By Susan Gorin, First District Supervisor
Summer is coming to a turbulent end with demonstrations of national turmoil in Charlottesville and of universal acts of kindness in Houston. Both are a reminder of who and where we are as a nation and a community. Perhaps this is a good time to ask ourselves how we can provide more healing and more effective bridges to cross our divides. While it is true we do not have parades of people with weapons on our streets nor floods in our homes, we do each have a responsibility to practice kindness, listening and positive actions right here at home.
We are living through one of the hottest summers on record, and this weekend was hard for our children, families, seniors and workers to survive the heat. Thank you to all who offer a cool place to rest and water to hydrate. Be sure to check up on neighbors who are not able to escape the heat to ensure their safety and comfort.
Practice little acts of kindness – they make a huge difference in our community. Note the difference internally of how you feel when you let someone go first at an intersection as opposed to rushing to be first. When you smile at strangers rather than ignoring them as you walk by. When you listen instead of waiting for the other person to be quiet so you can talk instead. When you cheer on a friend on social media as opposed to deride a stranger. We each have multiple opportunities in every day to be more patient and kind with others. We make choices.
Talk to your neighbor! While my team and I are always happy to hear from constituents and assist in connecting with county departments that can help, there are many items that can be solved by simply talking to your neighbor. Offer recognition and praise to those working on solutions – either in person or on social media. Often conflicts can be resolved between people by a simple conversation or offer of help. And if that doesn’t work, please let us help you.
One of my main goals as your Supervisor is to connect people and organizations so they may collaborate and share information. This week I brought department heads from Health Services, Human Services, Behavioral Health, and the Community Development Commission to the Sonoma Valley to tour public and private sites where we have homeless encampments and visit with some of our service providers.
My goal was to bring county eyes, ears, and minds to the issues in the Valley while treating those who are homeless with compassion and respect. It is not enough to depend on the sheriff’s department to just move them along without providing connection to services. Many thanks to Sgt. Justin Haugen of the Sheriff’s Department and Ranger Brandon Bredo for (literally) walking us through the encampments and sharing their experiences and ideas.
In the afternoon, I convened a meeting at La Luz Center with approximately 30 people from nonprofits, Sonoma Valley Fund, community groups, law enforcement, and City of Sonoma to talk about needs in the valley with county department heads. We spent three hours together, listening and learning about what health and human services are being provided by the County and service providers in the Valley, identify the needs of Valley residents, and discuss the gaps in services and what we hope for in the future.
I want to thank Barbie Robinson, Director of Health Services; Karen Fies, Director of Human Services; Margaret Van Vliet, Director of the Community Development Commission, and Mike Kennedy, Director of Behavioral Health, for spending a very long day in the valley with me. Most of all, I want to thank them for their commitment to enact positive change here in the valley and throughout the county. While it is clear we have some weighty issues to contend with, I feel confident we will make progress and increase services in the valley. Many thanks as well to the many people who showed up to share their expertise and ideas on a hot afternoon. It is the little things that lead to positive change.
We will continue these conversations over the next few months and build stronger connections between the county, city and community to ensure that our residents have access to the services they need.
Finally, I want to thank all of you — the people of the First District – who care tremendously about our community. It is you that make Sonoma County a wonderful place to live and to represent. While the challenges are many, the talents are tremendous. Together we can and we will.
Contact her at [email protected]