Recently I caught a film that I missed in the theaters, “Now You See Me.” I love a good crime drama, and while this film is not perfect (Marc Ruffalo is essentially playing the same character he did in Zodiac), it is entertaining. Unless you have pretty good Sherlock Holmes skills, it will keep you guessing up until the final moments. The clues are obvious after the fact, but not so much as you see it for the first time, which is what is supposed to happen. Especially in a story about using magic to commit crimes.
Magic is about distraction. You can’t help yourself, you follow the bouncing ball and and you see what the magician wants you to see. Meanwhile the “trick” happens in plain sight without you ever noticing. Astonishment sets in and we look on in wonder as we cannot figure out how he (or she) did it. We applaud without ever considering what it is that for which we are clapping.
We’re clapping because we got fooled. And we like it.
So now the City of Modesto has an idea it hopes will “improve Civic pride,” let’s design a City flag! But not just any old flag, a flag that will “showcase the city’s history, beauty and great sense of community.” Is true that some flags can accomplish things similar to that, I give you “The Star Spangled Banner” as an example, the truth is that pretty much nobody ever sacrificed anything, life, limb or treasure after being inspired by the multi-colored cloth representing the history, beauty or great sense of community” for a city anywhere. So unless the underlining purpose of this proposed flag is to have something to plant in the middle of Broadway Avenue and the corner of the Beckwith Triangle after the tanks roll into Salidavakia and Wood Colony, it’s hard to imagine exactly why the City actually needs a flag.
But… that’s just the distraction. And we’re falling for it.
This whole design the new flag contest will cost $2000. How dare the city waste a couple of grand on a piece of cloth??? Outrage! Phone calls, letters to the editor! Social media posts of outrage and mockery! On the other side it’s all about how the City is going to get donors for the $2000, so how can you opposed to something that will increase civic pride? Why are you so negative??? After all, other local Cities have them, even Turlock!!!!!
We applaud for whomever screams our position the loudest, or re-posts the most clever posts that reflect our personal view of the matter.
And we never realize that we are being tricked…
The City of Modesto has – at least for the moment – decided to delay the giving of nearly $1 Million to a not-for-profit that it had a significant role in creating to “teach residents to organize and solve their problems while working with the City.” But the bigger problems with this process remain.
And in Turlock, another QUANGO setup has resulted in the Mayor and some Council members receiving campaign cash from an individual who now seeks to gain their official stamp of approval for a for-profit takeover of the Turlock Certified Farmers Market.
Both processes remind us that even City Governments have to be 100% transparent in what they are doing, lest they find themselves trying to explain why they did not follow the processes which – even had the predetermined the outcomes – would have made the results at least look like they were trying to look like they were doing things the right way instead of just more of the same old “jobs for the boys” approach to government in exchange for money and influence.
Just a few short months ago the city of Modesto was screaming to anyone who would listen that it HAD to have $26 Million (Measure X) $14 million (Measure G) a year in increased taxes or it was going to be fiscal Armageddon. The City was going to fall apart and disappear under the sands of history.
In the middle of all of this came a new age guru to town at the behest of the City to talk about how the city could use the money to “organize” to solve homelessness and all the other problems that the magical Measure G was going to solve. But, Measure G went down in flames, Der Mayor soon went out the door with it and oddly enough, not much changed.
Now the City says that it has nearly $1 Million dollars in General fund money to give to a brand new, non-profit agency headed by a former City Council member to “teach residents to organize and solve their problems while working with the city.”
If that is true, many questions need to be answered. Such as “Why do you have nearly a million bucks to give to a non-profit to teach organization and problem solving?” Or perhaps, “When did it become the City Government’s job to facilitate the formation of a non-profit to teach organizing and problem solving while working with the city?”
Will anything really change? Or will this just become another QUANGO* that provides more support and voters for the City Government?
*Quasi-autonomous Non-Governmental Organization – i.e., a government funded organization that does governments bidding while claiming to be independent of that said government. Usually QUANGO’s are funded not to accomplish any particular goal or meet a need, but to demonstrate the Governments favor of an idea or support a particularly beneficial (to the government) process. In general they can be seen as examples of government largess and patronage.