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GOLIS: Giving peace a chance


Here in Democratic Sonoma County, people brand Washington Republicans as obstructionists eager to see a Democratic administration fail even if it means that the nation’s problems go unsolved.

In 2010, the GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky famously boasted to a gathering of Heritage Foundation conservatives: “Our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term.”

Pete Golis.

How unfair and shortsighted, hometown people say. At a time in which the country needs to pull together, what a terrible abandonment of responsibility. Thank God we’re not like that.

Did you read the story recently about the two Santa Rosa City Council candidates, Ernesto Olivares and Erin Carlstrom, who pledged to move beyond their differences and find ways to cooperate?

Once upon a time, a pledge to cooperate would have seemed like endorsing motherhood, apple pie and the flag. Who could be against cooperation?

But this is Santa Rosa, so the two candidates got slammed.

One City Council member said she felt “betrayed” by this offer of cooperation and quickly withdrew her endorsement of Carlstrom. Cooperate with people who don’t agree with me? Never!

Others speculated that there must be some sort of secret agenda to propose anything as radical as cooperation.

Flash forward a few days to another Santa Rosa City Council candidate. Julie Combs felt obliged to respond to an anonymous Internet report that she once voted in a Republican Primary in Ohio.

It is said there are many nice people in Ohio, and some of them are even Republicans.

But this is Santa Rosa, so the candidate feared a backlash from the self-appointed guardians of what people should and shouldn’t think.

“I’m not now, nor have I ever been a Republican,” Combs declared. She sounded horrified. What could be worse than being called a Republican?

Once upon a time, politicians like Mitch McConnell understood that the strength of America comes from a political system willing and able to accommodate our political, economic and geographic differences.

We’re all here together, after all — California and Kentucky, urban and agrarian, business and labor, people who believe in an expanded role for government and people who don’t. If any region or group thinks it will get exactly the government it wants all the time, it’s going to be disappointed.

For more than 200 years, Congress understood its responsibility to find common ground.

But this most elemental of civic obligations — compromise — is out of fashion now, ridiculed by politicians and political groups eager to celebrate disunity. For them, politics has become a blood sport, and compromise is a sellout.

This country is in trouble because politicians of all stripes won’t acknowledge that we compromise because all the other options are both futile and destructive.

Here in Sonoma County, we like to think we’re not like that — even as the usual factions condemn anyone who urges cooperation or otherwise dares to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy.

It’s not news that local government is in crisis right now. We need candidates knowledgeable about education and public safety, about balanced budgets and pension shortfalls, about jobs and taxes, about holes in the safety net and holes in the pavement.

Instead, the same old factions draw lines over development decisions that are few and far between.

In cities such as Santa Rosa and Petaluma, the people who are supposed to find ways to make their city better keep finding big and small ways to fight.

As long as they do, local government will be impaired. Problems won’t be solved. The best people won’t want to work in local government. And the best people won’t want to run for office.

Somehow, some day, thoughtful people are going to put a stop to the bitterness — and it might begin with something as simple as a pledge to cooperate.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane showed up to endorse the two candidates pledging to find ways to get along. “We have to learn to look at each other as human beings that care about the same things and find out what it is that we have in common, rather than what divides us,” she told Staff Writer Kevin McCallum.

Assemblyman Wes Chesbro and a representative of Congressman Mike Thompson were also there to lend support. No one has failed to notice the damage caused by the city’s corrosive politics.

With budget cuts and regular attacks on public service, government isn’t much fun these days. We shouldn’t make it worse by letting City Hall remain the place where cooperation goes to die.

Pete Golis is a columnist for The Press Democrat. Email him at golispd@gmail.com.

11 Responses to “GOLIS: Giving peace a chance”

  1. Thorn says:

    Dear Golis,

    You missed the point.

    Nobody is against cooperation, and that is precisely why this is a hollow election ploy.

    Principled people disagree and vote for what they think is right, and that does indeed create a divide, but it is infinitely better than spineless soothsayers.

    Republicans and Democrats disagree, and that is why we need elections.

    One can wonder how Carlstrom managed to swing both the Democratic and Republican endorsement, but it hardly says anything good about her character.

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  2. Jean Anderson says:

    @Buddy Bear

    The Democrats don’t need any help ruining Sonoma County. They are doing a great wrecking job on their own.

    Time to wake up.

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  3. Pundit says:

    “Here in Democratic Sonoma County, people brand Washington Republicans as obstructionists eager to see a Democratic administration fail even if it means that the nation’s problems go unsolved.”

    Well thank gosh the PD has decided to NOT endorse candidates any more, or this might read that you should vote only Democratic candidates because they’re the only ones that can save us! Whew, that takes a load off of MY mind! To quote ABC’s John Stossel, “Give me a break!”

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  4. Buddy Bear says:

    Why do reporters like Golis refuse at accept the fact that this is a sham? his own newspaper did actual reporting:

    “Asked if she planned to vote for Olivares, she declined to say.

    “That’s not what this is about,” she said.”

    THIS IS A SHAM. Ernesto needed a pawn to make it seem as if he gave a crap about unity. This has been arguably the most divisive council and it was lead by the Mayor, and all of a sudden he wants to sing kumbaya. Give piece a chance? you mean hand the county over to Republicans like Olivares, Carrillo, and Sawyer. The PD knows the quickest way to eliminate unions and collective bargaining is to “Give peace a chance” and allow the Republicans to ruin our county for decades to come. We know Olivares gains in this situation with Erin promising to appoint Donna Zapata to retain a conservative majority on the council, but what did she gain? Thats the real question, did she like Kearney and levine pretend to be liberals for election and plan to govern as conservatives?

    Call me a cynic, but this has the Sonoma Aroma all over it.

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  5. Skippy says:

    As long as Golis and the PD keep the attitude that “Republican” or “conservative” is a synonym for “Nazi pedophile leper”, compromise will be a distant, unattainable fantasy.

    The Tea Party is here.

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  6. Lets be Reasonable says:

    What does pro-business and environmental mean in a city? Me, I want jobs and housing to grow in the cities, and I want to keep our agriculture and low population in the rural areas. I don’t want urban sprawl like what happened in San Jose. I just don’t understand the current divide on the council. I voted for one side in 2008, and a different side in 2010, and I wasn’t happy with the result either time. I see good and bad on both sides. Wysocky seems intelligent and asks good questions, but comes across as a spoiled child. I thought Gorin did a decent job of trying to run the divided council. Olivares also seems competent, though too close to public safety, given the pension problems. Vas Dupre seems like she has a good heart, but I can’t understand a thing she says. It would be nice if we could just vote for who we thought were the most competent and had the best interests of the City at heart. And then once elected, they would work together to get the job done. Seems like it used to work that way…

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  7. Terry Jensen says:

    Wow. Compromise is even getting bashed here. Of course sometimes you are going to disagree on specific projects and items. Golis is not disagreeing with that. What has happened is that our political discourse has become so lent to the extremes in points of view, that even compromise is considered with suspicion.

    So what if there are other reasons for an announcement of compromise. I get that, but for whatever reason it is better than what we’ve gotten up to this point.

    There is a reason our city and supervisors are supposed to be non-partisan seats. I agree with Golis, we need to stop the extremes and vote for politicians that have expressed their desire for positive change instead of obstructionism. It is the only way we are going to see our community’s quality of life better itself.

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  8. Kay Tokerud says:

    There Golis goes again. He calls Santa Rosa’s council divisive because the majority has not been the progressives for two years. It would be fine with him if progressives dominate over conservatives as usual. Just because Gary Wysocky has a hissy fit whenever he can’t get his way is not a reason to call the council divisive. Remember when he said “the only number that counts is four”? He said that when he was part of the progressive majority.

    The current council makeup is the best it has been in years if people want a healthy balance representing various points of view. If the progressives win back the majority then Wysocky will probably be the mayor and we will get his total lack of compromise back on Council. I reluctantly still support mayor Olivares, also Hans Dippel and Don Taylor. The other ones running are extreme left-wing progressives that will never compromise, and that includes Erin Carlstrom.

    By the way, rumor has it that the MANDATORY home inspections and retrofits are still on the table just waiting to be implemented by the next progressive majority in Santa Rosa. Hold onto your pocketbooks!

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  9. Sarkyfish says:

    When a neo-progressive (Pete Golis) pleads for compromise two things are possible: liberals are losing or a wolf is dressing up as a sheep.

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  10. Reality Check says:

    Cooperation is being oversold. While it has some merit and might apply in a few areas, it’s limits should not be glossed over.

    How does one cooperate on an application for Big Box retail? Landscaping in the parking lot? Or public employee pensions? Do we simply slow down the rate at which the city goes broke?

    I get the point, but some differences can’t be split. Their are principled differences between two position that are not amendable to meeting in the middle. Those differences should be, first, understood by the public and, second, settled by voters who decide to go one way or the other.

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  11. Critic At Large says:

    Golis, Somona County has been the domain of the left for 30 plus years. They aren’t a group that believes in compromise unless it is on their terms. It is the Republicans who have been the compromisers.

    The result is the City of Santa Rosa and the County government have spent themselves into huge deficits with their largess to the public employees and welfare programs.

    None of this will change until the voters fire the incumbents and replace them with politicians who are willing to change the council spending habits and say no to the union demands.

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