COURSEY: Bypassing the buttheads

Tucked into an otherwise routine city council story on Tuesday was a little gem that warmed the hearts of anyone who has ever served on a board or commission or council, whether private, non-profit or government.

"I'm not in favor of having a few buttheads dictate how we go about our business," Sonoma City Councilman Ken Brown declared.

Amen to that, Brother Brown.

The statement could apply to any number of issues that come before a governing body. In this case, Brown was referring to a proposal to change his city's policies regarding the public consumption of alcohol. Sonoma, which depends heavily on wine tourism, has fairly liberal alcohol rules that allow consumption in public places – including the town Plaza or on the streets – from 11:30 a.m. until dusk.

Ordinarily, this is not a problem. It's not unusual to see tourists in the plaza with a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread and a brick of cheese purchased at nearby stores. It's part of the city's ambiance.

But last July 4, when 10,000 people packed into the center of Sonoma (population 10,648) for an Independence Day celebration, 13 people were arrested and more would have been if police had more resources available, Police Chief Bret Sackett informed the council.

According to Derek Moore's story, the chief blamed the unruly behavior on large crowds, warm weather and Sonoma's "liberal alcohol laws." Tighter regulations could help "mitigate" problems, Sackett wrote in a memo.

To which Brown responded with his sagacious comment.

We're taught from an early age that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease," but that attention and maintenance shouldn't be provided in a knee-jerk way, or at the expense of other, well-functioning wheels.

Too often, though, the leaders of an organization – and I've observed this at every level from social clubs to government bodies – spend their time and formulate their policies based on the squeaking that comes from individual members or small groups. Sadly, the decisions that come out of such deliberations are directed more at "mitigating" the behavior of the buttheads than providing benefit to the membership or public at large.

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