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All Politics Is Local

All Politics Is Local

But are all locals expected to be politicos?

by Christopher Krohn

Yeah, you shouldn’t ever discuss politics, nor religion, in mixed company over dinner” is what my mom always said. I didn’t take it to heart. Most likely because I was the last out of six sons, and the only way I was ever able to get anything was maneuvering through a kind of family politics. Knowing the rules of decorum within my family, and a tough negotiating strategy, were my skills for survival. I also learned that pretty much everything is ultimately attached, somehow, to religion and politics.
There’s a perception in American culture that politics is not only a nasty word, it is also a series of unending disputes and prolonged decision-making. There’s rarely a clean win or lose recorded in the political standings, if there were such standings. I have often thought that daily newspapers should have standings chronicling the votes of local, state, and federal officeholders so that the voters could see how their representative is doing when they check on their baseball or football teams. There are definitely wins and losses in politics, but they are subtler, take more time, and it’s not always clear when a game has ended and when a new one begins. The City Council or board of supervisors often will pass an ordinance and folks present in the audience at the moment the decision is reached will have no idea what was just decided. It is true, politics is messy, but not to engage in politics leaves everyday folks open to being abused by politics.
Former House of Representatives Speaker, Tip O’Neill (D), said, “All politics is local.” And, in Santa Cruz this could not be truer. Our town is often accused, by outsiders and some insiders, of living inside a bubble. They say we live as if somehow we are naive or insulated from the politics of the real world. I would submit that our city and county politics generally deals with the same issues Portland, Peoria, Bangor, Chapel Hill, and Baton Rouge deal with. The major political and social issues of our time exist, but within a finite budgetary context. The bulk of time that members of the Santa Cruz city council and board of supervisors devote to their job is taken up by the issues reverberating across this country: affordable housing, transportation, job creation, fixing potholes, and garbage pickup. For every hour spent on medical marijuana or the Bush Administration’s war with Iraq, local government spends 10-20 hours addressing the much more thornier issues of housing and transportation. Don’t believe me? Look it up online. Each public body has a Web site.
What is different politically about Santa Cruz? I believe people from around this country have actually migrated to this community because of the type of politics we practice. Are they all outside agitators? Maybe. Because all politics ends up being local, in Santa Cruz probably more than most places, there is the sense that the outside world, domestic and foreign affairs, has direct and indirect affects on our local politics. In writing this column, and also taking to heart what House Speaker Tip O’Neill always said, I have concluded that all politics is indeed local because they end up having impacts on the community.
Ultimately, whether it is federal drug policy, war with Iraq, capital punishment, or the so-called, no-child-shall-be-left-behind education policy, all of these politics leave indelible marks on our local political culture. Some argue against a city or county body taking stands on national or international issues, but I would contend all those politics always come home to roost in ways not immediately apparent.
One of the more recent examples of this nexus between national and local politics has been the “Cities for Peace” movement. The Santa Cruz city council and board of supervisors were among the first elected bodies in the country to send President Bush a letter demanding that he not make war with Iraq without the support of the United Nations Security Council. Since last September, 159 other cities have sent similar letters and passed similar resolutions. Given the great divide between the pro-war and anti-war sides, it is very telling that the most recent cities for peace resolution are where the 9/11 disaster took place. The New York City Council passed the resolution last week, 31-19. All politics is local.
Christopher Krohn is an educator and former mayor of Santa Cruz. He can be reached at ckrohn (at)

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Krohn the Educator? No, Krohn the Politician. Again.

If only Krohn took some principled leadership stands on local issues, I wouldn't feel so nauseous when I see this kind of article.

Though elected to address local issues such as the need for real community control of police, reform of the anti-homeless laws, a real public process for City Council, a downtown plaza, rent control, making medical marijuana available locally, etc. etc. ad nauseum, Krohn never sought any kind of meaningful leadership role and often abandoned even the role of loyal opposition in his four years of City Council-ship.

Out of power, he has been no better, though he occasionally shows up at a peace rally as he did today...before the Lockheed action happened, not staying for the actual action.

Maybe it's unrealistic to expect that politicians be activists. Maybe it's wrong to resent them for that failure. It just irks me to see politicians getting praised and publicized and feted when local human rights activists get side-lined or trashed.

Krohn's silence in the face of City Council's recent failure to call for the safe and immediate return of the troops, a ceasefire, and an end to the bombing is just the latest example of his fluff-and-feathers without substance.

Krohn has been through the closed-door process that is the City Council: he knows that City Manager Dick Wilson's staff controls what goes on and that the current Reilly-Kennedy Council is simply the rubberstamping body. Has he spoken out about this in any way to educate the community? No.

Talk about some local and something real, Chris. Then we can begin to take you seriously.

uh, mr. norse...?

Isn't the proper expression to notify people of your own nausea, "I'm feeling nauseated?"

Isn't "I'm feeling nauseous" actually an expression of how you believe you are affecting OTHER PEOPLE?

Do you really want to give your opponents an opening to score putdown points by simply agreeing with you?

Finally, do you honestly think that the best way to raise your friends and your cause up is to cast aspersions on Mr. Krohn?

Isn't it difficult enough to discuss the issues and try to cut through the establishment's jamming signals, without engaging in ad hominem brawls?

Some More Inquiries for Inquiring Mind

My criticism of Krohn has to do with his political behavior; it is not an ad hominem attack.

Krohn's surrender-to-staff is not unique to him, but is symptomatic of the entire sitting City Council and of the illness that is plaguing the Council as an institution.

Krohn's failure to act and even to be publicly candid about that failure is important to comment on and denounce, if we are to get anywhere on these issues--which are still currently in cold storage. Is Inquiring Mind concerned about these issues at all? Does he have high regard for Krohn's record and achievements? Perhaps he could cite these for us, so we could all have a more balanced view.

Perhaps Inquiring Mind could go through the issues I mentioned and clarify where I am in error, or specify what use Krohn's polemic is, other than to highlight his own hypocrisy? Sure, politics is local--that's why it would be nice if Krohn came clean about what really happened locally during his four-year stint on the Council.

Whether he does or not, it's important that we have no illusions about what happened. That's the primary reason for the criticism.

On those (rare) occasions where Krohn took strong stands, I commended him (lone opposition to shoulder tap law, limited opposition to the Downtown Ordinances, occasional principled vote against the Dolphin-Lee Beach Flats ethnic cleansing, early--and quickly abandoned--support for community control of police).

I actually wrote him a long letter when he became Mayor commending him for 15 good stands, trying to encourage him to stop worrying about pleasing the Council majority and return to his constituencies in the community. He responded by cutting back Oral Communications time and harassing or arresting critics at Council. Or doing nothing as Mayor when other Council members did.

Could be the very institution of the City Council--as it currently exists--with its addiction to conservative staff input is at the heart of the cancer.

The only reason I mentioned Krohn at all is that this Good Times fluffiania was posted here. Usually ex-office holders are no longer fair game unless they start pontificating. It's usually best to let hot air fade away. There's always a new supply from the current Council.

what is ad hominem?

Isn't ad hominem attack the strategy of attacking the person rather than examining the issues?

Isn't it possible to couch a personal attack in terms of the demonstrated behavior of the enemy? For instance, "Smoking is the filthy, nasty habit, of filthy, nasty people, and my opponent smokes like a chimney, so I won't say that he is a bad person but who could fault you for drawing such a conclusion?"

I use smoking here, but one could make similar accusations about two-faced, hypocritical, political behavior, couldn't one?

Did Mr. Norse miss my point? Is not the main thrust of the original posting ("Krohn the Educator? No, Krohn the Politician. Again.") to attack the credibility of Mr. Krohn personally, regardless of whatever facts are used to press the attack?

Is the intent here to motivate Mr. Krohn to straighten up and fly right, to educate him about the common cause and how he might work more effectively to advance it, or simply to expose him as a poseur, just another politician (a damning insult in its own right)? By pursuing that latter line, wouldn't we move into the territory of the ad homimen attack?

Might self-declared people's advocates please keep their eyes on the prize? Is it truly necessary to hobble others in order to advance one's own agenda? There are dangerous poseurs out there, to be sure, but has the case been made -- can it be made? -- that Mr. Krohn is one of them? And beyond the question of Mr. Krohn, can't alliances be forged, even with poseurs, to advance the cause? Of what real use is infighting, except to waste time and energy while the people's real enemies are steadily gaining ground?

Are we so confused?

Respond to the Inquiry, Inquiring Mind.

Poseurs need to be exposed, not allied with. Inquiring Mind has yet to reply to the issues I raised. As for ad hominem attacks, Inquiring Mind does a lot of "Norse"ing to be throwing stones. Reply to the issues instead of defending the politician.

my two-cents worth

Christopher Krohn made some good points.
He made the connections between national issues and how they reverberate down to local issues. He received a lot of grief and almost daily ridicule for going on national T.V. and I get the sense that some of what is behind this piece is a kind of 'I told you so' thing, which he has every right to do. The Cities for Peace movement though not successful in stopping the murder of Iraqis, was successful in creating a kind national unity and mode of communication between cities which may become ever more powerful in the future. Good job Christopher Krohn and good job to everyone else who spent the time and effort to write the resolutions, and to those prodding local politicians into action.

No need to 'Norse' him for being proud of his accomplishments.

If it's so bad

Robert, if the City Council members are always awful, why not run for the position yourself? You're there at every meeting anyway, so why not get paid?


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