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Sonoma County Gazette
Low Wages - High rent

OPINION - Rich and Powerful
vs. Affordable Housing
This is Unacceptable!

Aug 13, 2018
by Jay Beckwith


As a reader of the Gazette, you have a secret power. No kidding. I’m going to reveal to your secret power if you promise only to use it for good. OK?

What would you do if you were invisible? Rob a bank? Sneak in the girl’s locker room? Or use your power for good?

The fact is, to certain people you are invisible. Let me prove it to you.

See, there are two kinds of people out there. One group believe in and live with love and generosity. The other group believes in greed and bias.

When I say believe in, what I mean is that, according to the most recent neuroscience, their brain is actually hardwired to see the world in these ways. Now very few people are all one sided or the other. For example, everyone has some biases, which for the most part are unconscious. If you see a homeless person are you repelled? If you see a Latino driving a new Mercedes, do you wonder where he got the money? If you see someone covered in tattoos do you think … well, you get the idea. The point is, if you are in the love and generosity camp, you work at being aware of these biases and try to just observe them and move on as you might in meditation.

If you take more than you need, like when you’re at the all-you-can-eat buffet, that is being greedy. For some people, that’s occasional bad manners. For others, it’s a way of life. Remember, its hardwired into their brain and is automatic. They don’t even think about it.

Now for your secret power and how to use it. The thing is that for most of the greed and bias folks, you, me and most of the readers of theGazette are probably invisible. Don’t believe me? Let me prove it to you by relating a current event regarding housing.

Housing Bond

As you undoubtedly have heard, the County proposed a $300 million bond issue to address the housing crisis. Those funds would have been leveraged two or three times and generate enough funds to make a significant impact. The surveys showed that the vast majority of residents supported the measure. Great, right?

Well not so great, a few wealthy and well-connected people felt compelled to put their greed and bias ahead of what is good for the county.

As the Press Democrat reported:

“Plans for a $300 million housing bond to support the construction of affordable housing in Sonoma County appear to have fallen apart after influential agriculture and business groups opposed the idea.”

All they had to do was threaten to oppose the measure, and because bonds are a complex proposition and funding for a campaign is tight, the measure has been tabled. So those who have been externalizing their costs for housing for labor for decades will now be bailed out by our towns picking up the slack, such as Santa Rosa and hopefully Healdsburg.

How can such a few people have such power? For one, to these folks, you, my dear reader, are invisible. Even the idea of you having any say is to them, unthinkable, literally. The other fact is that money and power tend to be drawn together. It’s like the 3rd law of thermodynamics or something. Societies for eons have had to grapple with this, often with bloodshed, when the disparity in wealth gets so far askew that the whole economy grinds to a halt. My guess is that we are close to that tipping point.

This is Unacceptable!

It seems like every day there is yet another outrage by the greedy and biased crowd. We want to fight back but what can we do? It’s so complicated. I’m just one person. My life is so demanding I just don’t have time. Enough with the excuses!

STEP ONE - Here’s what we are doing and need to do a lot more of:

1)   Pick a cause, find a project, make a commitment, anything that will do good.

2)   Work on yourself to be healthy in mind and body, give yourself a bit of love.

STEP TWO – Call out what’s really happening

1)   When we see greed and bias call it out.

2)   Don’t allow those who are abusing their wealth and power to continue to be anonymous. Name them and shame them (in a loving way).

STEP THREE – Wake up!

When building codes become so onerous that the resulting homes will be too expensive for most people to buy, they are just plain wrong and need to be changed and/or new technology employed such as factory production. We as a community have allowed codes to become a weapon of the greedy and biased.

When we allow farms to be converted into industrial agribusiness, producing massive profits without adequate accountability for labor and the environment, we need to demand corrections to policies and land use rules.

The whole Bay Area is a massive profit generating machine. We have already seen how this has impacted our area. Big money is headed towards Sonoma County like a tsunami!

We, the invisible, need to plan for how to accommodate this tsunami, for we cannot stop it. But you can be sure that the greedy and the biased will welcome it, in ways that will not be loving and generous.


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