During these bewildering post-election days, a number of friends have told me that they are sorry I did not win my race for Sebastopol City Council.
I appreciate their support. But I do not feel sad, or even disappointed, about the friendly race that we just ran in Peacetown, USA. In truth, I feel that it will not make very much of a difference to the people in our community whether I am on the City Council, or whether it is the hard-working candidates who got the most votes, Neysa Hinton and Michael Carnacchi.
Instead I feel excited about the outcome of far more important local contests, whose successes will make a real difference to the lives of many of us here in Sonoma County.
Here are the five reasons I think that we, the people of Sonoma County, came out winners in the LOCAL elections on November 8:
1. Winning a GMO-free Sonoma County creates the largest organic farming zone in the United States!
Ten years ago, in response to the county’s first attempt to ban GMO farming, Monsanto and its chemical farming allies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on toxic, deceptive media ads and lied their way to success. This time around, despite a similar ad campaign by the usual pesticide-promoting corporations and their farm industry cronies, the people beat the Corptocracy.
It was a hard-fought grassroots victory by hundreds of earth–justice-focused volunteers, pushing against a majority of Supervisors (Zane. Rabbitt and Carrillo) who opposed the measure. It took more than a year of tireless work by Karen Hudson, a courageous retired teacher and grandmother, to gather more than 24,000 local petition signatures to qualify. Yet even after it got on the ballot, the GMO Farm Ban was opposed by the Press Democrat editorial page and Supervisor Shirlee Zane, who loudly criticized what was the largest truly grassroots initiative in local history as an anti-science effort led by a “little band of zealots.”
Thankfully more than 100,000 voters thought differently. On November 8, this historic ballot initiative passed easily, 56 to 44%.
Sonoma County now completes the nation’s largest GMO-free growing zone, a contiguous 13,743 square mile area comprised of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties to our north and Marin County to our south.
Sonoma County’s homegrown grassroots hero of the year Karen Hudson observes, “Voters grasped the importance of protecting our family farms and pastures from contamination and preserving Sonoma County’s rich agricultural heritage for future generations. A growing consumer market is demanding organic and non-GMO locally grown food. We’ve been receiving congratulations from all over the country and some from other parts of the world. I am so proud of our County and all those who played a part in Measure M’s win.”
2. Rejecting the “New Normal” and Restoring Library Hours.
The unprecedented Monday closings and 25% cutback in Sonoma County Library hours are now in their sixth year. What started as a post-recession cutback has diminished a vital public service that is at the heart of our community commons.
The Monday and evening closings in more than a dozen libraries countywide have directly impacted the lives of more than 100,000 regular library users, especially our youngest, oldest, and most financially challenged citizens.
Because libraries are funded or, in this case, underfunded, by a dedicated parcel tax, our libraries became the only public service in Sonoma County that was significantly cut back during the recession and never restored.
Through the Restore Library Hours campaign, I have been advocating for reopening the libraries for many of these six years. After four rounds of widely supported citizen petitions and a devastatingly narrow loss on a sales-tax ballot measure two years ago, these dramatically cutback hours threatened to become the new normal.
Thanks to large voter turnout, this year Sonoma County voters approved Measure Y, a tiny 1/8 of 1% countywide sales tax that will raise $12 million annually and save Sonoma County libraries.
The measure needed at least 66.67% of the vote. It got 71%.
Look for our library hours to be fully restored by July 1, if not sooner.
3. Rejecting the “New Normal” and Keeping Our Hospital Emergency Room Open
As I wrote about here in the article Palm Drive Board Candidate Jim Horn’s Campaign of Deception to Close Our Hospital and in our Progressive Sebastopol Voter Guide, the hospital board election was by far the most important local contest of the 2016 election. We wrote, “Progressive Sebastopol urges you to vote only for Gail Thomas and Rob Cary as though your life depends upon it—because the lives of some of us in West County will depend on whether the Sonoma West Medical Center (SWMC) and its emergency room remain open. Shockingly, a slate of three other candidates led by Jim Horn are running on the platform of closing our hospital, selling the building, and illegally diverting our tax revenue to other health services (run by their political allies) that do not include emergency care. Yes, it remains a struggle to sustain SWMC in this day of institutionalized insurance consortiums controlling our choices. But we pay the same tax whether the hospital remains open or closed. There is no reason to vote anyone onto this Board who does not stand for keeping our hospital open and helping it thrive.”
Despite support for hospital closer Jim Horn from Sebastopol’s most powerful political insiders, the politically independent grassroots coalition of citizens and doctors prevailed on election day two years ago, when we elected the Doc and the Cop, and we prevailed again last week. Palm Drive Foundation Chair Gail Thomas received about 40% more votes than Jim Horn, preserving a board majority committed to doing the hard work necessary to keep our hospital open.
This will not be easy, and it will take a village—our village-to make it happen. During the next three weeks I will be joining the Palm Drive Board in asking the intergovernmental LAFCO entity to rescind its misguided approval of the Palm Drive District’s “detachment” effort. Led by Jim Horn and a dozen ardent anti-tax reactionaries, the detachment effort has been Sonoma County’s first Tea Party-like movement. It is heartening to note that this dangerous anti-government “I don’t use it why should I pay for it” effort was soundly repudiated by West County voters on November 8.
Although local taxes will not rise, it is likely that SWMC will require added public support from our County, State, and perhaps federal government to thrive. But a public hospital emergency room that takes all those in need 24/7 is among the most important public services that government can provide to its citizens.
Sonoma West is the only community hospital in modern America to close and then reopen.
Citizens refuse to go quietly into the night of a new normal of reduced life-saving emergency room service for our growing and aging population.
Thankfully, institutionalized, scarcely accessible health care and increased suffering are not what Sonoma County citizens want—or vote for!
4. First Women Board of Supervisor Majority in Sonoma County’s 166 Year History
Lynda Hopkins, our refreshingly independent new County Supervisor for the 5th District, is not just an organic farmer and Stanford-educated land-and-water-use expert. She is the third woman to join a Board of five, meaning that starting January 1, Sonoma County will have its first women-majority Board of Supervisors in its 166-year history
It is no small poetic justice that the man Lynda Hopkins is replacing is not just any Supervisor, but Efren Carrillo. A man who, despite his intellect, hard work and good intentions, engaged in the most notorious, embarrassing act of aggressive male behavior against a woman of any public official in years.
After the one step backward for Sonoma County that was Efren’s humiliating and offensive behavior, we are now taking two steps forward. In handing over power to a women-majority board, we are transforming our local balance of power from a male majority to a no-less-efficient and likely more compassionate female majority For our community, and for our shared ecology, this is reason to celebrate.
We the people of the United States will have to wait until we elect Elizabeth Warren in 2020 (hopefully no later!) to have our first woman President. But we the people of Sonoma County have just made history.
5. Massive Voter Repudiation of Donald Trump Across Sonoma County
It is hard to not to feel that our nation faces dark times ahead, with tragic suffering looming for our immigrant neighbors, for those in need of health care, for the poor, the working class, the middle class, and for communities of color.
Donald Trump, whom I have written at length about here, won the election, and almost half the voters in America, despite his outrageous sexism, his fear mongering, his tax avoidance, his racist vilification of Mexicans and Muslims, voted for him.
But Trump did not win very many votes in our community. Well over three out of four voters in Sonoma County chose Clinton over Trump (70% to 22.8%).
If our nation voted the way Sonoma County voted, Bernie Sanders (who won our county’s Democratic primary by 52 to 47%) would be our next President.
If our fellow Americans had voted for Clinton the way Sonoma County citizens just did, she would be the next President.
America would not have become a utopia overnight, but we would be a lot further along that path than the road backwards that Donald Trump will be taking our government.
But we can take pride in the fact that we have gotten five steps closer to utopia locally, in our thriving beloved community of Sonoma County. And that, my friends, is reason to celebrate!