Ben Boyce


The Democrats return to classic form

Posted on October 21, 2021 by Ben Boyce

Well, it had to happen; the honeymoon is over and the Democrats have returned to form, after a good clean start of the term with a quick and decisive win on the $2T CARES Act. A good rule of thumb for Democrats is: the longer you negotiate, the less you get. My marriage of convenience (or necessity) with the Democratic Party is strained by watching narcissist centrist Democrats preen around on the Sunday Morning talk shows trying to tank the President’s agenda while trying to blame progressives for the stall in momentum!  Thankfully, we pulled out a big win here in California in September with a decisive repudiation of the Republican recall.

Here in the Sonoma Valley, Fred Allebach (Chair of the Sonoma Community Services and Environmental Commission) has been active at the Council, the Planning Commission, and in print defending a vision of urban planning that prioritizes the needs of the community rather than the prerogatives of the investor class and the capitalist drive to maximize profit over any public values. 

Fred is one of the natural leaders of a Sonoma Valley grassroots multi-racial housing and racial justice advocates group affiliated the North Bay Organizing Project. Fred has used his planning skillset to make sure that local land-use decisions are made with the public good as the metric for policy success. He is preaching the gospel that I have believed for years: the land-use code is an instrument of class sorting by geography. 

I worry that the message is getting buried under the perceived imputation of racism and hostility to the presence of people of color by the defenders of the current code order. The modern scholarship on critical race theory demonstrates how race and class have shaped the law throughout the troubled history of America. We know that racial and class interests are codified in land-use law.

I cut them some slack, because they have not done the theory reading homework to confirm as fact the connection between zoning codes and racial demographics. They are likely very bitter about these accusations of anti-POC bias and think that they are being vilified for merely maintaining ‘community character’. 

The respectable members of the political class, who are mostly decent, civic-minded folks, will resent getting subjected to a heated moral case based on newly evolved social norms and ethical claims that they and their constituents may not be up to date on. 

A call for a discussion of the hidden premises of the land-use codes is the right path to take. You can start with the assumption of good faith and then build out the progressive analysis through the kind of sustained political education that will open the door to deep reforms that serve the public good for all the classes in our community.

We can’t guilt people into seeing what they don’t really want to know. We have to lead. We need to forge a new consensus on the role of land-use policy as an instrument for social progress. I commend a public role in raising awareness on these very difficult local political issues around social equity and zoning code law. Stay strong.


One thought on “The Democrats return to classic form

  1. Thanks, Val, for the few discrete edits that bumped up the quality of the piece.

    That’s the best kind of editor: rather than feeling miffed that my brilliant presentation has been altered, the inner editor in me is appreciative of the more elegant final product.

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