UPDATED: 4 p.m. Thursday, with reference to comment on this story linking to MCC apology letter and reversal of decision to ban Ms. Cunnane.
In our relatively short time with you Patch has learned much about the community we live in and hopefully serve.
As "Big City" as our successes make us feel at times, we realize our collective hamlet is still, essentially "small town" America, a fabric of close, interwoven relationships and ties tethered to an "everyone knows everyone else's business" mentality.
This has been good for us, with neighbors calling us with tips about their neighbor kid's prize-winning science project, shots of their raindrop-laden daffodils, and the local coyote on the prowl. It has also been very bad -- with people in the community deciding that discussion of our ills, no matter how common to other areas of similar size and makeup, is to be swept under a very lumpy rug.
We have seen this expressed in many ways. Angry emails. Midnight telephone calls. Comments on Patch, even an angry, drive-by lecture of our resident Tranquil Gardener by a red-faced man who mistook him for me.
What is it that has provoked this sort of vehemence, to have city officials refuse to provide basic public information, to have those who do speak up censored and banned? And why is the desire to sweep away our secrets so deep-seated? We have our suspicions but can only guess that choosing to discuss a sweeping problem with Ocycontin abuse, a localized burglary spree, or the insidious acts of predatory teachers has somehow threatened our self-image as a progressive, safe, exclusive enclave.
This Stepfordian utopia is far from the truth, of course, as it is in most small towns. But it is how we deal with our blemishes that marks us as a community, and whether or not we are truly progressive or merely deep in our own self-delusion.
And right now, in my heartfelt opinion, we are missing the mark by a wide margin and doing ourselves a disservice in the process. For not only are we succumbing to the dark urges to cover up and obfuscate and stall, we have hoisted the red flag and announced to one and all that we have things to hide and that those who speak out can expect retaliation.
We have seen this manifest in many ways while pursuing stories for Lamorinda Patch, but the approach came to a head this week with the news that a former Joaquin Moraga student pursued and molested by two teachers -- one of whom committed suicide with the second eventually going to prison for her crimes -- had been banned from attending a swim clinic held at the Moraga Country Club.
That former student and now swimming coach, Kristen Cunnane, had not intended to address the issue of her abuse at the clinic, but had thought she had been invited to give an inspirational address to young swimmers at her "home pool." Instead, in an apparent gesture of support for retiring principal Bill Walters and after some behind-the-scenes lobbying by parents eager for what was described to Patch as the maintenance of a "united front" against those seeking to discredit the local school district -- Cunnane was advised to stay home.
Patch Update: The MCC Board has reversed its decision not to allow Cunnane to appear at the club and issued a letter of apology.
Our own sentiments aside, at least one member of the MCC Board also questioned its motives for banning Cunnane, and judging by the hailstorm of letters, emails and calls we're getting at Patch -- the community at large is also asking the question: Why?
A show of support for a popular local educator? A desire to stay out of the public limelight? Or just a desire not to raise the dirty little secret, to keep it all on the down low and "just between us?"
We've seen and heard it all before in Lamorinda, unfortunately. Some have accused us of stirring the pot, of daring to discuss an issue we would think would be of interest to people who own homes here, who keep prescription drugs in their cabinets, whose children go to school here. And while we have been reassured by thousands of you who have asked for more sunlight, more transparency, and more discussion of the issues at hand, we have also been advised in no uncertain terms that some here feel the Stepfordian utopia is not to be upset in any way.
And that, gentle readers, is just plain wrong.