I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing From the Edge lately. One of my habits is paying attention to the news, which is mostly toxic. I’m weaning myself, but I think it’s taking longer than it should, which is another habit. So, in the interest of not resisting my habit of commenting on the news, I’m gonna relieve the pressure with a few words about local affairs.
Most elected officials come from specific geographic areas—legislative districts, city wards and precincts, counties, states, nations. Shortly after I moved to Saint Paul, its representational scheme changed from at-large city council members, like Chico, to council seats from different parts of the city, like Chicago.
I wasn’t pleased. I thought at-large elections would permit like-minded people to elect a candidate even if they were scattered across the city. That still seems possible, although in Chico, and perhaps other places, at-large elections tend to deliver people in the middle, with no extraordinary thoughts of any kind. Creative people seldom run for office and hardly ever win.
My theory is that the masses have the most untested confidence in bland people, which brings me to the Chico Silly Council. Generally I haven’t thought about local geography as important, although it obviously is, and changing my mind about the way politicians are elected felt at first like a big deal. I was also probably unfavorably disposed to anything political that reminded me of Chicago.
I’ve been in Chico a few years, and council districts make sense to me now. We could at least try it. I wonder if council members are spread out across Chico now. Do they live in the same part of town?
A couple of Facebook friends have asked me to support a statue of Ishi on one of the roundabouts the Chico Silly Council is gonna put downtown to encourage auto traffic. I didn’t support the renaming of Community Park and Whitman Avenue for Martin Luther King because I thought it would do nothing to spread his ideas, and I don’t see the point of a statue of Ishi just because he was the last of his tribe.
There’s something poignant about a statue of Ishi in the middle of an intersection, and maybe the poetry is reason enough to do it, but when I got to here with this essay I recalled some words attributed to Sai Baba—“Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” Probably not.