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Adios

Columnist: Mike Martini
July, 2015 Issue
Columnist

Mike Martini
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People who disagree aren't stupid, evil or on the take.

 
There have been many life lessons learned in my 62 years. I’ll also confess to a lot of skipped classes. There’s still a lot to learn, but an education it is.
 
Like most, I don’t suffer from self-doubt. We know we’re right and people who disagree can disagree only due to their stupidity. There are two other options: They’re evil or on the take. I saw this time and again sitting as a city council member. It’s at the root of most of the disagreements in the community.
 
Jonathan Haidt wrote the incredible The Righteous Mind, exploring why good people are divided by politics and religion. In a number of studies, it’s pointed out that we use facts to support our opinions rather than using facts to form them. Look at the debate for or against climate change, vaccinations or GMOs. Science is manipulated to support one’s position.
 
The lesson learned is that people who disagree aren’t stupid, evil or on the take. People who disagree do just that—they disagree. If we understand that alone, we stand a better chance of finding common ground. Rather than polarization and demonization, we can make progress.
 
I’ve also been blessed with meeting a lot of very creative, talented and successful people in Sonoma County. The common thread is a balance of talent, hard work and luck. Whether it’s music, writing, public speaking or business, they all make it look so easy and effortless. Therein lies the lesson—because it looks so easy, we assume we can do it too. A microphone in the hands of the unprepared is an ugly thing.
 
I’m neither a writer nor a columnist. I’m a businessperson and a policy junkie. I’ve been given this great opportunity and, only with the help of an editor, Julie Fadda Powers, does any of this come off. It’s a testament to her skills, not mine.
 
I say I’m a policy junkie, not a policy expert. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as an expert. You can get a degree in political science, but that doesn’t prepare you to form policy. Policy is fluid and ever-evolving. It is, to many people’s chagrin, more reactive than it is proactive. The lesson learned is that the best policy comes when more are involved. It isn’t efficient, it’s messy, but the best is the result of a lot of input.
 
That’s why I’m against professional politicians. I don’t think anyone should make a career out of elected office. The cynic in me sees the position as a drug. There’s a rush and soon you see greater importance in what you are rather than who you are. There’s a host of people blowing smoke up your ass, and you lose sight of what’s important. You spend more time staying elected than performing the job you were elected to do.
 
Better is an engaged electorate. When this nation started, it started with part-time legislators. It wasn’t perfect, as they were all white, male and wealthy. Today, we can draw from a greater pool that includes women, minorities and the working class. We need farmers, dentists, truck drivers, health care workers and teachers. We don’t need any more attorneys.
 
Yes, it’s rigged against them because we’ve set the commitment and the cost out of the reach (or the interest) of so many. It’s also so hard to be under the scrutiny of the media and community. This eases if you’re less worried about re-election.
 
With these lessons learned, it’s time to say, “Adios.” I’ve had more than a year to say my piece. There are a lot more voices in this great community that need to be heard. Many will disagree with me and many will be better writers. They’ll come from different backgrounds and different professions. They’ll see things in a different light and, when put all together in this policy soup, it will be a better community.
 
Finally, thanks to Norm Rosinski and all the folks at NorthBay biz. It’s a great forum and a great resource. Sonoma County is better off for having them.


 

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