Agreeing to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable


By Howard Hills

Through his thoughtful commentaries Michael Ray is a sincere and valued voice in our town’s civic discourse. His reflections on the year 2012 (Indy, Dec. 9) invite dialogue.

Ray describes the process for casting votes in the Electoral College as “boring.” Ask the beleaguered people of Egypt, Libya, Iran and Venezuela, when it comes to the means by which leaders acquire or hold on to power, boring is good.

The U.N. now reports that the ruling dictator in Syria killed more than 60,000 of his own citizens in an attempt to stay in power, using everything from snipers to missiles. Meanwhile, in America – the most powerful nation on earth – we peacefully chose leaders. Ray laments the lack of excitement election night 2012 because the race was not as close as the media predicted, but I know he agrees the relative “boredom” of our elections is a blessing.

Ray is right about the misguided Social Host Ordinance, adopted in the name of keeping kids safe but putting the most at-risk kids more at risk. The salaried public school and city employees who lobbied for the SHO under the watchful eyes of the elected officials who control their income and job security failed to justify making parents agents of the government in their own homes. Bravo for Mayor Kelly Boyd and Council member Steve Dicterow, who resoundingly voted no after listening to the testimony and realizing the opposition held the high ground.

But a three-vote majority of the City Council chose government intervention in private family and community social processes that actually have brought teen drinking down in recent years. Ironically, the model SHO supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) includes all illegal substances, because limiting the SHO to alcohol provides an incentive for irresponsible adults to permit kids in their home to use marijuana, prescription drugs and cocaine rather than risk being busted under the SHO. Pot and pill dealers at LBHS no doubt like the alcohol-only SHO.

Ray stumbles into a minefield when he attributes the 2012 defeat of the flawed open space parcel tax to the undue influence of money and a “well-funded campaign” by those who opposed the sloppily written ballot measure. Wrong. Village Laguna lobbyists and other supporters of the parcel tax outspent the opposition Laguna Beach Taxpayers Association well over 10-to-1. LBTA was David supporting open space but not new taxes for it, up against the pro-tax Goliath, who gave no critical details on how $1.5 million of our money would be used annually for 20 years.

Let’s hope 2013 will be a year when we all are a little more like Michael Ray, able to disagree boldly on issues without being disagreeable with each other.  Let’s truly tolerate differences instead of being tolerant only of sameness, and understand that the absence of real differences is the opposite of real diversity.

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