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Ben Boyce
Progressive Majority Coalition
Ben Boyce

Setting the new political tone

I fully expect that the county Chamber or the Golden State Restaurant Association will deploy some local business spokespeople to complain about the new Sonoma minimum wage ordinance. There is a kernel of truth in their assertion.   Historically, small business retailers have often relied on wage arbitrage based on the lack of public policy remedies to eke out a profit in a crowded market. The restaurant business has an even worse track record. Predominantly a working class female and immigrant job sector, the food service industry has been a substandard wage sector for decades.  The legal protections for food service workers’ wages and benefits are thin due to a network of well-funded conservative think tanks, policy shops, and legal/PR lobby firms dedicated to maintaining this cruel and unjust state of affairs.   For a sufficiently capitalized business, the standard 1-2% drop in the bosses’ profit margin due to newly enacted minimum wage laws will not fundamentally change the class status of the owners. It is not a free market crisis. It’s just another cost of doing business legally. The new wage standards have been set in the public interest. The accumulation of these minor shifts in policy is the step-by-step process by which we create a vibrant working class economy and widely shared prosperity.  The fires and floods of the last two years have raised the acute crisis of the mismatch between housing and wages in the Valley to the breaking point. I commend the Sonoma City Council for responding appropriately to an issue of this magnitude. The new city council is getting me re-engaged with local politics. I like their style and their demeanor.  As long as I stay out of land-use and development issues, I’m pretty safe. Years back, as a naïve, newly-minted grad school MPA, I was shocked at how intense, visceral, and personal local development issues can be. I thought that the evidence in favor of new urban planning, transit-oriented development, raising the wage floor with living wage ordinances, and increasing union density were widely shared political values, certainly among those who call themselves liberals. Wrong. Many fine local folks whom I would even identify as progressive are in fierce opposition to my core views on regional urban planning. So I have been told, repeatedly. Watching this new council in action encourages me. Mayor Harrington may ruffle some feathers, but she runs a tight ship and gets results. The meetings move along briskly: testimony from staff, expert witnesses, and the public are heard, in great detail, over iterative legislative processes. After final comments, the discussion is closed; the mayor calls for a vote and lets the chips fall according to the merits of the measure. This is how to get it done. Misuse of public process to defeat by delay erodes public faith in our political institutions. At my peril, I will note that the same caution applies to opponents of proposed developments. Throwing every possible legal log on the tracks to stop a development, even after it is clear that the issue has been resolved under code, is another form of abuse of public process. We have to make decisions and then seek to implement them in earnest.   That’s my concept of what good government is about: getting real results that materially benefit the greatest good for the greatest number. That’s the kind of action I like to see in my elected officials. Well done, Mayor Amy Harrington, councilman Logan Harvey, and councilwoman Rachel Hundley. Keep up the good work.          
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Facebook will pay $5.5 billion fine in pennies, says angry Zuckerburg 
> Journal of Unintended Consequences - July 16th, 2019
Wear black or white on a hot day? Here’s the data
> Wired - July 10th, 2019
Two men shot after Santa Rosa gender reveal party
> Sonoma County Sheriff - July 1st, 2019
The science of PMS food cravings
> The Conversation - July 1st, 2019
Feds resurrect plan to drop mouse poison onto the Farallone Islands 
> Point Reyes Light - June 28th, 2019
Supreme Court ruling loosens wine-shipping laws
> Wine-searcher - June 28th, 2019
Creepy stalker arrested for harassing woman in County park
> Sonoma County Sheriff - June 25th, 2019
Live view from the new Fire Alert Camera on Sonoma Mountain
> Alertwildfire.org - June 23rd, 2019
What the moon smells like, and other revelations from the Apollo 11 mission
> Smithsonian - June 22nd, 2019
Checking in with the Glen Ellen Forum
> Kenwood Press - June 22nd, 2019
Amazon develops ‘robotic consumer’ to order robot-delivered items
> Journal of Unintended Consequences - June 21st, 2019
Calistoga winery says its events aren’t actually non-permitted ‘events’
> Napa Valley Register - June 14th, 2019
Sonoma Stompers player gets call up to Kansas City Royals organization
> Sonoma Stompers - June 11th, 2019
Does hitting the snooze button really make you feel better?
> The Conversation - June 7th, 2019
One less thing to worry about when PG&E turns the power off
> Cloplaydoor.com - June 5th, 2019
The invention that won World War ll
> Smithsonian - June 5th, 2019
Big news from Apple: Steve Jobs hologram will take over as CEO
> Journal of Unintended Consequences - June 4th, 2019
98 Animal Rights activists arrested in mass protest at Petaluma duck farm
> Sonoma Sheriff's Office - June 3rd, 2019
Visitors spoil Sonoma Stompers opening night at Arnold Field
> Sonoma Stompers - June 3rd, 2019
What breaking news about a new phone looked like 60 years ago
> Spectrum - May 31st, 2019
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