It's been a difficult 48 hours or so.
As was reported by King5 News Council member Lorena Gonzalez advised people near her she would be voting yes on the street vacation as little as 20 minutes before ultimately changing her mind and casting a decisive fifth vote against. I, like many others, had anticipated a yes vote and was shocked by her decision.
While struggling with the pain, anger and disappointment of this decision a very small percentage of fans made horrendous and inappropriate comments, earning a rebuke from Council member Rob Johnson who deserves better as a strong ally of our cause. As someone who is considered a leader of this movement I take that rebuke seriously and am doing what I can to review areas where I could have been a better influence on the conversation. There have been some tones and conversations in our forums which I did not approve of, but for the most part these have been no worse than conversations which occur in other forums about similarly contentious issues.
The management of this site continues to have extensive debate around where the line should be drawn between the need to restrain inappropriate commentary and intrusive moderation that would discourage participation in a public forum. To the extent that this moderation can influence individual comments on twitter I accept responsibility and apologize sincerely. If, in some instances, we failed to find that balance and provided a forum which empowered negative comments we regret doing so and hope that people can appreciate our mostly successful efforts to moderate a very emotional public.
This visceral reaction by a few people was a terrible thing and I am not defending it. Unfortunately this kind of online participation is increasingly common in this age of social media where any individual can make any comment they want in online forums largely free from repercussion. As a property owner I recall reading similarly horrendous comments (since deleted by management) from a Seattle Weekly article "Dear Landlord" which prompted some people sympathetic to those in need of housing to call for violence and death to property owners like myself. That response prompted me to write the response "Dear Tenant." which I hope contributed positively to the discussion.
In fact, every day I read terrible comments like this in the Strangers SLOG, the Huffington Post and other mainstream news locations. I don't say that to justify the comments, simply to point out that we live in a really strange time when conversations are evolving into new mediums with more diverse participants. It is striking that as a society we are simultaneously becoming less tolerant of hostile and inappropriate conversation and becoming acclimated to ever more egregious and offensive conversations coming from a few people on the web.
This complex combination of political correctness set side by side with gross impropriety is on display everywhere from sports blogs to presidential campaigns. The responses of a few out of line sports fans is no more reflective of Sonics supporters than offensive Facebook posts of "Bernie Bros" is reflective of the intention of the progressive movement.
I believe that the majority, if not all of our our Council members understand that it is not possible to have a publicly inclusive process without inviting comment from members of the public who are not well spoken or restrained. I know they are willing to forgive those comments because anyone who is concerned about gentrification or social justice understands that you cannot support disadvantaged communities if you tune out anybody who does not talk like a lobbyist. All too often good people who are angry lack the words to express themselves and lash out using verbiage that is reflective that anger and their environment, not their quality of being.
I am struck by this lyric put forward by my friend and good Sonics supporter Prometheus Brown and the Blue Scholars
I am really proud of the consistently positive and pragmatic messaging that has been put forward by our fan base for a decade. I refuse to allow that reputation to be tarnished by a few bad comments highlighted by a biased paper. I urge fans to stay classy, consider your messaging and continue guiding the conversation in positive directions.
Our movement is stronger when we rely on facts for our argument.
We are more effective if we disagree with elected officials without accusing them of wrongdoing, illegality or ethical lapses.
We can be appalled by the vast over-reach and massive, publicly funded opposition campaign put forward by the Port of Seattle without resorting to name-calling or allegations of criminal activity. We were out-lobbied by a team with a virtually unlimited budget, but big lobbying is the name of the game and they played within the system as it exists.
The simple truth is that we need a majority. When Chris Hansen announces a path forward it will in all likelihood involve winning the support of one or more Council members who currently oppose the deal. We know that several were very conflicted in their decisions and our goal now should be to educate them, address their concerns and win them over. Escalating this into a personal conflict makes his effort significantly harder.
I don't know where this project is going next, but I do know that we do ourselves a disservice if we take the bait and fall into the trap of lashing out. It would sadden me immensely if this group of friends who have worked so positively together somehow let an allegation like this stick and linger.
I expect that there will be some period of relative silence while the Hansen team evaluates their options and establishes a path forward to gain that one critical vote. The best option is to fill that void with courteous invitations to Council members to consider new facts and re-visit their decision. We can also be firm in disavowing negative comments and helping to educate our fellow fans about how to communicate more effectively.
I am proud to be a part of this family of Sonics fans. Geoff Baker cannot tarnish that pride with baseless report that negative comments influenced Council members (which has since been contested by both CM Gonzales & CM Juarez). A few knuckleheads choosing poor words in a moment of great emotion cannot take away all the class that this community has shown through adversity.
Keep your chin up Sonics fans. We can't control all the outcomes here but NOBODY should be ashamed to be associated with this movement.