Nurturing new solutions rather than old grudges


By on Mon, October 26, 2009

James D. Johnson is a candidate for Coastside County Water District board, and this letter was unsolicited. All candidates for Coastside offices are welcome to post letters to Coastsider. If you have any questions, email [email protected]

I moved to the Coastside from San Mateo three years ago, previously in Marin County I had worked in various roles with the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, San Anselmo Neighborhood Water Oversight Committee and the Volunteer Fire Department. Once firmly planted here, I became interested in working on our local water issues, which are key to our future as a society. 

After watching the recent City Council forum and participating in MCC’s forum for a board position on the Coastside County Water District, I am perplexed by the persistence of old feuds despite statements from the candidates supporting the environment, growth Measure D, avowed adherence to Local Coastal Programs, and seeming accord with the Coastal Act.

Although the candidates exhibit civility, there is overt hostility on the periphery among those who support one candidate or another.  Most of the rancor seems directed at candidates who are unambiguous in their support of sound environmental practices and strong business growth.

Being late to the fray, I prefer to focus on the problems at hand rather than nurture old grudges.  I believe that many of us do not see the environment and local economic concerns as mutually exclusive and understand that we have an imminent need for competent, communicative leaders.

Many also understand that we are at a crossroads regarding how we should be governed.  We have two opposing camps—not the right and the left—but between those who see only a polarized locality with friends and enemies, and those of us who believe we need to achieve a sustainable future through an open process with all of the governed, not just our friends.

In my frequent conversations with local leaders and subject area experts I detect multiple possibilities for compromises that will benefit the community, both in the near and long term.  But repeatedly people have informed me that this or that person can not be trusted and represents the enemy. 

The cumulative effect is a “social poisoning” that precludes open conversation and a lack of common understanding of both the challenges and opportunities we face.  Forgotten in this rush to judgment are environmentally sensitive developers, supporters for sustainable business, and a local government that serves the needs of ordinary people rather than those of the special interests.

As a result, we suffer political whiplash while the long term needs for the community—e.g. planned growth that considers water shortages, coastal impact, and quality of life, disaster planning, cooperation among relevant agencies, etc.—are sidelined as our politicians bicker.

I am proud to be endorsed by the Sierra Club, Coastside Democrats and the League for Coastside Protection.  While there may be issues on which we don’t see eye-to-eye, these groups’ record of concern for ordinary individuals, the environment and protection of the coast are values that I endorse and espouse.

I have met many of you in my door-to-door campaign who say you are tired of the old feud and want more than anything to see better governing.  This election is as much about a change of tone as it is about policy. We need to try to find ways to move ahead, and we need this desperately.

I urge everyone to participate—ask questions, insist on answers and, please make it a point to vote on November 3rd.

James D. Johnson

October 25, 2009