Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Aaargh. I hate this stupid gra/vel pit issue. (Yes, it's controversial enough in the area, and I'm gunshy enough, that I want to Google-proof it.) This one ongoing story is easily my least favorite part of the job. It began years before I got here, and I believe it has been awaiting a court date for almost a year, and even when that trial happens it won't be the end of things.

On one side of the issue, we have someone who has at least somewhat rational reasons for disliking the business where I work, but the guy is generally an asshole. He's only spoken to me once despite literally a dozen calls I have made and that one time was to harangue me and offer me his pet nickname for the paper ("the Addison Idiot"). Apparently it runs in the family, because his brother tried to bribe me by offering to buy advertising from the paper (immoral and stupid — even if I were inclined to take a bribe, from someone I barely know over the phone while sitting in the office, what benefit do I get from him buying advertising?)

On the other side of the issue there's a guy who used to work here, so he knows people pretty well and stuff, but he won't shut up. I mean, he literally cannot be made to be quiet. He invited me to have a beer after a meeting one time, and we were at the bar for about an hour, and my side of the conversation was limited entirely to "uh huh," and "well, I'm obviously no expert," and stuff like that. That was it. At a recent public hearing, members of the public were given three minutes each to speak about the issue. I timed him: he spent 80 seconds complaining that they weren't given more time.

And the issue itself? As far as the general welfare of the town goes, the talkative guy is almost certainly on the right side, although I get the feeling that he overstates his case in a thousand little ways. But on the legal and technical side of things, I was becoming more and more convinced that the asshole was right. The whole four-years-and-counting saga revolves around two parts in the town's regulations which are inconsistent and unclear. When I read it, I have to really strain to see how the talkative guys' interpretation of the regulation makes sense, but it's not hard at all to get the asshole's interpretation out of it. As much as people might not like this, and as much as that might be justified, it sure looks legal to me.

I say I was becoming more and more convinced, that is, because two months ago he went and did something that seemed underhanded and dumb and arrogant. He proposes a change which might (or might not) fix some of the problems, and very probably has a couple problems of its own, and in return he asks to roughly double another problem? The talkative guy's lawyer also argues that this proposal legally cannot be made to the friendly regulatory body he made it to, and this time, I don't have any problems understanding the interpretation.

Because of all this, I can't write about it to save my life. The story I just finished was better than the one I did a week ago, but even so, was missing some pretty important details, as the editor pointed out to me. (After talking to the talkative guy.) I'll have to write another story or two in a month. How to do it? Hmmm, maybe if I choose one particular detail to focus and really hammer on, I can get away with glossing over the rest.

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