Sweet Civic Sobriety

By Trudy Wischemann

Last week’s Sun-Gazette carried an important news article about the City of Lindsay: we are functionally bankrupt. The article was fine, but if you want to truly understand how we got that way, listen to “The Paper Trail,” the podcast of this paper’s publisher, Reggie Ellis, and editor, Paul Myers (www.papertrailpod.com.) The story they tell is clear, unbiased and comprehensive thanks to many years of following the curvilinear path of our city’s maladministration. If you want Just The Facts, Ma’am, that’s where to go.

To say that I feel vindicated for the years I’ve spent tracking and writing about the City’s scat is borderline understatement. But looking ahead, at what we’ll have to do (and do without) in order to recover from these people’s partying with the community’s scant resources—that’s sobering.

Paul and Reggie detail the steps the city’s staff took down the rabbit hole (and kept from the council members, who failed to detect the deception.) It started with the overreaching “vision” behind the McDermont Field House and its predecessor, the Wellness Center, and the pretenses required to keep them from collapsing. I want to label this route “moral bankruptcy,” even though the intent was initially honest, with one caveat: those creating these insatiable projects failed to see the impact of hubris, their own overarching need to prove themselves brilliant in this small-farm-town venue. What they’ve done is take the City of Lindsay to the brink of collapse because they could not admit failure. They have been so addicted to their self-images as Creators, they couldn’t stop supporting these projects even when it was clear how destructive they are to the city’s financial stability.

For those of you having some experience with 12-Step programs, you might recognize the hopefulness of hitting bottom. For people addicted to any substance or activity, it often takes something like a cataclysm to bring them to their senses. There is no hope for an addict until reality intervenes and threatens to end the activity once and for all the hard way. But once that happens, there is hope—if the addict has the capacity to be honest.

I have my doubts about that capacity in some of the staff. It’s a rough road for most of us, being honest, but when life is dependent upon it, when push comes to shove, most of us can and will step up to the plate. And that’s where we are right now—I hope. 

Because we’re ‘way overdue for some leadership that will bring the community together instead of reign over it with pompous projects and ridiculous regulations intended to make the town look like something it’s not. Since Scot Townsend took over in 2002, and the city took over so many areas of the town’s life that had been manned by volunteers and civic organizations, we have suffered from eroding participation and loss of faith. In a very real way, this pending collapse of the City could mean the resurrection of Community.

To recover from this enormous indebtedness, we will have to do without many of the things our various administrators have thought were necessary, but that might bring more relief than suffering. Taking the first step—admitting we are addicted to an image of ourselves as up-and-coming, capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound—could send us on a journey of salvation. We could get our community life back.

Trudy Wischemann is a rural researcher who writes. You can send her your civic sobriety stories c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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