I embrace the nonpartisan nature of my role as mayor of San Luis Obispo. But I will not accept that taking a stand against bigotry, misogyny and attacks on basic human decency is somehow a reflection of partisan politics. These are basic human values about which all leaders should take a stand. Equality, freedom and justice are not partisan values—they are American values. This is not about right and left. This is about right and wrong.
This year commemorates the 75th anniversary of the internment of people of Japanese descent by our country, and, indeed, from our very city.
This is rightly regarded as a shameful episode in our history. We find ourselves in such a moment when once again people in marginalized groups are being singled out, demonized and treated as “other” than human. As mayor of this city, I can say that San Luis Obispo will never again allow something like this to happen. We will not stand down in moments of challenge, we will stand up. San Luis Obispo will build bridges, not walls.
We live in a democracy built upon openness, freedom and the strength of our diverse people. With the notable exception of Indigenous Nations, we are all immigrants. We will not slam the door in the faces of those fleeing persecution. We will not stand by while the most vulnerable amongst us are told they deserve death. We will not tolerate the burning of flags we raise of any color.
A city’s strength abides in the ideas, intentions and character of its people. Engagement is an essential aspect of democracy. At a time when it is more challenging than ever to participate in political life, San Luis Obispo’s engagement is at an all-time high. We have a lot to be proud of.
It is incumbent upon those of us in office to ensure the work of having a thriving city gets accomplished. We need roads we can traverse, housing we can live in, and potholes that are fixed. And while we strive to fix our broken potholes, we must also strive to fix our broken hearts. Love is the most essential infrastructure of all.
I trust that we can temper criticism with kindness. That we can build a bridge between conviction and compassion. That we can remain rooted in truth and reason and have an intention to understand and care for each other. We march, volunteer, educate, innovate businesses, love our families. Through that work, we do the heavy lifting of making the world a better place.
I started as a community advocate, out of a deep concern for my children’s future. Wherever you are coming from, whatever your strengths and passions are, there is a place for you in shaping the type of neighborhoods, the type of community and the type nation we want this to be. Elected leaders should lead with future generations, not future elections on their minds.
And so I look forward to building a bigger table and not a higher wall with all of you.
Heidi Harmon was elected mayor of San Luis Obispo in November 2016.