“No Hedging on Pledging”

I was pleased and honored when District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler unexpectedly passed me his microphone at the start of our last Town Hall Meeting at the Oakhurst Community Center with a request that I lead the packed hall in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I trust I acquitted myself reasonably well, although I almost started with a speedy “Sign of the Cross” from my Irish Catholic upbringing, rote memory offering its challenges. But then, our National Pledge of Allegiance has always seemed more of a prayer than a presence – a fierce aspiration more than a finalized achievement – particularly the “Liberty and Justice for All” part. But it’s that “Indivisible” word that I worry about these last few years. We are surely more  divided now than ever before in my lifetime as a country. But not as a community.

It’s an impressive measure of Supervisor Wheeler’s dedicated leadership that his quarterly “Town Meetings” here in Oakhurst — and Ahwhanee — and North Fork– and Bass Lake – and now adding Yosemite Lakes Park/Raymond after recent Census adjustments, all combine in uniting Eastern Madera County into a remarkably cohesive political whole.

If you haven’t been attending any of these informal, yet informative little get-togethers, you really should.

Our last Oakhurst meeting on November 17th was fairly typical. Tom was not the only County official in attendance presenting himself for public accountability. Sheriff John Anderson was there to discuss a number of issues, from barking dogs and area burglaries to library safety and concerns about the homeless. Cal Fire Chief Nancy Koerperich addressed the red hot topic of Rural Fire Fees, also discussed through speaker phone by State Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen. Jill Yeager, Director of the Madera County Environmental Health Department, provided an update on septic system regulations, even as Mono Indians representative Charlie Altekruse spoke briefly on the possibility of a new casino on Highway 99 in Madera. You get the idea.

Supervisor Wheeler always works from a prepared agenda, moving things along as rapidly as meaningful discussion allows and closing with a request for questions, comments, criticisms  or any other observations from those in the audience with no subject off limits. It’s all fairly remarkable and everyone seems to get along, playing well enough together to make our parents proud and former teachers smile.

On the 17th, I chatted with and introduced my wife to local Tea Party Coordinator, John Pero. I waved across the room to Greg Chapell, a Madera County District 5 Republican Committee Member, even as I am on the Board of the Executive Committee of the Democratic Club of Oakhurst. Greg and I share a table most First Fridays for spiffy spaghetti dinners at Our Lady of the Sierra.

I never cease being amazed at how much we all truly share in common and agree upon past all the flag waving, cliché clattering, democracy dismantling forces of Talk Radio.

We all seem quite together over our concerns regarding “The Great Wall of Coarsegold”, the need to realize maximum efficiency and efficacy throughout County operations in the face of horrendous reductions in staffing and funding and the desire to defend local enterprise against the gargantuan intrusion of big business.

It’s interesting to reflect that things seem incredibly possible with a direct interface between politicians and the general public — the elected and the electors. No back room bargaining. No secret deals. No lobbyists. 

Just folks getting together and talking things over.

Like a Tom Wheeler Town Meeting.

— “That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (1863)

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