By Cody Petterson
Regarding today's vote for San Diego City Council President, I'm going to spare all of you the dozens of pages I've written and rewritten over the last several weeks, and simply point out that this is the most consequential environmental vote that this Council will cast for the foreseeable future. One of the Councilmembers-Elect told a delegation the other day that whomever they voted for, they were still going to fight for a robust environmental and progressive agenda. The statement is self-evidently disingenuous.
The vote for council president is about setting the agenda, literally and figuratively, and it is absurd to claim that one is committed to prioritizing environmental and equity concerns while casting a vote that commits the Council to an agenda that is at best indifferent to them. This vote will determine whether efforts to protect our environment, confront the climate emergency, and foster a more equitable society face a head wind or a tail wind. It is a vote that will impact hundreds of other votes. It will have enduring consequences for our environment, and for the political futures of the voting councilmembers. As it should.
It is a vote that everyone now engaged in San Diego politics will remember, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum, just as we remember, and in many ways are still living with the consequences of the Alvarez-Cole vote. The Chamber of Commerce and the BIA will remember. The POA will certainly remember and attempt to impose consequences, precisely because its leadership believes it will have persistent consequences for its members. But so too will the hundreds of organizers, activists, civic leaders, and the dozens of civil society organizations on the other side precisely because of, and in proportion to, the consequences they believe it will have for the environment, equity, and justice.
That is good. Consequences are good. The political consequences of a vote should be directly proportional to the magnitude of their impacts on the things we value. On our lives. On our families. On our world.
That is the essence of a genuine politics: to take responsibility for the broader consequences of one's decisions and actions, and to accept and weather the electoral and political consequence for oneself. Toward the end of his life, German sociologist and political economist Max Weber said, "It is immensely moving when a mature person—no matter whether old or young in years—is aware of a responsibility for the consequences of their conduct and really feels such responsibility with heart and soul. They then act by following an ethic of responsibility and somewhere they reach the point where they say: 'Here I stand; I can do no other.' That is something genuinely human and moving. And every one of us who is not spiritually dead must realize the possibility of finding themselves at some time in that position."
The Councilmembers will find themselves on the dais this afternoon in precisely such a position, some of them for the first time. May they think first and foremost of the consequences of their decision for our communities and our environment. May they always put the common good highest. Peace.
Photo by John Loughlin
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