The Star-News


You say gadfly, I say role model

Sat, May 07 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos R. Davalos

The Union-Tribune can crow and bark all they want about being the community's watchdog. They're not fooling me.

The real watchdogs - the people who at the very least should get an appreciative tickle under the chin - are the same men and women who occasionally get on our nerves and elicit deep sighs and eye rolls.

Some call them gadflys. Others, usually those on the receiving end of their criticism and pointed remarks, call them pests. And still others might refer to them as community activists.

I'll call them role models.

They are the people you can count on attending every school board or city council meeting.

The ones who know an agenda inside and out; who can recite bylaws and charters like the pledge of allegiance.

Where most of us pay lip service to civic involvement and activism, they put words into action.

Sure, they can occasionally be a pain in the rump, especially if you're behaving like one. But without these people around, a lot more electeds and special interests might not be getting their butts deservedly kicked.

Two role models who come immediately to mind are Peter Watry and Stewart Payne.

If you don't know who these men are you're probably not on the Chula Vista City Council or the Sweetwater Union High School board of trustees.

Watry is a fixture at City Council meetings. Along with his wife Susan, they're members of Crossroads II, a civic organization that keeps its eye on government happenings and reports them back to the CII membership.

Most notable of late was Watry's sparring match with City Council over a signature park on the city's bayfront, and the behind-the-scenes talks with former port commissioner David Malcom regarding the demolition of the South Bay Power Plant.

Payne, on the other hand, has been hammering away at the school board for some time. The sexy issue, of course, involves Superintendent Jesus Gandara's use of a district credit card along with his inviting school contractors to his daughter's wedding.

But Payne has also been vocal about student test scores, staff reorganization and inconsistencies in CIF policy.

You don't always have to agree with their causes or approach to a problem. I don't.

But you have to at least acknowledge that without these two, and the others like them, there'd be a lot less accountability in the public arena.


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