Shooting the Messenger (and rather ineffectively, I might add)

(Originally published 6/14/11)

Most of my faithful readers know that I’m a stickler for grammar.  When my children asked me to review their English essays, the first thing I did was red pencil poor grammar, spelling and punctuation.  Content was secondary until those corrections were made.  I literally mourn the days when spelling counted on homework.

By the same token, I have no problem if someone wants to criticize me or take issue with my opinion.  But, when a person tells me that my writing is “filled with grammatical errors,” it’s hard for me to get past whatever point that person is trying to make. Even if, and that’s a huge IF, I were to be grammatically incorrect, the point of this column is to keep City Hall, and the elected officials who run it, in check.  A government not scrutinized by the watchful eyes of its citizenry is one that will inevitably outgrow its usefulness.  A politician who is not held accountable for his or her actions will inevitably become so bloated with power that he or she will quickly forget what it means to be a public servant.  That is the “why” of my blog.

Take councilwoman Phyllis Smith, for example.  She ostensibly ran on the platform that “the people” didn’t have a voice at City Hall.  Phyllis claimed that she was shut down at council meetings whenever she attempted to state her views.  However, the minute she got into office, she literally forgot where she came from, and she made what is supposed to be a public service all about her.  What’s the first piece of “legislation” she introduced?  A ridiculous “Civility Resolution,” which she herself violates each and every time she opens her mouth.  Which is pretty much 24/7.

Phyllis, who pretends that she doesn’t read my blog, has either recruited directly or through her pet gerbil, someone to attack me personally.  I received a comment from one Karen Richner, who obviously doesn’t get the “why” of my blog any more than Phyllis herself does.  Ms. Richner, who does not live in or even near North Miami Beach (Google is a wonderful thing!), wrote a “scathing” commentary to my blog, “You squawkin’ at me?” (, attacking of all things, my grammar!

Now, my inner English teacher desperately wants to parse her commentary, red penciling it to death (as I did with my kids’ high school papers), but I will refrain and simply respond to her “opinion.”

Ms. Richner writes:

“Have you ever sat back to read your blog?  First; it is riddled with grammatical errors.  Second; all you do is spew negativity.  Why don’t you take some time (of which you obviously have an ample amount) and use it toward the betterment and enrichment of your life rather than spend every waking hour trying to discredit someone else.  If Ms. Smith is as bad as you purport (and I do not believe she is), than the truth will prevail.  Why do you spend so much time and energy on someone you dislike?  Is your life so void of anything meaningful?  All I see when I read your blog is an angry, bitter, miserable person who has nothing but time on her hands.  Your points are so meaningless and it seems you are spending so much time and energy into a matter that really has no significance. Why don’t you take some time to examine your life and see how you may fulfill whatever needs you have in a positive light.  You state in your blog that you don’t believe Ms. Smith to have any class.  Yet all you are showing in your words is that you lack the ability to make that determination as you portray such little class yourself. I wish you luck in finding a means by which to satisfy your time.”

Apparently Ms. Richner is unclear on the concept of “political commentary,” or “punditry,” as it were.  Of course, I simply cannot refrain from stating that one of my pet peeves is the misuse of random semi-colons, of which crime Ms. Richner is clearly guilty.  Along with spelling, punctuation always counts!

Aside from her own generous riddling of “grammatical errors,” she asks, “Why do you spend so much time and energy on someone you dislike?”  Let me respond:

I didn’t just get up one morning and suddenly decide to attack Phyllis.  In fact, not too long ago I sort of defended her – here on this blog and in speaking with several residents.  Until recently, I had always believed that deep down, Phyllis had the best interests of the city at heart.  That might still hold true, except that her behavior during the campaign and until now has been atrocious.  From the constant lies and manipulations on the campaign trail to her now childish insistence on where she wants to sit on the dais, Phyllis has only proven herself to be a liability and not an asset to the council.  By throwing this unbecoming temper tantrum, she has clearly demonstrated that she has completely forgotten the purpose of why she ran for office in the first place.

The real question is why is she willing to waste our time, money and resources, and getting paid a tidy sum on top of it, to whine about where she is seated?  She apparently wants to be seen as “important” by being able to sit next to the Mayor.  Phyllis is so busy worrying about how she is perceived by the residents, that she has absolutely no clue that she’s making a complete fool of herself.

Ms. Richner goes on to write, “Your points are so meaningless and it seems you are spending so much time and energy into a matter that really has no significance.”  Why doesn’t Ms. Richner ask Phyllis why she is “spending so much time and energy into a matter that really has no significance” such as where she is seated on the dais?  Apparently in her haste to defend her friend, Ms. Richner has completely missed the most relevant point of all!

But, Ms. Richner finds my points to be “meaningless.”  The fact is that Phyllis Smith, as an elected official, has a responsibility to her constituents to stop squawking over such a trivial matter by forcing a ridiculous vote to block the Mayor from being able to assign the seating arrangement of the council.  The fact is that it is my right as a citizen of the United States of America and a resident of North Miami Beach (and not Port Charlotte, for example) to have the same “voice” at City Hall that Phyllis claimed she was being denied before she ever ran for office.  The fact that I am fortunate enough to have this website as a forum for my “voice,” as well as an heretofore untapped talent for writing (or so I’m told by tons of my now regular readers), is just icing on the proverbial cake.

Seeing as how Ms. Richner never bothered to ask me why I am on Phyllis’ case so much these days, hopefully I’ve answered that unasked question for her.  Phyllis is a public official and, as such, it behooves her to behave with some modicum of respectability and, yes, likeability.  Phyllis possesses neither.  Ms. Richner obviously takes issue with my demeanor and style of writing, but I am not running for office nor am I an elected official.  I’m just your average Jane Citizen who has the Constitutional right to criticize our elected officials when they behave badly.  Like I told my two other critics, no one is holding a gun to her head and forcing her to read my blog.  Just because she doesn’t like what I have to say doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to say it.

Ms. Richner clearly doesn’t understand that the title of my blog, Voters Opinion, refers to the fact that I’m a voter and this is my opinion.  DUH!  She’s also lucky she wasn’t privy to my initial response to her inference that I had no class.  That response mentioned something along the lines that a semi-colon is not to be confused with a colon, which is not to be confused with a part of the anatomy up which unsolicited opinions should be…. oh, never mind.  Needless to say, that response was a knee jerk reaction – one which will not be published, but one which I had fun writing (and my friends had fun reading), and one which would prove to her just how little class I am really capable of showing.  Hah!

As a “blog adviser” told me recently, I should expect to hear from critics who will refuse to debate the message and merely attack the messenger.  Typical politician that she is, Phyllis Smith, through her “mouthpiece,” Karen Richner, is attempting to do just that – attack me instead of looking at her own actions.  By attempting a coup against our recently elected Mayor, George Vallejo, especially over an issue so ridiculously trivial and petty as where she demands to be seated on the dais, Phyllis is only proving that she is more than deserving to be on the receiving end of my poison pen.  So will any council member who sides with her next Tuesday.  I’m just saying.

Stephanie Kienzle
“Spreading the Wealth”

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