds of hours to learn as much as possible about measure W, Stood at Farmers Markets with fliers, door to door to talk to strangers & stood with his son on street corners with signs. The keyword Roz used that summed up my impression of our city government is "Deceptive" which is contrary to the public "Trust" we take for granted we bestow on them.

The "No on Measure W" was not successful because of outside money, influence or people. I know, I was involved in it. To not know that is because of a lack of knowledge not a deception or conspiracy theory"

Posted by Dave, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 19, 2011 at 12:11 pm

General Plan 2020 is a 20 year plan designed by San Ramon residents and voted for March 5, 2002. 78% of our residents said they want this plan and it has served us well. In this plan it requires a vote of the people to expand or maintain the urban growth boundary (see cover for boundary) as well as extend the "Save Our Hills" ordinance on/before 2010. The state of Ca. requires a 10 year update on all general plans and that is General Plan 2030 with 95% of the existing GP 2020 intact. The UGB and ordinance 197 have been removed and the residents plan is before the city council now. The council and the planning commission were not participants in the planning of General Plan 2020 back in 2000 and 2001. Their sole purpose was to make the CEQA determination per Measure G, section 5(1999). Measure W would have extended that GP 2020 until 2030. That is roughly the life of Measure J (the half cent sales tax) in which we pay for transportation improvements in Contra Costa.

Posted by Rodney King, a resident of San Ramon,
on Apr 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Can't we all just get along??
W is over. Residents got it right. Time to deal with it.

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Common Ground
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 2,130 views

Tri-Valley Nonprofit Alliance grew from chance meeting
By Tim Hunt | 1 comment | 392 views