C.W. Nevius's quest for the "middle ground"
After his pathetic puff-job boosting Mayor Lee, I asked myself, What the hell has gone wrong with C.W. Nevius? I went back and reviewed my posts and realized that Nevius has never really been willing to challenge conventional wisdom in San Francisco. Even his columns on homelessness followed the lead already established by public opinion and Gavin Newsom. Those columns infuriated the city's left, but he was operating on politically safe terrain already well-plowed by Newsom and Care Not Cash.
After the homeless columns, Nevius seemed to go downhill, with lame, fact-free columns on Parkmerced, the imaginary "development wars," and the bicycle issue. He dubbed Mayor Newsom "courageous" for his risk-free stand on gay marriage, and opined that we are all responsible for the Great Recession!
When he moved back to the city from the suburbs, I defended him from some nasty attacks:
But the best thing about C.W. Nevius is that he's never seemed particularly interested in ingratiating himself with anyone, least of all the city's lefties. His offense in the eyes of his critics has been his relentless reporting on homelessness and quality-of-life issues in San Francisco that reveal city progressives as the clueless political tendency that they are.
That's completely wrong, except for the gibe at the city's left. The opposite is closer to the truth. Nevius is a consensus guy who likes to operate on safe, establishment-certified political territory. His take on the bike issue should have tipped me off. Nevius actually hates controversy and always looks for the middle ground, even when it doesn't exist---especially when it doesn't exist:
The bike-friendly city debate has fractured into lawsuits, name-calling and the inevitable rowdy meetings at City Hall---essentially losing sight of the middle ground that could lead to more reasonable and realistic bike policies. How did it get to this point? The same way as always: opposing groups of people who are absolutely, positively convinced they are right. Andy Thornley, the eminently reasonable San Francisco Bicycle Coalition program director, says the city has spent years making itself car friendly, and "now we should shape the city back to make it more convenient to walk or ride a bike."
Another common thread illustrated by the quote above: he never seems to read anything. He apparently just works the phones for his columns, schmoozing with a handful of people in his endless quest for the safe middle ground. That's why he's vulnerable to a bullshit artist like Thornley, who is more personable than Leah Shahum but still a relentless advocate for the coalition's anti-car, bicycle agenda.
Obviously Nevius is unfamiliar with any of the documents on the Bicycle Plan issue---the Plan itself, the EIR on the Plan, the litigation. And he apparently doesn't understand that there is no recourse under CEQA except litigation. If a citizen or a group thinks City Hall is breaking that law, he/they have to hire a lawyer and go to court.
His recent columns on bikes and the wiggle and Mayor Lee were thus entirely predictable: now that the bike movement is clearly on the ascendancy and has the solid support of City Hall in its quest to screw up city traffic on behalf of that obnoxious minority, Nevius hops on the bandwagon. His earlier mildly critical column is no longer operative.