By Reverend Richard Lawrence / sandiegans4opengov
Editor Note: In recent months inewsource.org has published a series of controversial stories concerning activist attorney Cory Briggs, questioning his ethics and motives. Rev. Richard Lawrence penned this reaction for the San Diegans 4 Open Government blog.
I said in a deposition some time ago that I thought Cory Briggs was to the environmental justice movement in California what Dr. King was to the civil rights movement. Recent events cause me to think some more about that.
Dr. King drew the fire of none other than the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover listened to members of Congress and business leaders from across the nation and used what he considered to be the threat to US security to justify wire taps and surveillance of Dr. King’s movements.
Two agents from the FBI knocked on my door in Chicago and asked me if I would mind answering a few of their questions about my work with Dr. King. I later read a file on me gained through the Freedom of Information Act passed after members of Congress learned the FBI was keeping files on them. It was full of inaccuracies and errors and redacted segments.
I must say I was surprised. I thought the FBI was better than that: more professional, accurate and fair.
Those memories are stirred up today by the behavior of Inewsource. Connected to KPBS, I thought they were one of the truth-loving angels protecting our freedom and the U.S. Constitution.
So, I ask. “Why are they acting like J.Edgar Hoover?”
I suspect the answer is that Cory Briggs took on landowners in his fight on behalf of the Affordable Housing Coalition (AFC) and the renters in San Diego to stop the loss of rental units to condo conversions, and we WON a limit of 1,000 after seeing several years of as many as 10,000 conversions.
Cory took on Walmart on behalf of the Coalition for Responsible, Equitable, Environmental Development (CREED) and other grass-roots organizations and we have WON major commitments to cleaner air and sustainable energy uses that Walmart advertises but for which it gives no credit to Cory Briggs or any of his clients.
Cory took on the City of San Diego and the Maryland Hotel on behalf of the AFC to preserve an SRO that housed some of our city’s poorer residents and we LOST and had to satisfy ourselves with helping the residents relocate.
Cory took on the Port Commission and the Convention Center and the downtown hoteliers and their Tourism Marketing District (TMD) because we asked him to do so. He helped save taxpayers nearly $1 billion when he persuaded an appellate court that a new tax to fund the Convention Center’s expansion was unconstitutional, having been imposed without a public vote. He is still in the midst of a multi-year battle over the 39.5-year, $1 billion TMD tax that was also imposed without a public vote.
Like Dr. King, Cory draws the fire and carries the weight of his leadership role, but it is a big mistake in both cases to think either one stands alone.
Like Dr. King, Cory will support citizens from across California and take on the giants who abuse the environment or trample on the rights of people who cannot afford the costs of going to court to protect themselves from government and special-interest abuses.
Our work with Cory is done through the Courts for which those of us who are followers of Dr. King and friends of the freedom movement know is a place where issues are debated thoroughly and the price of progress is painfully slow, carefully weighed and occasionally disappointing, e.g., Citizens United.
We need Cory Briggs. We need the Courts. We need good, independent sources of news. We need citizens who are independent thinkers who will not blink in the face of criticism—especially when it is inaccurate and manipulated.
I continue to wonder if Inewsource is a friend of the fighters for truth, good government and environmental justice or a panderer to special interests and big bucks—a Mencken or a Hoover. Judging by the names on its list of top donors and how our work with Cory is frustrating their ambitions—i.e., nearly $2 billion in illegal taxes to subsidize hoteliers’ advertising and their ill-conceived Convention Center expansion—it looks to me like the latter.
I recently returned from a celebration in Selma and was reminded there of how important it was 50 years ago for folks from across the nation to join Dr. King in his fight for civil rights. I marched with Dr. King then, and I am proud to work with and stand up for Cory Briggs today.
Reverend Richard Lawrence is a Board Member of San Diegans for Open Government, Co-Chair, Affordable Housing Coalition of San Diego County, a founding member of the San Diego Community Land Trust and Adjunct Minister with the Christian Fellowship Congregational Church.