Coffee and Candidates • Chico News & Review

This column is part of the October 6 election edition of CN&R. For more stories on the 2022 general election, click here.

In preparation for this election issue, CN&R Contributing Editor Evan Tuchinsky and I sat down and spoke face-to-face with 12 of the people running for local office in the upcoming election. Over the course of a week in September, we met on neutral ground, in public places, whether it was Daycamp Coffee or Upper Crust Bakery & Cafe, and had very nice, but frank, conversations with all the Unified School District board candidates. of Chico and most of the people running for seats on the Chico City Council.

The purpose, of course, was to get to know the candidates before making decisions about our sponsorships (see “The CN&R recommends”). Campaign slogans and social media hot shots can be entertaining, but we learn a lot more about how someone might operate in public office by having a discussion in person.

We can also clarify the similarities and differences of the candidates on local issues, and there was one in particular on each person’s mind. Without exception, every candidate at some point during these meetings expressed frustration with how communication in politics has deteriorated in recent years and, in the case of the school board, the fact that things have gotten political.

“Polarized” and “disgusting” were some of the words that came up.

This issue has come to my attention because, on the one hand, everyone seems to agree that things have gotten worse in this regard during the Trump years and after Trump. Second, if the candidates, and the rest of our elected officials, chose to act on this issue by committing to empathetic communication (with each other and with their constituents), they would very likely increase their effectiveness in addressing all other issues. Imagine how much they could do!

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So, I ask you local public servants: Do it now!

Would your base abandon you for listening kindly, debating respectfully, and resisting demonizing those with different beliefs? This is the easiest decision in the world, right?

Opinions about solutions to problems and how to improve our community will, of course, vary from person to person, often due to fundamental differences. Very few people will change their political ideology when challenged by someone with an opposing point of view (indeed, disagreement on issues is often healthy for democracy), and few will retract their core beliefs.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t fight for what they think is right. Just know that groups, sides, teams, whatever you want to call them, are probably established and aren’t going away any time soon. No matter how much we disagree with the people on the other side, if we want to solve problems and improve together, we have no choice but to work together. There’s a difference between saying, “Your ideas are terrible” and saying, “You’re terrible,” and perhaps making that distinction and committing to listening to others (even if your side is in power) is enough to move you forward.

It’s worth a try.

Jason Cassidy is editor of Chico News & Review

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