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Selma Stories: Civil discourse for civil service
Selma Stories

Selma Stories: Civil discourse for civil service

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Politics, national and local, gave us a lesson in civility last week.

Two days after a tumultuous, rude, raucous Presidential Debate, our local politicians gathered last Thursday for a polite, respectful candidates forum.

Under COVID-conscious rules, the forum was streamed on the City of Selma’s YouTube channel. (You can watch it on the city’s website.)

Local pastor Louis Quintana was a calming presence as moderator, asking questions of candidates for Mayor, City Council, Selma Unified board and Health Care District board.

The questions were pertinent but not provocative. The answers were predictable.

Public safety, infrastructure, economic growth, homelessness, transparency, unity, partnering with the state and feds — etc, etc. — were the issues put forth by Mayoral candidates Scott Robertson and Luis Franco as well as City Council candidates for District 1 and 4.

Candidates for two Health Care districts discussed their views on proper use of funds — transparency of finances, making sure funds go only to health care needs — and differed little from each other. The question “Should Health Care District funds be used for non-health care uses?” brought an emphatic “no” from all four candidates, making it a moot issue.

School board candidates made liberal use of “for the kids,” the mantra of all school trustees. There was dialogue about student safety, declining enrollment and budget issues including personnel cutbacks.

In general, the forum gave us a glimpse into the personalities and goals of all the candidates. Power-couple incumbents Lorane Avalos (Health Care District) and Jim Avalos (City Council) cited their experience on their respective boards. Challengers told us their backgrounds, their desires, their pledges to be good teammates and learn the key issues.

Quintana made it homey by asking the candidates what they do in their spare time. Something you might not see at a Presidential debate. (Exactly what do Donald Trump and Joe Biden do when they’re not snarling at cash other?)

In fact, this was nothing like what we saw two days earlier. No anger, no people shouting over each other. No denigrating the opponent’s character or record. Moderator Quintana stressed that, and no one stepped over that line.

In fact, the only mano-a-mano moment at Thursday’s forum came when Robertson challenged Franco to a debate.

Local politics can have its tensions, its personalities, its cliques. We’ve seen some strife on the city council, seen the community fill the Selma High cafeteria to challenge the school board.

This fall is filled with campaign signs small and huge. (And what’s up with the folks who have both Robertson and Franco signs in the yards?) Candidates are promoting themselves on social media and in our mailboxes.

But compared to the presidential and congressional campaigns, Selma appears to be a kinder, gentler version of political discourse.

The candidates have spoken — and will continue to speak. Now it is up to us to support them.

Vote on Nov. 3. Our city, our schools and our health need you to participate.

Longtime Selma resident Ken Robison is a retired newspaper reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. “Selma Stories” appears regularly in The Enterprise.

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