Friday, June 06, 2014

On Jo Butler's Primary Victory

In this past Tuesday's primary election, Jo Butler won a spot on the fall ballot for Princeton town council along with fellow Democrat Bernie Miller, narrowly beating challenger Sue Nemeth. The campaign was an uncomfortable situation for me, because I had served on commissions or committees with both Jo and Sue, and have had very positive interaction with both of them, and Bernie as well. The following is a letter I submitted to the Town Topics the week before the primary, but which was not printed for lack of space. 

On the June 3 primary question of whether Jo Butler should be displaced on town council, I have friends I respect and have worked closely with on both sides. It is painful to see Princeton once again, as with the Dinky, split into two contradictory views of reality, with stories circulating and no adequate way to filter out fact from fiction. In my own interactions with Jo, on the Citizens Financial Advisory Task Force and elsewhere, I have found her to be dedicated, open-minded, thoughtful, and considerate of other views. I could say the same of Bernie Miller. 
I see two underlying tensions at issue. One is the question of how to balance independence of mind with being a “team player”. My sense, having served on town advisory commissions, is that a reality-based independence can serve the “team” better than a default loyalty. Generally speaking, at a national level or locally, staunch loyalty to a group can diminish loyalty to truth, leaving the group vulnerable to false assumptions and assertions. 
There is also a tension between the often contradictory needs to get through a meeting’s agenda while adequately examining and discussing the issues at hand. It’s a balancing act, dependent on the good judgement and sensitivity of all members. The most productive meetings I’ve taken part in are those where all members are free to efficiently interject, to agree or disagree, all while moving forward. Results are not preordained, but instead grow out of the facts presented, and the values and judgement of those present. In such situations, democracy is not an abstraction but fully on display--a deeply satisfying part of our lives.

That's what I wish for Princeton, and I believe the current council members are capable of achieving it.

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