You still see a few of the signs around the valley, “The love in the air…” And there are many tangible signs of this. Sonoma’s army of volunteers is alive and well, driving for FISH or Meals on Wheels, sweating at Rotary projects, working in the Community Garden, or making meals at the Brown Bag Cafe. Thanks to the Sonoma Valley Holiday Gifting Program, disadvantaged families will have a new wrapped gift at Christmas.
And the philanthropic dollars continue to roll in to support La Luz, the Community Center, the Ed Foundation, Sonoma Overnight Support, Mentoring Alliance, Pets Lifeline, and all the other organizations where, at elegant galas, the guests keep raising their paddles high.
The list is long. But make no mistake. Such generosity and kind-heartedness is not the only impulse in our community. Callousness, mean-spirited gestures and indifference, have reared their ugly heads.
A local man suffering from a psychological disorder dies while being restrained near his home by our law enforcement officers. When parents of a local young man seek emergency mental health help for their son, they learn that it is only available “on the Highway 101 corridor” and not in our valley. An intense encounter with police results.
A city council representative becomes the target of an anonymous Internet hate campaign. A group of developers, thwarted in their plan to build three luxury homes, sue the city for failure to observe the mandate to provide much-needed housing. All of these obscenities have occurred while we hoped the love in the air was thicker than the smoke.
We do not wish in any way to diminish the beauty of how the community came together to help during and in the aftermath of the October fires. Sonoma has rightly savored the memory of that generous time. But we believe it is imperative to also look long and hard at less savory events and circumstances of the past year. The media has given much attention to the “slut-shaming” website attacking councilmember Rachel Hundley. We believe there is indeed cause for shame here, but not by Ms. Hundley, rather by the cowardly perpetrators of this malicious attack.
We as a community can feel shame when we look at the line of cars as people return to American Canyon, Vallejo and Santa Rosa every day from Sonoma. Many who work here can’t afford to live here, in part because we have allowed the affordable housing supply to lag sadly behind the demand, a shortage exacerbated by inflation and vacation rentals,.
Why are organizations such as SOS, Brown Baggers, and the Food Bank needed? Isn’t it because many of the people they serve do not receive a fair, living wage? There is a disconnect in the valley. So many are willing to help, yet workers do not earn what they deserve, which would allow them to create a decent life for their families. All of us who are doing all right can feel shame and embarrassment that so many others struggle just to survive here.
So take a deep breath, breathe in the “love in the air,” and use that good feeling to build up the courage to take action.
— Sun Editorial Board