GUEST OPINION: Three steps to finding peace on Santa Rosa council
Published: Monday, December 17, 2012 at 5:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 17, 2012 at 5:48 p.m.
Some of Councilwoman Erin Carlstrom's progressive supporters are dismayed that she voted for Scott Bartley instead of Gary Wysocky for mayor of Santa Rosa. This reaction is understandable but also symptomatic of a destructive political culture that must be overcome.
Public officials have never had tougher jobs. Pressures to make good decisions on budgets, pensions, preserving services, maintaining parks and infrastructure, and protecting children and the vulnerable are unrelenting. What our officials do will determine whether our communities thrive or begin to die. (This is not hyperbole. Unfunded pension liabilities alone will, absent far-reaching action, ultimately bankrupt every jurisdiction in the county.)
But it is unclear if local officials will succeed. An unreasoning, ever intensifying, partisan, us-vs.-them environment dominates campaigns, hamstrings governance and has so politicized some local governments that minor disagreements explode into personal affronts, and even productive compromises are considered weak and unprincipled.
Instead of asking, “What is the best decision?” or “What are the facts?” too often the question becomes, “How do I prevail? How do I keep X marginalized? How do I make sure group A supports me?” Or worse: “What does my consultant think?” (Of course there are many officeholders who rise above this. But too many do not.)
So this is what makes what Carlstrom did important. She is a progressive. She disagrees with Bartley on some important issues. Yet she took the initiative to inject generosity of spirit and trust into a City Council that cannot be effective without it. She trusts Bartley to be fair, inclusive and open to all viewpoints. I know she is right. But one symbolic action is not enough. To build on Carlstrom's example, three City Council steps seem essential:
In the end, this is about leadership. To her credit, Carlstrom has exhibited awareness and courage. What she, Bartley, Wysocky and the other council members now do
Hugh Futrell is a Santa Rosa developer and a former member of the Santa Rosa school board.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.