Saturday, April 22, 2006

CASE IN POINT By Joe Koester, Councilman Ward 9

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.

Elbert Hubbard

A student of mine came bearing a newspaper clipping. He stated, “I have something from out of the paper for you.” Before I could see the little scrap he held, I said, “Let me guess, it’s a Sonderegger column making fun of the Council.”

It wasn't a difficult thing to guess, in fact I think I have the pattern down...begrudgingly write some drivel that no one reads or responds to, such as watching a sporting event or going to a fancy ball around town, then slam the Saint Charles City Council with every little sophomoric thing you can think of. Next, maybe write a little something on St. Peters and O’Fallon (with only a jab or two against St. Charles) followed up by a rant about the “Silly Council.” For good measure, write three more times about St. Charles to reinforce your message and then suffer back through the cycle all over again.

Honestly, I don't mind the one-sidedness of Sonderegger; he has his stance and will not sway, so why bother. What many of us in the county have been asking for now for a long time is simply a column that runs opposite of his to give another perspective – one that is shared by many, many readers from Portage to Foristell. I gave up hope that the paper would offer someone to give a counterpoint to the silly columns of Sonderegger and decided to turn to the, First Capitol News to get an alternative voice out to the public – a voice that Lee Enterprise, developers, movers and shakers throughout our town resent because this little paper has beat the big dogs at the newspaper game! Imagine that, a staff of two and some citizen help has created a newspaper with a far more loyal readership than the three newspapers published in town by Lee Enterprises!

Remember the claimed intimidation by those who made it their daily obsession with attacking the City Council? What you may not know is, some of these same people make it a point to contact anyone who advertises in the First Capitol News and threaten to withdraw their business from them because they have the nerve to put their money anywhere besides the Lee Enterprises Corporation where the message is pro-movers and shakers and the bias slant is sure to lean the way they paid for it to!

To these guys I say: you have three newspapers at your disposal. Do what many of us have had to endure for years now with the Post and Journal, write letters to the editor and engage the paper. I remember the first time Steve Pokin, a reporter with the Journal, tried to reach me. I refused to return a call. It was unfair to Steve, but I figured that I knew the spin he would put on an article regardless what I had to say. Luckily, I moved from the leadership position of the Party and handed that on to others due to mounting duties of the Council. To his credit, I think Steve has tried to be a serious, fair reporter. Likewise, contact FCN in a serious fashion -- the paper has proven in the past that it is willing to put in different viewpoints.

What did surprise me a little was that John Sonderegger watches, “American Idol.” I have never liked these reality shows or their mean-spiritedness that send a message that public discourse can spiral into blatant insults and that's somehow acceptable and funny. In fact, when I read Sonderegger’s column's title, I had to ask students who Simon Cowell is. To me, this kind of entertainment does fit well into the toy box of Sonderegger and many around who speak of “Jesus” when it serves their purpose and then spend the rest of their time on the attack of any and all with whom they disagree, often with a hatred that is inexplicable. Surely, such tactics lack all charity found in the gospel.

I do not know John Sonderegger's faith nor do I concern myself with such, but I do believe that nothing good comes from name calling because it is then that dialog breaks down. I read a quote once that said something like, “It’s better to be an actor on the stage than a critic in the seats.” Any actor on the stage can expect criticism of his work. I expect criticism in our role as council members, I just wish this could be expressed as critique of policy instead of using stupid school-yard tactics. Maybe it's time for John to run for office himself.

Regardless, it is too bad Mr. Sonderegger didn't take time to self-reflect and write a few things that Simon Cowell may have scolded him about. Certainly, I could think up some moronic statements that would apply to Mr. Sonderegger, but talk about silly...