Second in a series
By TOM HONIG
One of the most frustrating aspects of life in Santa Cruz is how strident public discussions can become. I've always wondering why -- in a small and relatively homogenous community -- differing opinions can get some people so damn mad.
Maybe it's actually because it's a small community. Past political allies can show up in current debates on opposite sides -- and there's nothing like the scorn that that engenders.
But beyond that, it's unclear to me why some of our political debate -- the desalination plan is a good example -- elicit accusations of cronyism and even corruption.
Nowhere is this conflict felt more strongly than in debates over environmental policy. The basic one pits business interests versus environmental protection. The age-old accusation in Santa Cruz holds that what's good for business is probably bad for the environment.
On the recent trip to San Luis Obispo by 69 local community leaders (see the earlier article), that issue stood out front and center. Or, as a representative of the San Luis Obispo Board of Economic Vitality put it, "We decided that we needed economic vitality, but we also need environmental protection." SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill said it this way: "There is a link. I ask people, 'Do you like the beautiful green hills and our greenbelt?' Well, they don't come free."
Most of the visiting Santa Cruzans -- across the spectrum of business, non-profits and government -- seemed to agree. Now the question becomes whether there's community agreement -- and political action --when specific issues come up.
Cabrillo College President Brian King, the prime motivator of the trip, says he's optimistic. "I think it was very powerful to get a key group of leaders together for an extended period of time. A bit removed from home, everyone had an opportunity for extended conversations that can be so difficult to have with our busy lives. Hearing about successes in a similar community with challenges we serve was very encouraging. It's easy to think the hard problems are impossible to solve, and hearing solutions that have worked can be very empowering."
Coming up: More reactions on business and environmental protection.