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May, 2006


Local Realities
By Jeanette Pontacq

MEDIA! The new Point Reyes Light, leaning heavily on Mitchell's 27-year-ol' Pulitzer Prize, has opted to try to become the West Coast version of the New York Times. Since I subscribe to the Times online, I can understand someone wanting to emulate it. Why not? To partially do that, it believes it needs to demote letters-to-the-editor and guest columns from locals to the lowest priority (although "thank you" letters are still automatically welcome) and keep the paper under 20 pages. Articles by a staff of recruited interns who come with no inherent understanding of West Marin reality, and stay only a while, will take precedence. Since some of these interns show talent and have no pre-conceived opinions on local matters, resulting articles can often benefit, with more honesty and more questioning.
While I send kudos to the Light for recent/realistic analysis of development in West Marin, (something West Marin had not had in decades, if ever), I want to also publicly ask why the paper then shoots itself in the foot by refusing to even place a small, paid ad to invite locals to take a look at the F.O.R.U.M. at Letters-to-the-editor that did get printed were shorn of any reference to the F.O.R.U.M. as well. It has happened, over the last months, that other issues the staff or the editor don't understand and/or agree with from their private perspectives, are declined or ignored.

The Light is not ONLY a money-making business or a vehicle to fulfill an editor's dreams -- it is THE local paper of West Marin and should also represent who WE are, prioritizing interesting and provocative letters and guest columns solicited to cover our diversity of opinions and interests. One can accomplish both goals with creativity. Many a time, I have only bought the Light in order to see who is writing in letters, on what subjects!

I wish the Light well and appreciate the quality of writing and the refreshing openness to talk about "sacred cows." But WHERE will locals be able to discuss issues and ideas among themselves now? Where can one check out the latest bird sightings at Millerton or discuss West Marin history with Dewey Livingston, or speak out on the day's Hot Topics?

Enter the F.O.R.U.M. of West Marin ( It's online, it's free, open to all diverse opinions, without agenda of its own, other than survival, and created specifically to fill the yawning gap of us talking to each other. It compliments the local newspaper and the local radio station: issues reported on in those venues can then be discussed among locals on the F.O.R.U.M. The concept comes from Europe, where villagers in remote valleys were able to communicate among themselves, and even vote, with such a forum. So a number of locals volunteered to bring the concept here and re-created it to fit West Marin. It's a work in progress, totally open to suggestions on how to make it better to serve the community.

Take a look! Register (only a "name," a location and an email is required) to make comments, offer opinions, create new topics and make suggestions! But if you just want to anonymously look around at what others are saying, you can do that too. Your opinion, anonymous or otherwise, is wanted!

Next year, we will be able to introduce the reality of properly registered people in each village voting on local issues. In an unincorporated area such as West Marin, local voting has been unheard of until now. Yes, politicians can say, "the people of West Marin support this issue," but who really knows. Only by voting can we know for sure! Please support the F.O.R.U.M. to allow not-for-profit comments and village voting in West Marin!

SHIPS PASSING IN THE NIGHT: The recent country-wide demonstrations to support open borders for the United States did not seem to touch West Marin. As far as I know, no town workers stayed off the job to protest for open borders. But I do know that most Latinos here, legal or illegal, did support the demonstrations and do support open borders and amnesty for any present illegal entrants into the USA. Not all, but most. Actually, to not support that issue would be highly difficult for anyone of Latino descent in the present, charged atmosphere.

Since I personally have much-valued personal relationships with a number of people of Latino-descent, I start by saying that I have been emotionally attached to many for years! This is a difficult issue for me. Frankly, I have stayed away from commenting on it until now. I am ashamed to say that, most likely, my shyness on the issue has come from fear. Fear of being branded something I am not by people I care about.

Once I realized my fear, however, I knew I had to state my belief. Come what may. While I strongly support legal immigration into the state and the country, and have great respect for many a legal entrant here, I will not lie or pretend that I support the huge (yes, it is quite widespread in West Marin) influx of illegal entrants here, or anywhere in the USA.

I put the onus on employers, some of whom are ranchers and business people in West Marin, who attract this huge influx of people from Mexico and beyond at the southern border. The labor is cheap, often not fair. Workers are hidden, too often treated like vermin in the USA. The migrants are pawns in a global economy that devalues them.

As a proponent of working-class families at a time when working-class people are denigrated and ignored in this country, I have to say that illegal immigration depresses wages of those native families least able to defend themselves. NAFTA/GATT, as well as a Mexican government who uses the poor as chattels to send north to send money back to Mexico, have pushed increased illegal immigration north to the USA. Mexico, via Vicente Fox, degrades and harasses poor emigrants from Central America, who want to work in Mexico, so it is totally hypocritical for him to demand rights for the workers he is deliberately exporting to the USA, in order to use their earning, and get rid of them.

Mexico itself must change its ways and pay attention to its people and their needs. Low-income people, and indigenous peoples, are treated like dirt and pushed to go north. Any country, like Mexico, that sends its poor to another country, and harasses its own poor workers and immigrants, rather than change its for-the-rich policies, is an international pariah, and should be condemned.

As to the USA - any country that cannot secure its borders is not a real country - just a haven for corporate entities that take advantage of cheap labor. Progressives and liberals mistake this issue as one of "humanity to workers," supporting open borders. This is instead an egregious movement by business to take advantage of lowering wages in this country and elsewhere. The workers are the ones that suffer ultimately, while the left falls for the pr of the corporatists.

Envision the USA as a lifeboat. Only so many people can be on the lifeboat before it sinks and drowns everyone. When my ancestors came to the USA, they came through Ellis Island and officially gave their names, dates of birth, place of birth, status, ship, and went through a health exam to enter. This during a time when the west was "empty." (a place now overflowing and destroying its environment) They learned English asap, and the Constitution too! To say that illegal immigrant's today get points to just survive across a desert to enter an already over-populated country, with no need to speak the basic language or understand the history or Constitution, is dangerous for the future. What about the immigrants who are standing in line all around the world, doing it by the book, studying the Constitution, for citizenship? What about them? What about American low-wage workers and their families? What about them?

If you wish to respond to this column, go to and have your say. No profanity allowed, however. )

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