This week of celebrating our nation’s independence is a good time for Americans to unite. All Americans, I believe, are proud to fly our flag this week, as we remember the Declaration’s assertion that we are all created equal, and endowed with the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
We are also united when we pledge in the flag salute that our country is indivisible and will provide liberty and justice for all. The words of declaration and allegiance remind us that unity is more important than division. No person or group should presume that they have a monopoly on patriotism or the love of our flag and country.
Closely related to unity is collaboration — the ability, in spite of whatever differences we have, to work together for the common good, just as the founding fathers united in both the Declaration and the Constitution to find the ideas and words on which they could agree.
This sense of collaboration, present in 1776, is often absent in our current federal government, where our elected officials act less like representatives of the people and the common good and more like politicians out to declare themselves winners and others losers, rather than finding common ground for the good of all.
Every so often, however, on the local level we can thankfully find examples of elected officials working together for the common good. One such example is the inclusion in the 2018-19 California state budget of funding for a third fire station in Los Banos. This came about because people with sometimes differing political philosophies found a way to work together for the good of the people, in this case the people of Los Banos.
One press release I read noted that state Assemblyman Adam Gray, Merced County Supervisor Scott Silveira and Los Banos Mayor Mike Villalta “worked together” to secure $5 million in the state budget “to support the construction of a multipurpose fire station, emergency operations center and regional training facility in Los Banos.”
The amount in the state budget isn’t enough by itself to pay for this facility, but if leveraged with local funds, would go a long way to make it happen. According to Gray, “With an increasingly intense fire season and significant population growth in Los Banos and surrounding communities, the need for additional fire facilities is clear.”
“This facility, Gray added, “will help to improve response times in the city and better integrate local and regional emergency services to assist neighboring counties and react to statewide disasters.”
Readers who know Gray, Silveira and Villalta know that they don’t always agree, and that persons who represent the state, the county, and the city often have divergent views. But in this case they all came together.
I happen to run into Silveira recently and asked him how was this possible. He said it’s because he, like many others, have decided that the most important political party today is not the Democratic or the Republican but the GSD party.
“What is the GSD party? I asked Scott. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“GSD,” replied Scott, “stands for ‘Get Stuff Done.’” Members of this very informal and loosely organized “party,” Scott explained, simply want to find ways to go beyond differences of opinion and accomplish things.
I immediately decided I like this new political approach, and I think most voters do, too. Most people are tired of politicians bickering and name calling. Most people would like a return to the approach of compromise and collaboration used by this country’s founding fathers to create a declaration and constitution of a new country that would work better.
My suggestion to everyone in elected office, especially locally, is to take this approach and accomplish things. Feel free to debate issues. Feel free to stick to your principles. But please recognize that we the people have more common interests than differing opinions. And within that commonality, find ways to work together to GET STUFF DONE.
In memoriam: Los Banos will miss George Hiatt, one of the kindest men I have ever known. I came to know George when I moved to Los Banos 48 years ago. He always treated me and my family with kindness and courtesy.
Later I came to know George even better as fellow member of the Los Banos Rotary Club. He was selected as the club’s outstanding “Quiet Rotarian,” a person who exemplifies the Rotary motto of service above self without fanfare or need of recognition. That was the George I knew, from the first day I met him until the day he died.
I’m sure his wife Mary, for whom he cared deeply, will miss George the most. But everyone who knew George, especially those of us who knew him well, will dearly miss him, too.