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During the six years it was my privilege to serve on the Calistoga City Council, I voted for or against many measures which had far reaching consequences for the city. All of my decisions were carefully weighed and the benefit to the community was always the overriding factor.

One of those decisions, I believe it was in 2015, was to erect a flagpole on city property with the express purpose of flying flags to honor various charitable, service, fraternal or civic organizations which help make up the fabric of our community. A strict protocol was established by ordinance for the organizations requesting that their flag be flown and it has been adhered to ever since.

At the city council meeting of June 4, the request to fly The Pride Flag and The Transgender Flag was placed on the consent calendar. Councilman Don Williams requested that this item be pulled. The remainder of the consent calendar was passed. 

When it came time for Councilman Williams to explain why he wanted further discussion on this item he offered none and merely said he would abstain from voting with no reason or dialog given. When asked again the next day to explain why he had refused to discuss the matter during the council meeting he evaded the question and again offered no explanation other than, “it’s a private matter”.

Councilman Williams, there are no personal private matters in city government. You swore an oath to uphold the laws and ordinances of the city and to serve its citizens honorably. I find your stance appalling and can only conclude that your recent campaign pledge to represent all of the people of Calistoga, in reality, really meant only some of the people of Calistoga.

Jim Barnes

Calistoga

Editors note: The following is a response from Don Williams.

I am sorry the writer is disturbed by my abstention. I know an abstention conveys no explicit message, so I understand if an observer tries to devise one. I must however be dubious about an attempt to link laws and honorable service to the abstention. Representing all the people in town cannot mean that some are not going to be disappointed. I certainly try to consider all the viewpoints available. I know the council better now than I did before, and while we don’t always agree, I think it does serve conscientiously.

People who know me know: I harbor no discriminatory prejudices against anyone because of their sexuality. I respect every person for their essential humanity and inherent dignity. I affirm the values of inclusivity, acceptance, diversity, and good will towards all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, or other characteristics. I deplore oppression against anyone. The writer’s ire, I think, may be misplaced because in these many ways I believe we are actually allies.

I realize this is an age of open conversation with few bounds on public discourse. Nonetheless as a matter of privacy and respect there are things some people do not wish to discuss in public. One of them is someone else’s sexuality. I think of it as a private matter and not a topic appropriate for public comment. Perhaps it is a sense of delicacy misplaced. Regardless, respectful reserve does not imply disapproval. It is not anti-gay. You will note I made no objection whatsoever to the city flying the pride flag.  I do not object to anyone flying it.

Certainly others approach it differently, no doubt with the best intentions. I respect that perspective also. I am saddened that about a topic that includes appreciation of diversity, different approaches should be reproved.

I am glad to grow in dialogue. In the last week, I’ve learned that the human and civil rights aspect of the pride flag may override the sexual dimension. I appreciate that enlarged perspective. From there, the topic is more public and less private (as I had previously thought). For me, that’s an important distinction. I’m indebted to friends’ civil discussions for that enlightenment.  I’ll certainly consider it when next it comes up. 

On council I am essentially just one of many volunteers in service to my community -- fallible as ever, but hopefully as respectful as possible to all Calistogans as well as myself. Diverse as we are, therefore, let us be kind to one another, rather than antagonistic, as we strive for an inclusive community grateful for every person of good will.

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