Opinion: Left of Center

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A Wish List for a New Political Season

By Jean Hastings Ardell

It’s popularly said that all politics is local. In a way, I agree. Politicians can holler all they want out of Washington, D.C. or Sacramento about what can be done to remedy what ails our country, but much of it comes down to what’s being done in our backyard. I’m thinking about our schools that should teach our kids to think critically and that accurately present American history, and police departments that manage to keep the peace without firing multiple gunshots into the backs of unarmed Black men. And that means the citizens of each town and city are the ones who can bring about change for the better. In Laguna Beach, we’ve taken steps forward, thanks to the coalition of recent graduates and current students who organized to call for improvements in the teaching of American history and our culture of systemic racism. The City Council is closing in on the appointment of a Police Task Force to examine our local department’s training and practices.

Recovering as I am from the drama of our recent election, it seemed a good time to put together a wish list as newly elected people come into office. As I write this, some of our local races are undecided, so some of this is surmise. In the 48th Congressional District it looks like Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel will oust Democrat Harley Rouda, who in my opinion served our district well. Rouda would have been an asset under Joe Biden’s presidency, a man known for his collegiality and his ability to reach across the aisle. (It wasn’t a far stretch to do that, as Rouda is, like me, a former Republican.) I hope his name will be included among those that Gov. Gavin Newsom considers to appoint to complete Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s term in the U.S. Senate. No, Rouda is not a person of color and he doesn’t wear a skirt, but he’s too capable to lose.

I’m hoping that our Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris prevails in her re-election bid. She understands and respects the concept of public service. And congratulations to Dave Min, who looks to have been elected to the state Senate.

Bob Whalen is well-respected and will continue to serve on City Council, joined by George Weiss, whom I endorsed. My wish is that he support Toni Iseman, both on council votes and on any untoward outbursts against her. Speaking of outbursts, I thought that some of our local campaign rhetoric was shabby and cruel. Tone matters. I’m adding to my wish list an improvement in civility.

Congratulations to long-time school board member Jan Vickers, who was re-elected to another term, and newcomer Kelly Osborne. Serving on the School Board can be thankless work. My wish is that this new board forge a path toward communicating better and working together.

The appointees to the Police Task Force will be announced soon. I very much hope that they have the courage to ask the tough questions: How much training do our police officers get at their academies? Why does racial profiling continue? (Since I first wrote on systemic racism, I’ve heard additional corroborating stories.) What’s the financial condition of the pension fund? What can be done to refine the complex responsibilities the police bear? How much is the union willing to collaborate on any of this?

Finally, a shoutout to the Black women who did so much to get out the vote for President-Elect Biden. As someone who supports the Black Lives Matter movement (I am not a Marxist or a Socialist), I’ll continue to wear my BLM wristband, a small sign of support for the oft-quoted ideal that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” High-sounding, but it’s not that simple. As former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder once said, “[I]t only bends toward justice because people pull it towards justice. It doesn’t happen on its own.”

That means it’s on us, the people.

Jean is a Laguna Beach resident and member of the Third Street Writers.

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