By Martha Quillen
I never believed in the possibility of universal peace and understanding, but I went to college in the late 1960s when students clamored for peace, equality, black rights, women’s rights, grape workers’ rights … And I believed things would improve. Fifty years later it’s clear that raging, marching, rioting, and otherwise flouting authority may not be the best way to champion fairness and endow all people with liberty, equality and justice. But negotiation, compromise and cooperation aren’t working either.
So now what?
In January, local resident Monika Griesenbeck applied for the Salida City Clerk position. In a preliminary vote, the council approved her four to two, and several of the new members said nice things about her. I saw that as a clear indication that Salida’s new mayor and council were going to put rivalries behind them and serve everyone. And I thought that was great.
But I was wrong. During the last six or eight years, Salida has fostered two opposing camps that tend to be bitterly divided. Last fall Griesenbeck and several associates who share advertising and ideas ran for city council and lost en masse. But two years earlier, the same contingent won en masse.
I was afraid our town was fated to yo-yo back and forth forever. Then for one whole day I thought, Salidans were finally going to work things out. But scores of angry opponents weighed in, demanding to know why Monika should get a political position after they defeated her, and Alisa Pappenfort was appointed city clerk.
I’d hoped Monika’s appointment could spur some healing, but I’ll admit it was a long shot. Monika and some of the council members are old rivals and probably would have had difficulty working together. But I feel for Monika and her supporters – who wrote lovely letters praising the council’s initial decision. They are doubtlessly disappointed and justifiably upset. This is the sort of thing that makes sectarian fissures widen, especially considering how hostile local political correspondence has gotten in recent years.
I was excited about the council’s acceptance of Monika’s application, but my view had nothing to do with Alisa. I’ve known Monika and Alisa for decades, and they’re both smart, tough, hard-working and reliable – and they have both been very good friends to me. I would have preferred either one of them over dozens of council members I remember.