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Pitchforks or Rakes?

Picking and choosing on Election Day 2016



A few weeks back, the notoriously Trumpian sheriff of Milwaukee County, David Clarke, rallied for a civil war against all things Clinton when he tweeted that it's "pitchforks and torches time" in America. In the year of unhinged pitchfork politics, will North Bay residents take up the rakes instead? Will they at long last vote out the leaf blowers?

The perennial fight in the city of Sonoma pits landscapers and maintenance workers against low-decibel residents loudly demanding peace and quiet, already. It's been a too-long campaign season as it is. And while the stakes in Sonoma aren't as high as, say, a proposed no-fly zone over Aleppo, for the people there, and around the North Bay, key local measures and races this year hit at quality-of-life concerns, housing affordability, the encroaching sprawl, taxes and schools—with a sprinkle of law and order thrown in.

As for the leaf blowers, this paper stands with the rake-and-a-broom crowd and against the contraptions. As we strive to respectfully ban the blowers, it is essential to contain the blowhards wherever possible, and create new economic opportunities of a Clinton-in-coal-country variety for the salt of the earth of Sonoma.

In the year of the pitchfork, the silent majority may after all turn out to be the quietly outraged moms of Montana who plan to vote for Hillary despite the odds in their state, and whatever their husband might think. With that spirit fully and sincerely in place, these endorsements are all offered through a metric that values and rewards a retrenchment to a core politics of kindness and decency, that amplifies against-the-odds strivers, and that seeks out bona fide freaks and/or Renaissance men (and women) wherever possible. In the year of the pitchfork, the North Bay will lead the way as uncertain winds of Trumpian fury loom. Join me as we unleash the dogs of empathy for this curated set of choices.

Rosaura Segura is one of two candidates running for Napa Valley College Area 6 trustee. She's a grape grower and farmer, and partner in the groundbreaking Encanto Vineyards. Encanto opened in 2011 and is one of very few Mexican-American-owned vineyards in California or the nation. Segura's stature is commendable and especially so given the vulnerable immigrant population that does much of the heavy lifting in the fields. But Napa has enough representation from the grape sector, period; her competitor is a licensed social worker who has been in the local education trenches for years, so Debbie Alter-Starr gets the endorsement.

Ditto Mariko Yamada in her race for State Senate against Bill Dodd. I like Dodd, he's a cheerful and hard-working Tim Kaine–ish sort of formerly Republican, pro-choice, pro-biz dude. But Yamada is a former social worker and she's tuned in to elder issues, and I like that her ads keep popping up on Politico even if you don't see much sign of her anywhere else. Yamada for State Senate District 3.

As this paper offers its inevitable if intensely wary endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president, let's remember that it will take a village to find the teachable moment when the election passes and parents no longer fret about what the orange creep might say on TV. The big right-wingnut gamble on Trump appears not to have paid off, and my money's on the multiple school ballots circulating around the North Bay, with a hearty-ho endorsement on all fronts from these quarters. And as we also offer the inevitable but cautiously enthusiastic endorsement of Jared Huffman for another term in Congress, here's a hearty endorsement for the schools-and-education tax in Marin's Measure A, and here's a shout-out to another Napa Valley College trustee candidate, in Area 5, Jennifer Baker, because she's a librarian.

Huffman has nominal opposition from a perennial Republican-cashier candidate, but 10th District State Assemblyman Marc Levine is being challenged by Roni Jacobi, a fellow Democrat who was the second-most vote getter in the June primary, and is on the ticket thanks to California's non-party-humping "jungle" primary system. Levine has pushed out some good and popular policies in his three terms in the Assembly—ammo-centric gun-control measures, a revolving-door ban for departing lawmakers to lobby their former colleagues, the renamed Robin Williams Tunnel—but Jacobi is more of our type of progressive, with a relentless focus on climate-change impacts.

Jacobi's supporters often highlight that their candidate is the only one in the state who signed on with a pledge to ramp up the fight against the climate crisis to World War II levels of national action. The former Santa Rosa city councilwoman helped that town create its landmark Climate Action Plan, and she was raised by her grandparents, who were Republican Austrian immigrants. That's kind of temptingly exotic for these parts, and seals the deal. Jacobi for Assembly!

On the school front, of special note are school board races in Napa and the Sausalito-Marin City district. The upshot in Napa County this year is that there are not a lot of races and several are uncontested, but there's an open seat on the Napa Valley Unified School District with four candidates vying for the position. The Napa Valley Register reported over the summer that there was scant interest among Napans to run for the office, but four citizens stepped up and in doing so made this race a very tough call to endorse.

Here's the breakdown: Icela Martin is a single mom who recently started a groundbreaking agricultural-safety business in the county. Jesse Allured is an emergency-services administrator with a daughter in the district and one of two whistleblowers who recently highlighted big deficiencies in the county's EMS system. Jessica De Lasaux is a sustainability consultant who co-runs a local yoga bodywork program called YogaNV. She has a son who is going into kindergarten next year and brings a mindful millennial moment to the race. Susan Larson Bouwer lists her occupations as "mom" and "graduate student," and she'll complete an organizational-studies masters next spring, always good training for a public servant. Bouwer graduated from the district and raised three children locally.

Bottom line: These are all great choices. Wouldn't it be great if we could create a super-candidate drawn from the best of the admirable qualities of all these candidates? A candidate of such expansive base of knowledge and wealth of kindness that they could fairly say, "I alone can fix it"?

OK, so maybe not. Gotta go with Icela Martin for NVUSD, the single-mom, small businesswoman whose professional and civic work is already front-in-center in helping out a vulnerable and often uninsured workforce.

The Marin City-Sausalito school board charter fight may be the roughest and highest profile of any local race in the North Bay. There's an ongoing court case that's looking at how the budget is allocated in the district, which comprises two schools: the Willow Creek Academy, a charter school in Sausalito that has about 450 students; and the Bayside Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy in Marin City, with a little over a hundred students. Over the summer, reports surfaced that the Marin City school had been chronically shorted in the school board's budgets, to much detrimental effect on the kids, many of whom hail from the poorer side of 101. Now the Department of Justice is being called into the suit, and if you make an anagram of "Sausalito Marin City," you wind up with "A tony racialism suit." Weird but true in this mixed-up campaign season.

The Sausalito-Marin City board now has a 3–2 majority of charter-school connected individuals, including the head of the charter that runs Willow Creek, William Ziegler. David Suto and Debra Turner are running to replace Ziegler and board member Caroline Van Alst. Given what's already known about the misallocated budget, a housecleaning at the school board is in order, so we endorse Suto and Turner for the Marin-Sausalito School Board.

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