To rise up and be heard

We tell white lies to avoid conflict. In the public sphere, it boomerangs.

“What could be wrong with truly ‘white’ lies?” writes Sam Harris in his new book, “Lying.” “Sincerity, authenticity, integrity, mutual understanding — these and other sources of moral wealth are destroyed the moment we deliberately misrepresent our beliefs, whether or not our lies are ever discovered.”

Harris prescribes an awkward, radical honesty.

Radical honesty feels jarring, even rude, in Everett, a community where everyone seems tethered to everyone else by family, club or high school. The two degrees of separation create an insular political culture that discourages newcomers, just as it diminishes Everett’s promise.

Last Wednesday’s decision by the Everett City Council to appoint a man over four equally qualified women spurred an audible gasp from the council’s audience. It shouldn’t have, in hindsight. The decision was a fait accompli, foreshadowed by anyone who knows local history and can count noses.

In Everett, reality trumps the better angels of the politically inspired. As Chico Marx said in “Duck Soup,” “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”

Make no mistake: Rich Anderson, the council appointee, is eminently qualified. We wish him well. The onus is on the council (Brenda Stonecipher and Paul Roberts excepted), which by its decision telegraphed that Anderson — now the third CPA on the seven-member council! — had the most to contribute. That doesn’t pass the honesty litmus test, and it ignores the question of demographic and gender diversity.

As we wrote last week, legislative bodies itch to consolidate power, which translates into a spreading sameness: the same kind of folks with the same kind of ideas. It’s self-duplication, and it doesn’t reflect the city’s collective interest. Seattle, Spokane, Olympia, Tacoma: Everett’s City Council sits at the bottom of the diversity list. An old-school status quo repels business and the vaunted “creative class” looking for places to live and raise a family.

This is your daddy’s (and your granddaddy’s) City Council, but it doesn’t need to be. Everett should adopt a district election system to ensure diversity. It also needs a less arbitrary and more transparent application process for key city commissions, such as the planning commission. The planning commission is a proving ground for future councilmembers, a pipeline to power.

And then citizens need to be heard. What’s happening on combined sewer overflows? Why can’t the Evergreen branch of the city library corral adequate funding?

As Adm. H.G. Rickover once asked future submariners, “Why not the best?” In Everett, step one is speaking truth to power.

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