Has the Hamilton Forum Site Become Just Another Partisan Tool?

And why should the rest of Novato’s residents care?

Because, supposedly politically neutral groups serving the community at large have become infiltrated by community activists who proselytize their agenda under the guise of providing “neutral” information of interest to the neighborhood group.

The Hamilton Forum has apparently fallen prey to insider administrators’ political agendas as evidenced at the March 14th “informational” community meeting hosted by the purportedly neutral Forum. The publicized expectation was that County Supervisor Judy Arnold and Novato Mayor and Hamilton resident Josh Fryday would discuss the specifics of current City of Novato projects that are of direct interest to Hamilton residents. Nothing more, nothing less.

As was feared by many, it was instead a disappointingly political platform for Arnold to stumble through head-down while reading prepared notes in a self-glorifying political monologue portraying herself as a wonderful Supervisor. Uh, wait a minute. Wasn’t this supposed to be an informational meeting on topics affecting Hamilton residents?

Arnold launched into a dogged defense of Measure E that Novato voters soundly and overwhelmingly rejected, illustrating just how estranged she is from Novato residents. To her (self-)credit she has reliably delivered Novato’s Board of Supervisors vote on a platter to Southern Marin’s special interests who return the political favor by copiously funding her local campaigns with cash, providing free campaign signage, and operating her reelection campaign web site.

Fryday held up the meeting by turning up 10 minutes late (then boasted he lived only a few minutes away) offering a self-ingratiating excuse by blaming it on his children. This does not reflect well on Fryday who displayed a lack of respect for Hamilton area residents who went to the trouble to turn up on time.

In his opening remarks he irrelevantly condemned the “divisive” national political atmosphere and only moments later launched into a strange off-topic divisive diatribe blaming only President Donald Trump for the present national political climate. Did he not know the purpose of this meeting?

Fryday made it very clear he views local issues primarily through his own personal national political viewpoint, not necessarily that of Novato residents, the very constituency he supposedly represents. He never even bothered to mention the structural budget deficit facing the City of Novato.

Despite the looming deficit, he pushed through the hiring of an expensive Novato Sustainability Manager. Potentially adding more to the deficit would be a Fryday proposed new City of Novato funded project with Dominican College to subsidize ten Novato student internships at City Hall, and up to a $100,000 college scholarship for each participant. He ominously declared himself “excited” once again.

Fryday appeared unprepared to discuss the specifics related to imminent City proposed projects in his own Hamilton neighborhood. Fryday responded to residents’ questions by exclaiming how “exciting” and “how important the question is” then quickly deflecting the question over to City Manager Candelario to respond. Fryday again exposed himself as unaware and uninformed on local issues. In his attempts to gloss over specific project status questions, he made it painfully clear he wasn’t prepared.

City Manager Candelario’s responses were vague and of the non-sequitur “we are talking to them” nature. The interested Hamiltonians seeking specific information on imminent changes in their neighborhood left emptyhanded.

If the Hamilton Forum moderators are sincerely interested in rehabilitating their purportedly “neutral” political image they should quickly arrange an equivalent time and place for Arnold’s opponent, Supervisor candidate Toni Shroyer, to present her candidacy’s case to Hamilton residents. Allowing candidate-for-reelection Judy Arnold to use the venue as a personal political pulpit shredded any pretense of Hamilton Forum impartiality. The commentary could/should have been kept on-point by the discussion facilitator, but that didn’t happen. They wasted everyone’s time.

If candidate Shroyer is denied equal time and platform to counter Arnold’s political electioneering, the Hamilton Forum becomes outed as just another covert political media operative for political candidates sympathetic with its moderators’ preferences. So far, they appear to be little more than that.

Approximately 50% of the 30 attendees were the usual special interest acolytes of the local political machine whose political favors are funneled through Arnold’s office. To them, Arnold was preaching to the choir. The other half’s hopes were dashed on the rocks of Arnold’s political chest-beating and Fryday’s strangely irrelevant and divisive comments.

The Hamilton Forum is a private-member Yahoo group with approximately 725 subscribers. It was formed in 2002 to provide a platform for discussions between neighborhood residents concerning matters that “…might affect the value of our community or its quality of life.” Its site description clearly states, “The Community Forum is commercial free and politically neutral”.

The site features unidentified “moderators” who control what is posted by filtering submitted postings to assure there is “…respectful dialogue and thoughtful listening, including all reasonable viewpoints.” But is that really happening?

Long-time Hamilton community political activists and environmental militant Marla Fields who is Co-President of Sustainable Novato, along with Sustainable Novato Board Member Donn Davy, are among the controlling influencers behind the supposedly “politically neutral” site’s postings. The site’s tolerance for politically oriented comments increasingly reflects its moderators’ own political views, particularly when there is an election looming on the horizon.

When refuting or differing views are submitted for posting they are branded and blocked by unsympathetic moderators as being political. The group membership is kept in the dark regarding the nature and frequency of these denials of site access.  The moderators’ actions and decisions remain unquestioned and hidden.

The supposedly non-political Hamilton Forum “informational” meeting was as many expected, just another disappointing political platform for Supervisor Judy Arnold and Novato Mayor Josh Fryday’s personal political aspirations, not those of the Hamilton community. Fields and Davy are strong supporters of Judy Arnold, and through the Hamilton Forum they have found another way to block opposing viewpoints while pushing their own limited agenda. Hamilton residents lose out.

The Forum would do well to call upon Heracles to “clean the Augean stable” by freeing the site from political activist influence by making it less biased and more about the Hamilton community’s interests at large. Its administrators should be identified by name and function, becoming accountable to Hamilton residents thus enabling open commentary not filtered by like-minded insider preferences of a few.

Hamilton residents deserve a higher quality of representation and explicit accountability from City Hall – they are not getting it.

 

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