By Ruth Gadebusch
This month I return to my advocacy for one community working together. What is so difficult about working together? We occupy one small segment of this planet most assuredly requiring us to share its resources. Competing where one group wins and another loses hardly seems the answer. In fact, I daresay, the results are the opposite to developing the whole with benefits for all.
Just look at a map of the area and see all those spots of county islands that should make any thinking person ask why they are not part of the city that surrounds them. They certainly are affected by the actions of that city. Yet they have no vote in that city. Once again, the Old Fig Garden area is looking how best to serve its fire protection needs. My question is, does it have to be one or the other? Could some sort of consolidation (beyond the present arrangement) serve all better? An even bigger question is that of consolidating of some—if not all—of the city and county functions.
True confession: I live in a county island. In my more politically innocent days, it never occurred to me that such an urban appearing area was considered rural. Fortunately, we are a part of the Fresno Unified School District, fulfilling the public school role of the only agency designed for developing commonality in this diverse nation. It may not be perfect, but nothing else has even come close.
Then there are the many varied districts. Could the county serve all, eliminating some overlap/duplication or just plain increased interest? We seldom hear much from many of them until election time and then have little information available regarding the candidates. Yes, I understand the principle of local control, the government nearest the people, etc.; however, many are so obscure as to arouse little interest from possible candidates.
Should we be more concerned about those who don’t vote at all or those who vote with little or no knowledge? Either way, the results hardly serve the community. Of course, it is much easier just to complain than to act. I have heard too many flippantly state that s/he has no interest in politics with the implication that it is all bad. Wrong! It is bad when we do not inform ourselves or fail to take advantage of what so many in the world fight for, including those who provided the opportunity for us.
My thinking on this subject was triggered by again looking at that map of the voting pattern of our mayor’s race two elections past. My concern is not to judge the winning candidate’s subsequent service but for what the clear-cut division says about our community. Never have I seen a community any more divided. Two sections of approximately equal population took totally opposite paths. The outcome was decided by the citizens of one group turning out to vote in much greater proportion than the other. Both groups had much at stake but one used its power. One did not and is left feeling powerless. Wrong! The power was there. It simply was not used.
Thus was our community left with two parts, neither having sufficient appreciation of the other. Yet, our fate is one. We cannot go our separate ways and expect to all live happily ever after. Working together is our challenge, hackneyed as it may sound. My sense is that we mostly want the same, but different cultures express it differently. It is respect that is required. Denigration, disparaging, defaming, demeaning, belittling is hardly the answer. Someone disagreeing is still worthy of consideration.
Arguably, Fresno has people as diverse as anywhere on the planet. Each should be recognized and appreciated for what s/he brings to the community. That is what makes us special. Can’t we work together to let each shine? Together we thrive. We are one.
Ruth Gadebusch is a veteran and a community activist, a former member of the Fresno Unified School Board and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and an emeritus member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Civic Education