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What happened, Arroyo Grande? 

My first memory of local politics dates to when I was 10 years old. It was a crisp, early November night in Arroyo Grande and my cheeks were rosy from running around outside with a few friends. I was tired; after all, it was later than I was normally allowed to stay up when the results for the City Council race finally came in. A slight hush fell over the celebrating crowd at Branch Street Deli when the fallen opponent came through the front doors, having walked a few yards from his own gathering at Andreini’s. With his head held high and an air of genuine respect, he shook the hand of his defeater and said, “Congratulations.”

Does this sound like Mayberry to you? It certainly does to me, but I take solace in the fact that this type of political landscape used to exist here on our beautiful coast. In fact, I have countless fond memories like this one. Eighteen years later, the environment of local politics described above is just that: a distant memory.

In the past two years, I have watched a woman stand at the dais of Arroyo Grande City Hall and work herself into a red-faced rage, barely able to speak due to unabated fury directed toward a man whose family used to join hers around the dinner table in her home. I have seen a reputable and kind-hearted man publicly accused of adultery and not only pushed out of his job, but also out of this town. I have read false accounts of back-room meetings, concealed weapons, and burials of “evidence.” I have seen intelligent, reasonable members of this community influenced (dare I say brainwashed) by a small group of rousers with no regard for the truth. I have watched our tight-knit community fall to pieces.

Now, I am not suggesting that we strive to be Mayberry. I am not suggesting that we sit around a fire and sing “Kumbaya.” I am also not suggesting that we elect people who hold no opinion, who never raise their voices, and who are at the mercy of fanatic puppeteers. What I am suggesting is that we take a step back, look collectively into the mirror and ask ourselves, are we satisfied with the environment that we’ve created, with the behavior that we’ve condoned? Can we lay our heads down after casting our ballots this year and sleep soundly knowing that we’ve done our best to put stable, proven leaders into office?

Mayberry is not realistic, but restoration of civility and reason are.

To the individuals who have courageously entered (or re-entered) the arena of the local election, an arena wrought with character assassination and falsehoods: I applaud you. I thank you. I voted for you.

-- Lauren M. Ferrara - Arroyo Grande

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