The Sandpiper Editors
Sometimes history comes close to repeating itself, especially so here in Del Mar. Back in the ‘80s there was an anonymous anti-Del Mar newsletter that began appearing in our mailboxes. No authors were cited. Sources of financial support were not cited. Opinions were stated as facts. Facts about city actions were misrepresented or skewed in a negative direction. City leaders were attacked. Hurtful personal attacks were frequent. Their mantra, directed at the City Council, was “you are not listening to the people,” conveniently ignoring majority voter support at election time.
There was rampant speculation about who was behind the paper and what their true motives were, and whether there were outside interests involved. It created an ugly atmosphere of hateful behavior undermining civil discourse, increasing distrust among neighbors, and denigrating Del Mar’s image in the region. Many newcomers were misled into believing that the city was not to be trusted. Because the authors refused to identify themselves, they exercised little restraint in their attacks, and it was not possible to hold them accountable.
It was in this caustic environment that the Sandpiper was born. A number of active members of the community, frustrated by the hatefulness of this anonymous paper, decided to create a vehicle for a more balanced representation of what was going on in the city and what leaders and citizen groups were trying to accomplish. The intent was not to directly counter-attack but to focus on our Community Plan, its vision and its values, and the constructive processes for achieving community consensus. All writers would be identified and the norms of civil civic discourse would be observed. Differing points of view would be covered within the bounds of rational, factual, and respectful deliberation. It would be an all volunteer undertaking with sources of financial support for printing and mailing that would be transparent. The offending paper eventually failed and twenty years later, the Sandpiper continues, striving to achieve those standards laid out by the original founders.
What we are now witnessing in town is another anonymous publication, the Woodpecker, which is employing some of the same tactics we found offensive decades ago. We worry that the relentless negativity and questionable facts will undermine trust in Del Mar institutions and leaders and degrade our civic discourse. Unscientific “push poll” results and a steady barrage of complaints against the city seem to be intended to represent a so-called “silent majority” which has been clearly rejected by voters in official election results. Certainly, differing points of view deserve to be heard and respectfully considered. But the authors need to have the courage to publish their names and sources of financial support so they can be accountable to the community, and citizens have the opportunity to interact with them and their ideas.
If we are all fair and above board, the entire community benefits.