BY DONNA WESTFALL
Ever heard of Groupthink? It’s a psychological phenomenon in which group members form individual opinions that match the group consensus rather than critically evaluating information. It’s when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of alternatives.
How does this translate to local politics? If you watch video’s from five years ago (2007) you’ll witness the “consensus” to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) with over $40 million price tag. The lone dissenter was Councilman Mike Scavuzzo.
You’ll further see public comments in the minutes trying to reason with the other Councilmembers Irene Tynes, Kelly Schellong and Herb Kolodner and Mayor Dennis Burns cautioning them of the difficulty those on fixed budgets would experience, and the public not being able to afford a doubling of sewer rates. That council voted 4-1 to accept the one and only bid.
How did this happen?
You’ll find this most often when a respected or persuasive leader is present. In this case, Public Works Director, Jim Barnts convinced the council of accepting the one and only bid. Point of comparison: The city of Willits is building a brand new WWTP for $26 million for 5,000 hook-ups. We encumbered our city to $43.8 million for less than 5,000 hook ups.
The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking. Anecdotally, one of the recalls against Mayor Kathryn Murray involved a “lack of independent thinking.”
Neither Ron Gastineau nor Rick Holley protested the sewer rate increase in 2007. Should we assume that they are in financial positions to be able to afford continued increases and would vote accordingly? Also, Ron Gatineau wants the Business Improvement District (BID) to remain per his comments at the Tea Party forum held October 9, 20112. Rick Holley remains neutral. However, both candidates know that 73% of the BID merchants want it disestablished yet the city council refuses to do so.
When polled about Measure A; Rick Holley ran out of time and remained non-committal. Ron Gastineau is decidedly in favor of retaining water fluoridation unless the public votes it out…. then he’ll abide by majority rule. Again, evidence of a lack of independent thought.
While I don’t believe that Holley or Gastineau would come off quite as rude as Kathryn Murray to our public, it is my opinion that they would continue the “Groupthink” mentality so pervasive in this community. Clearly Rick Holley can’t make decisions by himself as evidenced on the stage at the Tea Party forum.
Therefore, it is our recommendation that you consider Joseph Aliotti and Dennis Sutton as your choice for city council. They bring a broader business background to the table. They are not afraid to make decisions. I remain always on the side of holding city hall accountable since experiencing a lack of transparency for the better part of the last four years that I’ve been on the city council. I would welcome your vote.
There are three seats to fill: Again, seriously consider voting for Aliotti, Sutton and Westfall.