Talking With Elected Officials at Occupy Santa Rosa

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Gary Wysocky, Santa Rosa City Council

Why did you decide to come down here today?

This is democracy. It’s democracy.

This is also your turf, basically, City Hall.

Yeah, I’m an elected councilman, and it’s my responsibility to see that the nonviolent protest stays nonviolent.

Do you think it’s interesting that this protest is happening at City Hall, where city workers have seen their pensions and benefits under attack?

All workers have had their pensions and benefits under attack. They’re just the latest. You know, I’ve been quoted as being against some of those very same benefits and pensions, but only because it’s breaking our budget and there are certain elements that haven’t had to make any sacrifices. There’s a lot of people hurting out in our community, and in communities across the country. We have to start realizing we have to take care of each other.

What’s your overall feeling about today—positive?

It’s positive. I hope that folks who are coming out for the first time can sustain this, because elections matter. When I started community organizing, I realized that we can have the facts, we can have the majority of the people in the room, but if we didn’t have the majority of the people behind the dias that are actually voting to make the decision, it didn’t matter. And that’s the lesson here. We have to stay focused, stay on top of our electeds, and stay on top of the political process.

Did you worry that it might be a liability for you politically to show up today?

That’s not why I’m serving. No, I’m serving so we can have a change. So the next generation can have a shot at an American Dream. Because they don’t have it right now. They don’t have it. The income disparity keeps getting bigger and bigger, and the powers that be just seem to want to pit us against each other. That’s why I’m serving, If I lose an election because I’m here, well, I can’t think of any better reason to lose an election.

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Michael Allen, State Assembly

Why did you decide to some down here today?

Actually, I’ve been coming to all the occupy events. Because I feel that people are absolutely on the right track. I do think, though, that people have to focus on getting a publicly financed electoral system so that we can drain the money out of politics. I think also we need to do something about the situation where corporations have been determined to be people, because essentially it creates a very unnatural situation where all the power gravitates toward the top. If this is a democracy, and we still have the vote, now’s the time to change things before it’s too late. Someone told me yesterday, “Michael, I don’t want to live in a plutocracy.” And I said, “I think we’re already there.”

How’s your feeling about today? Do you have hope for the future of this movement?

It’s positive, and I agree with a lot of the speakers that it’s good to be angry, but you have to harness that anger for something constructive. But it’s good to have that energy, because that anger should be the energy to say, “I want to work on this particular cause to change things for the better.” That’s what we have to do.

You’re no stranger to things like this, but did you worry at all that this might be a liability politically to be here today?

No. That’s not who I am. I’ve never minced words about who I am and what I stand for.

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Susan Gorin, Santa Rosa City Council

Why did you decide to come down here today?

How could I not come down here today? I came of age in the ’60s, and it’s about time that people in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County are angry. We in local government have been feeling this pinch for a number of years. The public blames the workers, and the pensions—it’s not that. It’s a collapsed economic system. We know where it started, and I think it’s really important that we direct our energies in correctly identifying that we want to see some serious fixes in our banking system and economic system.

Do you think it’s interesting that his is happening at City Hall, where worker’s pensions and benefits have been scrutinized?

I think the people coming to City Hall are not complaining about the workers, they’re in solidarity with the workers. It’s just unfortunate that we have events going on in Juilliard Park today, events going on in Courthouse Square, which is our free speech zone. If there was not an event in Courthouse Square, it would have been there. But the folks here today are not angry at City Hall. They’re not angry about the pensions. They’re in solidarity with the workers. This is a visible statement, but it’s not against the city, it’s not against the county, it’s not against government.

Did you worry at all that your presence here today might be a liability politically?

No. No. First of all, I feel a sense of responsibility, because I am a member of the city council, and I wanted to make sure that the crowds were orderly and respectful. And clearly, that was a message that was communicated effectively by the organizers of today’s demonstration. So I wanted to just make sure that the people were not making messes that city workers would have to clean up. And I wanted to join in, quite frankly, and share the frustration of so many people about our failed economics, right here, right now.

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