I once wrote a column about immigration reform that stirred angry emails from both sides of the debate. Because I sympathized with some concerns expressed by illegal immigrants, conservatives branded me a bleeding heart. Because I didn't embrace all of those concerns, liberals labeled me a redneck.

Some will tell you it takes a special skill to alienate both ends of the political spectrum within the constraints of 600 words. (Actually, it's not that hard.) But I'm not sure I deserve all the credit.

Maybe the anger at perceived ideological bias has as much to do with the beholder as the one expressing the view. When published opinions contradict your own, it's far easier to accuse writers of prejudice than to concede they might be on to something.

People hang labels on opposing views all the time, as I was reminded recently after commenting on two hot-button issues.

When I challenged BART workers' rationale for striking -- $60,000 to $70,000 salaries for a 37½-hour work week that almost guarantees overtime in a job with great benefits doesn't seem so bad -- I was called a right-wing, union-busting conservative.

A few days later, when I chided opponents of the regional land-use-and-transportation vision known as Plan Bay Area -- coordinating residential growth with transportation options makes some sense -- many readers saw me as a Big Brother advocate who'd drunk the socialist Kool-Aid and sworn allegiance to collectivism.


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This is a far-fetched idea, I know, but it's conceivable that I sized up each argument independently, weighed the pros and cons, and offered an unbiased opinion as I understood the positions. That's how I make decisions at the ballot box. I don't vote straight party tickets.

I bristle when people talk about media bias, as if all journalists sign a secret pledge and participate in daily conference calls to determine what agenda we'll foist on the public. I don't even like conference calls.

My general support of Plan Bay Area, which aims to preserve the atmosphere and open space, begins with the premise that it's better to plan for growth than to build houses on every chunk of land where you can pour a foundation.

Moreover, the plan doesn't demand that automobile owners abandon their vehicles; it encourages construction near public transit alternatives. It doesn't require communities to build mixed-income residences; it encourages them to do so with financial incentives.

The easiest way to fight an idea you are determined not to like is to demonize it. So opponents' recurring assertion is that they will be denied property rights and forced from single-family homes. But if anyone bothered to listen at the July 18 plan approval meeting, ABAG Executive Director Ezra Rapaport bluntly refuted that.

"The Bay Area currently contains about 2.1 million single-family homes," he said. "Under this plan, by 2040 there will be about 2.3 million single-family homes."

So, about those homes we're being forced out of: The plan anticipates 200,000 more of them.

Government agencies do many things poorly -- not that we have space today to talk about the Bay Bridge -- but there's nothing frightening I can find about Plan Bay Area.

I don't expect to change opponents' minds, of course. I'm part of the media, and we're biased -- either liberally or conservatively, depending on who's reading.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.