This editorial is the opinion of Bill Coburn, publisher of Sierra Madre News Net and 15 year Sierra Madre resident. It is not intended to reflect the views of any other person or entity with whom I am associated.
In a move that is being seen by many as an attempt at damage control, John Crawford yesterday announced that he is considering eliminating the comments section of his blog. He also changed the fundraising statement on his blog, removing the exhortation to “Send this blog to City Council” and replacing it with “Send John Crawford to City Council.”
Crawford posted the following statement on his site: ”Bill Coburn pointed out some comments left on this site regarding certain members of our Fire Department. He was right to do so as they were wrong. With over 12,000 comments having been left on this site, I am sure other unfortunate statements can be found as well. Recently the Pasadena Star News published an editorial lamenting some of the awful statements that get left in their public comments section. As has the Washington Post. Both are now considering doing away with the function altogether. I have always taken a very libertarian position on commenting to The Tattler. I never got into this to be anybody’s net nanny, and I have only removed posts for obscenity or trolling. On the other hand, I might now be in a position where I might have to shut commenting down altogether. If you have a personal axe to grind with somebody, that is fine. But please, start a blog of your own and do it there. “
This statement was posted in direct response to an editorial that I wrote which I posted on my site last week and which was published in the Mountain Views News in last week’s edition, in which I posted statements that had appeared on Crawford’s blog that attacked the Sierra Madre Fire Department and the men and women that volunteer to staff the department. This was the second editorial I had written in which I pointed out that Crawford was requesting that voters send his blog to the City Council, which, in my mind, made the entire blog, not just Crawford, part of the election. In the article, I noted that Crawford had failed to say one word to defend our volunteers, and I questioned whether the election of the Crawford, Watts, Alcorn slate might lead to the end of our ninety-year old fire department.
Now Mr. Crawford has taken the unusual step of distancing himself from his supporters. Notable for me in Mr. Crawford’s statement are two things. One, the bulk of the statement deflects all blame for the issue as being standard operating procedure on blogs, by stating that the Tattler is no different than the Pasadena Star News (who Crawford has frequently berated on his site in the past, but with whom he now apparently feels a certain kinship), and the Washington Post, which have both expressed concern about the level of discourse in their comment section. It’s interesting to me that Mr. Crawford has not in the past, to my knowledge, expressed concern about the level of conversation on his blog. But as the election draws near, it appears he is concerned enough that his association with the comments on his site might impact the number of votes he receives, that he is willing to state that he “may” need to remove the comments, essentially turning his back on the views of the people that have supported him thus far in the race.
Of greater concern to me is the almost complete failure by Crawford to address the Fire Dept. issue. He said I was right to point out the comments “as they were wrong.” That’s it.
No apology to our volunteers for the statements that he allowed on his blog. No apology for failing to respond in the department’s/volunteer’s defense. No mention of whether or not he supports our Department, or wants to outsource Fire Suppression, an issue which will be taken up by the new Council within weeks of their being seated. We are still left to wonder whether Mr. Crawford supports our Department or wishes to see it end, bringing with it hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not millions) in budget expenses so that we will have a “professional” fire department, rather than volunteers.
Candidates Nancy Walsh, Josh Moran and incumbent Council member Joe Mosca have all assured me that A) they support our Fire Dept. in its current model; B) they wish to see the Dept. continue to maintain and improve upon its current level of expertise and professionalism, C) they are in support of doing whatever is necessary to make sure the Fire Department has the necessary equipment to maintain the standard of care now enjoyed by Sierra Madre residents, and D) short of the release of some unanticipated report that the Department is not living up to the public safety needs of the residents of Sierra Madre, they are against outsourcing Fire Suppression.
That (among other things) is why I will be voting for them.