During my many years as a correspondent in Mexico, some of my best reporting happened around dinner tables. So on a recent trip back, I dined with a range of old contacts to catch up on how Mexico was handling its most pressing challenges, like the 2014 student massacre in southern Mexico, which shocked the…
Breaking the story about the LakeCity project has certainly had wide ramifications. The Lake Chapala Reporter has been vilified, I have personally been vilified, the developers, the project, the government—everyone is being trashed.
To be clear, first of all, I am personally as concerned about the implications of such a development in our community as most people are. As a journalist, however, I need to stay neutral in my reporting, which some people, not understanding the role of journalism in a community, equate with being a shill for big business. Most people by now know that the Lake Chapala Reporter is a better source of real estate news than other publications are.
When the Municipality of Chapala approved the first steps of this project (and it’s a long approval process, with signatures required at every step), they undoubtedly realized what infrastructure they (not the developers) would need to provide, including widening the access streets. That’s what licensing fees are supposed to pay for. Attacking the developers because the streets need to be widened is misplaced. Calling the developers scammers because the project is unpopular with some people here is also misplaced. Like most international financiers, they’ve probably had hits and misses. Placing them under a microscope personally and professionally is unrealistic and futile.
The fact is that they have looked at studies of what FUTURE retirees here will want. It’s that simple. And if the project fails, some other project like it will come along and succeed. It’s inevitable. This is a prime location and demographic.
Let’s focus on the municipality, and keep our emotions out of this. I have sources who are going to check the licenses this coming week. Then we’ll know whether this is being handled legally. As always, I’ll keep you posted on facts, not emotions and speculation.
People who want to take action should get together and consider what action will be most effective. Vitriolic emails to journalists, and speculative, sarcastic ranting on webboards are just not helpful. Let’s take this one step at a time, and be smart about it. Cooler heads will prevail.
Lisa L. Jorgensen
Publisher and Editor
Most of us expats are not Mexican citizens, which means we can’t vote, which means politicians can ignore us if they want to. If we make ourselves so disliked that the last thing they want to do is listen to us or talk to us, we will lose our voice and our ability to shape our futures here.
That is why today’s discourteous interaction with the developers of a modern complex was not only embarrassing, but counterproductive. The shoutouts from the back rows, the guffaws, the chronic woe-is-us negativism—the self-righteous belligerence of some in the audience will certainly give pause to other groups contemplating bringing significant issues before us. We just aren’t civil enough—we, ironically, who think we have the advanced civilization. And because of that, we’re losing our voice.
How do I know? Because we’ve lost part of our voice already. Remember the Lake Chapala Society’s Town Meetings? They brought traffic commandants and immigration officials to have some meaningful exchange of information with us. I was there at each one, and I came away incredulous at the rudeness of some members of the audience. They refused to sit down and listen. They came with chips on their shoulders, and were determined that everyone should hear their bellyaching. They ruined it for all of us. The result? No more Town Meetings. And, frankly, it was the one program the Lake Chapala Society had that I thought was relevant to today’s modern expats.
Whether the complex being presented today is a good idea or not is beside the point this evening. These are serious business people with a plan. They presented the plan to the Municipality of Chapala, who gave them the green light. Our job today was to learn. If we want to fight city hall, we should take it up with city hall. I encourage you to start a committee (of courteous people) to talk with city hall. If I were them, I’m not so sure how responsive I’d be, given our inability to be civil. We seem to forget that we are guests here.
Lisa L. Jorgensen
Publisher and Editor
There’s still time for the Guadalajara Reporter to do the right thing: to care about the Lake Chapala area enough to tell its readers the truth, thereby earning some credibility and integrity. The main reason this magazine was named the Lake Chapala Reporter is because it seemed to us that the Guadalajara Reporter wasn’t doing a good job of reporting for this area. And now it’s confirmed.
In the last week, two people have reported going to the Guadalajara Reporter office at the Bugambilia Plaza in Ajijic to ask why it wasn’t publishing anything on the realtor price fixing conviction. They were told by the office administrator there that the realtors have threatened to pull all their advertisements if they do.
So, now we know the extent of the Guadalajara Reporter’s commitment to this community, and the extent of their integrity. And, we also know to what extent the convicted realty organizations (which includes the GIL association) have the best interest of the community in mind.
Have these organizations no shame? Do the right thing, Guadalajara Reporter. The realtors have already lost their souls, but maybe you haven’t—yet. Show a little spine. Start serving this community as a professional newspaper. Report the truth.
Lisa L. Jorgensen, Editor
A leader in our real estate comunity (whom we understand will issue a press release soon), has called the Lake Chapala Reporter a “muckraking publication” this week because we reported the May, 2014 ruling that found many of the top Lake Chapala real estate agencies and brokers guilty of price fixing. We looked up the term.
“The term muckraker refers to reform-minded journalists who wrote largely for all popular magazines and continued a tradition of investigative journalism reporting; muckrakers often worked to expose social ills and corporate and political corruption. Muckraking magazines—notably McClure’s of publisher S. S. McClure—took on corporate monopolies and crooked political machines while raising public awareness of chronic urban poverty, unsafe working conditions, and social issues like child labor.
The muckrakers are most commonly associated with the Progressive Era period of American history. The journalistic movement emerged in the United States after 1900 and continued to be influential until World War I, when the movement came to an end through a combination of advertising boycotts, dirty tricks and patriotism.
Before World War I, the term “muckraker” was used to refer in a general sense to a writer who investigates and publishes truthful reports to perform an auditing or watchdog function. In contemporary use, the term describes either a journalist who writes in the adversarial or alternative tradition, or a non-journalist whose purpose in publication is to advocate reform and change. Investigative journalists view the muckrakers as early influences and a continuation of watchdog journalism.”
Our position is that if no one is willing to report abuses, we all suffer the consequences. And so far, the local press hasn’t done it. Now the muck is pretty deep, so someone has to rake it. Let’s clean up Lake Chapala.
The news that Lake Chapala’s most visible businesses, its real estate agencies and brokers, have been found guilty of price fixing (see this month’s lead story) by Mexico’s commission on economic competition (similar to the US’s Anti-Trust Commission), should give us all a long, deep pause. Our largest real estate agencies and individual brokers (most of whom are still doing business here) were found to have cheated their own community residents of millions of pesos between 2003 and 2008. Read that sentence again.
Not one of those charged and penalized (in May, 2014) have offered an explanation or a statement to the press, much less an apology for the damage they have done. In fact, at least one of the agencies has actually denied the guilty ruling to others.
In its ruling, the commission stated that the financial damage was far more than it had the authority to penalize. Even so, as serious as it is, the damage is not just financial. An essential trust has been broken in the community, and that affects all of us at an especially vulnerable economic time.
By not providing statements, those charged may be hoping to avoid scrutiny by the press, which is largely supported by real estate advertising. There could not be a clearer example of how the press becomes beholden to its advertisers. The Ojo del Lago is not likely to report this ruling, since it’s owned by Chapala Realty, one of those charged. And its Chapala.com web board will certainly not allow discussion of this issue, either. The Guadalajara Reporter accepts real estate advertising, and has soft-pedaled the issue of real estate price-fixing in the past. We expect that it is likely to do nothing or the same again. Our community deserves better than this.
The Lake Chapala Reporter (which does not accept local advertising) calls on each of the guilty associations, agencies, and brokers to submit a statement to this magazine for publication. All submitted statements will be published unedited and in their entirety. The Lake Chapala Reporter also calls on every business and resident in the community to insist that each of those charged either provide a statement or resign their post. Our community deserves leadership that is committed to openness.
Lisa L. Jorgensen
Owner, publisher, editor