Blogger Objects to “Special Interest” Label

Speaking of South Kitsap blog contributor Karen Lee was unhappy with my use of “special interest” in reference to South Kitsap Skate Park Association and Fields Today Fit Tomorrow in a blog post last week on the South Kitsap Community Park master plan.

Karen wrote:
Chris, I’m not sure it was fair of you to call a group that wants to bring badly-needed, long overdue and much-deserved lights and turf to South Kitsap “special interest”. What club do you belong to, do you think it’s time to state that affiliation, as you did your residency in McCormick Woods when you were writing those stories?

I don’t have an opinion one way or another, I just think there is a socio-economic element to the lack of a lit soccer fields in South Kitsap. Games start the week after Labor Day and it’s too dark to practice the middle of October, unless your coach doesn’t have a day job. Those players whose parents don’t have the discretionary income, time, or energy to make 40-mile roundtrips for practice, not to mention games, are out of luck. You can’t ever be a contender if you can’t practice and it forces the best and the brightest to play for or in another community. How are things going to improve for the sport and the players and the families who love it, if the people that have a voice and power take their game out of town? I think if their weren’t options for them, we would have had lights and turf a long time ago.

Just some thoughts. Hope you’re having a great day. Karen Lee

Karen – Thanks for calling my attention to a term that could be considered loaded. Words are like guns; it’s unwise to play with them heedless of their power and potential to go off at an unintended target.

However, what I wrote was, “Some groups with special interest in the park, such South Kitsap Skate Park Association and Fields Today, Fit Tomorrow, have caught the county’s attention through high levels of organization, said Chip Faver, the Kitsap County Parks and Recretion. But the county is also trying to reach out to people, especially seniors, who would enjoy using the park but may not be able to attend meetings.”

I think this is a little different from saying “some special interest groups. such as …”

My point was those two groups in particular are reaping the benefits of their efforts to promote their causes.

For the record, I enjoy tennis (though haven’t played in a while due to a flaky knee). Walking is really my thing (bad knee be damned), and I have enjoyed the trails at SK Park over the years. My son is a soccer player who would potentially benefit from the construction of a soccer complex at the park. My father-in-law from Brinnon is a horseshoe player and could conceivably end up at the park for a tournament or fun. What else … lets see. Oh, yeah, when my kids were little we used to ride the train (Kitsap Live Steamers). So I guess you could say I have a number of special interests of my own.

All kidding aside, I do strive for fair and balanced reporting, and if I transgress I would expect to be called out. Thanks again for the heads up, Karen.

16 thoughts on “Blogger Objects to “Special Interest” Label

  1. “Special interest” originally meant an interest that was more than the general interest of members of the public. It was not a pejorative term. So, if it has been taken over by the people who want some label for those they don’t like, what should we call it when a particular action or function of government has a much greater impact on one person or group than on the public at large? They have a “special interest” in the government’s policies because of the special impact on them. Should we call them “specially impacted people”? How about we just use “special interest” in the original way and insist that the political quarrelers go find their own term?

  2. I guess I sort of agree with you, Mr. Meadows, although I don’t dislike special interest groups, I just don’t think they represent the majority. That was my objection to the term. Soccer players do represent a majority in this community. The last year my kids played for the SK soccer club, 2005, there were over 1600 players registered. That’s over 20% of the population of Port Orchard. We have a state-contending high school soccer program, we have lit baseball fields, lit football fields, even lit tennis courts, Chris.

    Mr Meadows, you asked what it means when an action of government has a much greater impact on a group than the public at large. What if the group is at a disadvantage for some reason, whether it’s economics or social status? What if the group is disenfranchised youth? In this instance, when we get that lit soccer field in South Kitsap, it will be called justice, fair play, or levelling the playing field. When you consider the amount of weekend games being held for 1600 players and the visitors it brings into the community, you could even call it a good and sound business decision.

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  3. How about if we “thought shower” on the “core values” that disrupt our “stakeholders” from “transformational” use of the term “special interest” so that we can “facilitate” “engagement” towards “best practices” for finding “coterminosity” and “empowerment” for this “shared priority” to “scale-back” the “contestability” of our “third sectors” simply because they
    “cautiously welcome” “ownership” of their “special interest” label and are generating “initiative” for a “level playing field”?

    For those of you without a clue as to what I said (or why), just cut and paste this into your internet browser…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/jun/20/localgovernment.localgovernment

    Regards,
    Kathryn Simpson

  4. Yes, folks… that post was an attempt at humor. ;=)

    After all, I really doubt the skateboarders want a “level playing field”, as that would be a very boring skate park. (smile)

    Regards,
    Kathryn Simpson

  5. Bob has it exactly right. A “special interest” is a subset of what might be of interest to everyone and a group that advocates for that interest, be it evil or benign, is special interest group.

    Where I went to school Karen, 20% was not called a majority. An impressive minority perhaps, but still a minority. But even if everyone loved soccer as much as Karen, it is still a single topic and thus a “special” interest.

    In the context of land use issues I have been called a “special interest group” even when I act alone. The folks lined up on the other side belong to “associations”, “boards” and/or “alliances” so they are probably just envious because I don’t have to attend club meetings and listen to committee reports in order to represent my interests. Even though I am not a “group”, I certainly think my interests are special, so I don’t resent the label–I just toss it right back at them.

  6. I agree that “special interest” means privelege for a minority, both in it’s original form and what it has evolved to mean.

    My point was that soccer players and fans are not a minority in this community and providing them with a lit field would not be a privelege, it would be bringing their facilities up to the level already enjoyed by the other outdoor team sports in South Kitsap. The sports complex and turf are problably an indulgence and a pipe dream in these tough economic times, but the lights are not. It would be parity. And a safety issue.

    Mr Harless, this yough sports group or community is conservatively over 20% of the population of this town (around 8,000). I think it’s a majority. Maybe most popular would have been a better word. I don’t have the numbers, but I think if you call the registrars from the other outdoor team sports, Pop Warner, Little League, you’re going to be hardpressed to come up with 1600.

    I’m not sure who I’m debating here on which issues. If everyone is so against the game of soccer and have already made up their minds as to how the Jackson Lund County Park should be used, put some light up at the Retsil soccer field and maybe that will resolve the issue.

    I was the parent that went up to the Bremerton Parks and Rec to beg field rental from them when it got too dark to practice. We practiced at the Lions Field the first year and then they wanted the soccer players out of there because they were too hard on the sod. The second and third years we moved around, Warren Avenue Field and the little field behind the Manette Senior Center. Once in awhile there was an opening at Pendergast, which is a beautiful comples, but the field up there is a gravel/sand mix that kind of turns to cement after the rain and cold set in. Not so good for the knees.

    So again, it’s not special interest. There are no lobbyists, no one’s getting paid to advocate, it’s not a minority and lights would not be a privelege.

    I hope you’re having a great day.

  7. Karen,

    Easy there, I have nothing against soccer or lights on play fields. I do, however, have a thing about accurate and precise use of language. Blame my SKHS English teachers.

    By definition, a “majority” is more than half. Neither 1,600/8,000 nor 20% is a majority as any 3rd grader should be able to tell you. It is a pretty impressive number, but indisputably a minority.

    Lights on soccer fields is a pretty narrow topic for government policy. That makes it a special interest as opposed to a general interest such as public safety, transportation, education or recreation in general.

    That is not to say it is a bad thing. Some special interests and special interest groups that support them are very good things. A bunch of parents who voluntarily advocate for safe and well-maintained soccer fields for their kids is a special interest group of the best kind (IMO). In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that their minority request would be good for such a large (minority) part of the community that it should be granted if the funds can be found.

    I am not sure what your point is about the word “privilege”. Surely you are not claiming that lighted soccer fields are yours by right? A good idea, I’ll grant you. But a right? Not unless you can show me a law mandating them…

  8. Mr. Harless, 1600 represents about 20% of the population of this city. Quite a large percentage, don’t you think? The number of registered soccer players in a club that is equal to 1/5 of that city’s population. That number also represents a majority of registered youth athletes, meaning, I think if you combine the other sport’s numbers, you’re going to be hardpressed to total 1600. Impressive numbers. I guess I didn’t say it very well.

    The parks planning group has identified a need for 4 additional soccer fields in the South Kitsap area, I’m saying, from experience, there’s a need for a lit soccer field, as well. Is the parks planning group a special interest group?

    Do you notice how much time and energy is wasted taking apart speech and throwing it back in people’s faces on this blog?

    I’m not going to play wordsmith with you. I just hope that the people that couldn’t come to some kind of consensus about the park in years past, will stand aside now and let this new group see what they can do.

    Hope you’re having a wonderful afternoon.

  9. I thought long and hard about commenting on the “I just hope that the people who couldn’t come to some kind of consensus about the park in years past, will stand aside now….”

    That’s a pretty heartless comment and I finally decided that it must be commented upon.

    As far as consensus goes, people who were involved with the park worked diligently to solicit input and support. It wasn’t necessarily forthcoming, even from the “special interest” groups who are now showing such interest.

    As far as standing aside, many of the people who worked to create the park (to keep the land from becoming a trailer park) and support it over the years, have indeed stepped aside. In fact, two major park champions died of cancer – Chuck F. Jeu and Margie Rees.

    They hardly stood in the way of your soccer group or of any other. In fact, if my memory serves me right they regularly PLEADED with groups, asking them to get involved.

    Chuck met with every civil and sports group in the community encouraging participation. Margie championed the park by attending countless meetings of all types – Boys & Girls Club, Karcher Creek, etc. and by spending her own money on such park events as the Ghost Train, Egg Hunt and St. Patrick’s Day.

    Please be more sensitive when you speak of the people who have championed this park for years. They were and are good people.

    Mary Colborn

  10. Not all that were previous stewards of the park wanted to work with the local youth sports organizations. In fact, I know that the local soccer club, with 1600 kids, were rebuffed at least twice. I also know that civic organizations were ignored when they offered serious help to grow the park.

    I appreciate the efforts that preserve the park. However, while all may have been good people, some were not as welcoming to community involvement as others. To say that is not to demonize, but it is a reality.

    I do hope that those whose egos got in the way of growing the park will step aside and allow a more collaborative process. Five years from now the park will be a phenomenal place for the community. It will not contain all I want and will contain some of what I do not want- but that is the nature of all good things for the community- it will be the result of a collaborative process that serves the interests of all the community.

    Regards,
    Kathryn Simpson

  11. Perspective and reality is in the eye of the beholder.

    I never witnessed the parks commissioners “rebuff” a group (which would indicate rudeness), people were sometimes asked to bring back more information, or politely declined–sometimes things don’t go the way people want.

    I did watch the parks board admirably keep their dignity when falsely accused of insurance fraud, they continued negotiations with the county in spite of their accusers.

    I agree with Mary Colborn.

    The former parks board may not have been perfect, but I appreciate the diverse personalities, and thank them all for volunteering their time and energy to the community.

    This includes all board members, from the first inception of the park to the turnover, those who have passed on and those still with us.

  12. Some seem to insist on more perspective than reality. So be it.

    I’m content with the current reality. The park is growing and the community has real voice in what it will become.

    When a batter hits one over the center field fence, is it good or bad? Perspective says it depends on which special interest group (team) you support. Reality calls it a homerun!

    Regards,
    Kathryn Simpson

  13. Reality/Fact:
    I paid $4.299 per gallon for gas on 6/29/08.

    Perception/Opinion:
    “Not all that were previous stewards of the park wanted to work with the local youth sports organizations.”
    –Or–
    “I never witnessed the parks commissioners “rebuff” a group (which would indicate rudeness), people were sometimes asked to bring back more information, or politely declined–sometimes things don’t go the way people want.”

    Facts have the ability to be verified, opinions (such as those above) are neither right nor wrong, they are the individual writer’s reality.

    I can give my perception of how South Kitsap Community Park was run by the former parks commissioners, I happen to think input and community involvement was encouraged by the board, anyone else is free to dispute my assertion.

    Neither opinion is fact, neither opinion is wrong.

    I will say I am troubled by those who would state that the community has a “real voice” now,
    whilst previously commenting “I do hope that those whose egos got in the way of growing the park will step aside and allow a more collaborative process.”

    This latter statement seems rather hubristic, is one implying that a certain segment of the population should no longer have a voice? Exactly who should recuse themselves from helping improve the park because someone percieves them as having an overinflated ego?

    This is hardly the inclusive attitude one might hope for a park embarking on a new era, to be successful it will need help from all people–In My Opinion. Luckily, this is not a statement the county is publicly espousing, I have only seen it used by blog participants.

    Back To The Task: I find no problem with special interest groups giving input on community projects, everyone is welcome to voice their ideas and visions.

  14. Mary, I’m not going to get into a war of wits with someone who is not properly armed. You’re out of your league.

    I can’t believe the Independent is still publishing your ramblings. When I suggested people who couldn’t get along with other people stand aside, I was talking about you. Not your imaginary friends or your dead heroes. You.

    We’re both adults. We should be objective about our ability to contribute. I’m pretty realistic about my ability to bring people together(not) or be divisive.. You should do the same. Find love, write a poem, play in Mr. Bozeman’s water fountain, he wants people to play in the fountain. Walk away. You’re a young woman. Have some fun.

    Sincerely, Karen Lee

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