Clarity, brevity herein unfounded


If during this next phase of the pandemic you find yourself hunkered down in your home waiting out the more transmissible and misery-making Delta variant and you want to hone your concentration and deciphering skills while marvelling at long, breath-sucking sentences, have a look at the Chula Vista Municipal Code. It’s fun. Really.

Acquainting yourself with laws governing your behavior and existence is an integral part of understanding how much—or how little—government is controlling what you do. And why. Plus, it’s a good exercise in exercising those critical thinking cells.

Given the current complaints filed against two Chula Vista City council members the language there might be of particular interest.
One complaint suggests Councilman John McCann violated Chula Vista Municipal Code 2.52.120:

“Notwithstanding anything contained herein to the contrary, a payment to or for the benefit of a Councilmember, Mayor, or candidate made and used for the express purpose of offsetting costs already incurred by that Councilmember, Mayor, or candidate in the defense of a criminal or administrative prosecutorial action against said Councilmember, Mayor, or candidate and not made or used for the purpose of aiding in the election of said Councilmember, Mayor, or candidate, and not made within (before or after) 100 days of an election in which the Councilmember, Mayor, or candidate is competing for a seat or office, shall not be deemed to be a contribution for the purposes of this chapter. (Ord. 3179 § 1, 2011; Ord. 3086 § 1, 2007).”

If this was a paragraph in a reporter’s copy—heaven forbid it be their lede—I imagine the story would get kicked back to them with scores of red marks and question marks. The question “what?” in all caps at the top of the page. Underlined.

If the goal, and it should be in a newspaper, is clarity and simplicity then this paragraph and the story fails. The reporter would find himself writing weather briefs.

But a closer look reveals the language used is an attempt to be as precise and inclusive as reasonably possible when crafting a set of rules dictating how campaign money may be used.

A read through, while initially confusing, is ultimately enlightening.

Clarity, brevity herein unfounded