Bridging divides with kindness, SLO Mayor Harmon style

August 20, 2020

Mayor Heidi Harmon


San Luis Obispo’s Mayor Heidi Harmon says SLO must be a “welcoming city,” one that values, supports, respects, nurtures, cares about people. One that is kind. One that is tolerant. She has specific people especially in mind: “people of color,” persons of unconventional sexuality, the undocumented immigrant.

It’s the sort of stuff any decent person would likely agree with. It’s also a standardized set of progressive talking points, though frankly a city like ours would expect caring for the underdog from its mayor, no matter who that mayor might be.

As election season moves along, Harmon has stepped up the kindness talk, expanding its locus beyond her usual social media haunts to the Tribune, and even to this publication. The Tribune piece, despite its verbose meandering “transformational” gobbledygook, is a remarkable extension of Harmon’s previous kindness program, now aimed generally at bridging divides among us, divides she sees as the root of our coming downfall.

“We can perpetuate the division that is leading to our collective demise,” she wrote, “or we can instead have the courage to be vulnerable enough to recognize and celebrate our interconnectedness and do the difficult and essential work of healing the divide.”

The base problem, Harmon declares, is “we have stopped listening to each other.” The fix: “It is only through listening that we can see our commonalities and our shared concerns. The lack of nuance in our current climate is dangerous for everyone. It stifles a process of robust civic dialogue across differences. . .”

To get there, she declares, we must stop hectoring each other and reach out. “Let’s call each other up instead of calling each other out.

“When we cause harm,” she adds, “let’s have the courage to be present and bare [sic] witness and choose to do better.”

“We can create a good life here in SLO,” concludes Harmon, “by letting go of the politics of division and instead embracing a politics of belonging.”

Thus writes our mayor.

* * *

“For crying out loud this country is in the middle of major crises and you’re writing to me about your frustration about golf. Honestly please don’t vote for me next time because I’d rather not be mayor than be a leader of somebody like you. Find something better to do.”

If you merely skimmed that quote, please read it again. Then let it sink in.

This is Mayor Harmon’s response to an email from an 86-year-old constituent inquiring some weeks ago why the city golf course, unlike many others nearby, remained closed.

This is the reality of Mayor Harmon’s governance, and it’s not what one would expect from her kindness preaching, is it? Nor is this a rare or exceptional example.

Here’s another: a constituent last year wrote to complain about Harmon seeking yet another pay raise while in office. According to New Times, “In response, Harmon told [the constituent] that her email was ‘off-base, ageist, and classist,’ and that her ‘lens is based in white supremacy.’”

The constituent told me she had not seen Harmon’s reply until it turned up in New Times, and doesn’t think she ever received it via email, suggesting New Times must have got it from Harmon herself,  who may or may not have ever sent it to the constituent. She bristled at the “white supremacy” comment. “That is the sickest statement she could have made,” she told me.

Calling each other up, instead of calling each other out, indeed!

So what’s going on here, with a mayor who talks kindness and practices meanness?

It would be easy to write this off as mere hypocrisy, but I think there’s a lot more driving both ends of Harmon’s mayoral behavior spectrum. And these matters cut to the core of how and why our city’s government has failed the cause of democracy.

The truth behind Harmon’s style of governing is it actually has little to do with kindness and compassion, with caring and empathy, and more to do with the exercise of power and dominance, “patriarchal” values she professes to scorn.

Harmon focuses her welcoming, caring and kind rationale for official actions into abusive governance to give preferred treatment to non-underdog factions, specifically her upwardly mobile white millennial political base and several special interests, like her bike buddies.

In her mind, it appears, these are downtrodden long-suffering minorities. And it’s sure handy, besides, that through social media she can turn them out to testify en masse at council meetings whenever she wants. Making affluent millennials the handmaidens of “change” in return for gifts to them from the city is a great symbiotic relationship for a politically-ambitious mayor. But it’s a transactional politics, not respect for democracy.

If you’re not among one of her favored factions, God help you if you live in SLO and need anything from the city, whether it be golf, or the ability to continue to live in your home without facing city actions making that next to impossible.

* * *

Harmon’s disdain for the city’s older home-owning residents is legendary. She resents them because they have something she envies. So making their lives miserable is ducky, especially if it means doing something her clique wants.

So when 74 percent of the Anholm district’s residents said they didn’t like the bike facility the city proposed imposing upon them, taking away half the parking-impacted neighborhood’s street parking, did she “call them up” and talk? No, she called them out and double-crossed them.

Faced with a roomful of upset residents, the city council adopted a milder bike plan that made bicycling safer while helping elderly and disabled residents stay in their homes. Residents thought the matter settled.

At the very next council meeting, however, the council reversed course, threw out what they’d adopted, and voted to proceed with the most neighborhood-abusive option, which is what Harmon’s bike clique demanded. Although this non-agendized action was a blatant Brown Act violation, the city attorney – our highest paid “public servant” – couldn’t seem to see any Brown Act violation.

An ensuing public hearing, held to fix the Brown Act non-violation, was a Harmon-produced theatrical. By script, her bike buddies were out in force. One of their spokespersons was a young woman who’d penned a nasty Tribune op-ed decrying the mean privileged affluent old white people of Anholm who’d selfishly blocked her favored bike scheme. Such generational slander is commonplace with her ilk. Of course, the writer is part of the most affluent privileged young white generation ever to walk the face of the earth, so it’s hard to understand what significance to attach to her name-calling other than as a crude expression of her own ungracious resentments.

Harmon’s theatrical production was superb. She staged it so residents’ concerns got buried, and planned the final public speaker to be the husband of the op-ed writer, who swaggered to the microphone, puffed himself up several inches, and summed up the bikers’ demands. Harmon then called upon her co-conspirator on the council, and the double cross was completed.

That, in real life, is how Harmon bridges divides.

* * *

So what to make of the two ends of Harmon’s mayoral behavior spectrum, her talk about bridging divides and being kind versus her nastiness and raw exercise of power and dominance?

I think their origin lies within the woke politics of the San Luis Obispo Progressives (SLOPs), the Democrat faction where Harmon hangs out.

When you’re woke, you fancy you’re not only more aware than others, you also have answers, and your answers are the right answers. The answers of those you consider non-woke are wrong answers. Since wrong answers are evil, they cannot be tolerated, and preferably shouldn’t even be heard. If expressed, their presenters get called out.

So when 74 percent of Anholm residents registered disagreement with proposed city bikeway actions, to a woke mayor that wasn’t a signal she needed to start listening and negotiating, it was a signal the residents were wrong and must be crushed by her power and dominance. That’s how woke SLO politics works.

Today’s “progressive” movement – including the SLOPs – is condescending towards those who disagree with them. This progressive condescension is joined to manipulative power-play politics to produce an anti-populist elitism masquerading as democracy. But this “democracy” is anything but democratic.

Indeed, it can’t be democratic because wokes deny legitimacy to anyone they disagree with. Leaders like Harmon, to quote Matt Taibbi, formerly of Rolling Stone, set themselves up as humorless “philosopher-kings who set correct policy for the ignorant masses.” Examples of that are legion: the neighborhood-harming bike schemes in Anholm and recently – under dark cover of Covid – on many other residential streets; the anti-gas electrification ordinance said to cut global warming that will instead increase it; the ridiculous tall building approvals and other unpopular development schemes; the green power farce of our mandatory CCA membership.

“If sixties liberals,” Taibbi writes, “were able to sell their message to the rest of the country by making music even squares and reactionaries couldn’t resist, the woke revolution does the opposite. It spends most of its time constructing an impenetrable vocabulary of oppression and seething at the lumpen proles who either don’t get it or don’t like it.”

It is ironic to quote Taibbi in this context, for he earlier figured in revealing Harmon’s glory to her acolytes. Readers may recall our global-warming-fighting mayor jetted off to New Hampshire — jetting anyplace being about the worst thing one can do for global warming — for a party at Bernie Sanders’ place. Taibbi was there to report.

He reported our “colorful mayor” announced “we’re all fucked” by global warming. I didn’t read his comments as complimentary. About a month after they appeared at his Rolling Stone blog, suddenly Harmon was announcing on social media, with great excitement, that she’d been quoted in Rolling Stone. Indeed, that – as well as the quote itself — was a Harmon milestone.

So I don’t think Harmon’s making-nice/being kind/bridging divides talk is necessarily hypocritical. It’s woke political code-speak. It’s philosophically consistent for a woke mayor to be kind to some and mean to others, to view some as categorically right and deserving and others as irredeemably wrong and cancellable.

We just have to understand her being nice doesn’t apply to us. What her Tribune piece actually means is not what we think it says. Such is the way with our woke mayor.

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Love the “When you are woke…” paragraph. Seems Heidi and her biking buddies are disrespectful of elders, rather than blatant elder abuse. It’s almost like they have some mythical conservator-ship of the elder residents to override their past creations. But, you don’t make it to 86 years old without knowing how to step around the stinky cowpies.

Further points on Richard’s CCA concern. Someone forgot to think about the ancillary effects of CCA competition and environmentalism on watersheds. Competition between the 19 Community Choice Aggregates (CCA) in CA, (which are competing for Washington & Oregon hydro power) have sequentially driven up those northern hydro contract purchase prices 400% since 2016. Washington and soon Oregon will follow CA by mandating 100% renewable in the future, so they will have less hydro power to export (see slides 14 & 15 on MBCP’s 8/12/20 board report). Basically, 19 CA CCA’s and other states competing in contracts versus a few big utility negotiating highly regulated contracts between the BPA hydro and their black-holes of load. MBCP also sells their PG&E hydro allotment and sells the Carbon-Free Attributes(CFA), which is a Diablo offset. To their credit MBCP looks to have $150M in reserve from the transition, which will come in handy for the $2M budget shortfall in 3 out of 4 scenarios for 2020-2021.

Say one thing, do the opposite. Typical lying politician. Reversing the decision on the bike plan is a classic. A corrupt political game. Vote her and her ilk out. Crush them at the poles. Sweep them into the sewer where they all belong.

We need somebody to step up! Voter her out!

She needs to be voted out! I heard at first she was running uncontested but there are other options now. I live in Atascadero so I can’t vote for your mayor but I ask you who live in the city limits to vote wisely and check out your options. It affects us all. There is info on each one running and a candidate statement as the last document listed. Here is the link:

Thank you for writing this piece!

Do any of these other candidates have enough name recognition to overcome all the SLO progressives, plus people who vote on name familiarity, that will still vote for her?

– Cherisse Sweeney

– Sandra Marshall-Eminger

– Donald Hedrick

Yes. Cherisse Sweeney!

Cherisse Sweeney all the way. Unlike Heidi that has her own agenda and is doing nothing but harming our town. Our town was so great until she came and ruined it.

I’ve checked out the list. Cherish Sweeney seems to be the only logical choice. At this point she doesn’t seem to have a website. These sorts of campaigns require $$$$. She needs financial support which I am willing to help her with, but I don’t live in SLO and can’t vote for her. There needs to be a grassroots effort to help this woman succeed in this election or SLO will pay big time. Hope someone on here can help her out.

Here is Cherisse Sweeney’s website. Let’s all give her plenty of money.

An interesting piece with a lot of meat to it. Thanks.

When someone has opinions that I don’t have, that’s being woke.

When someone disagrees with me, that’s undemocratic.

It’s bad to be woke and undemocratic.

Well maybe its time the good people of SLO go have an unpermitted peaceful demonstration in front of her house, block her car or bike,shout obscenities at her while she is having breakfast or dinner and see how she likes it.

Let me know the time and date,

“Woke” is just the latest trendy way to be and think. It’s just another way of saying “I know what’s going on in the world” It isn’t anything special and people like the mayor who have the need to let others know they are a “woke” person, which in their minds, automatically makes them in every way superior humans are usually the ones who are blinded by what is actually going on and are the ones with the most narrow vision and are the ones who are most asleep. Thinking of yourself as being “woke” is just a stroking of your ego and a puffed up ego makes for a selfish individual who has less ablity to listen and to be truly compassionate toward others and their concerns.

You do realize that nobody self-describes as “woke”, right? Pointing at things you don’t agree with and calling them “woke” doesn’t mean that your ideas are good.

Harmon has never been a capable or honorable mayor for San Luis Obispo. Rather than work for what’s best for the people and the city, she panders to extremists within the Democratic Party and that’s just wrong.

Right now when she should be providing strong leadership, she’s keeping her head down because she’s on record as supporting the BLM. A Marxist organization that has lost a great deal of lustre nationwide over the last several weeks.

Do your own homework, do the right thing, and then vote for Cherisse Sweeney ( for Mayor of SLO. Someone capable, and someone who will actually work for you and I, and not the special interests.

It’s a cheap slam to label anything or anybody as “Marxist” unless you actually know and can explain what Marx believed.

George, it’s cheap to call someone out if you didn’t do your homework. BLM (the national org, not the term for the movement) IS a neo-Marxist organization. Read their literature. The co founder is literally on video saying, “we’re trained marxists”. Smh


George, pure Marxism is rarely practiced as it requires a collective benevolence that humankind finds difficult in the long run. Essentially, that non productive workers are Venmo fires the same as productive ones. It also requires that all essential work is treated the same and compensated equally since it is all a spoke in the same wheel. There are examples where pure Marxism has worked for a short time. The kibbutz system of early Israel, pre 1947 until the late 1960s, about 30 years in all. However it became increasingly difficult to keep the young on the farm shoveling manure, and the system was privatized. The kibbutz are now capitalized.

I bring this to light because you are partially correct in your comment. Harmon is not a Marxist. She is a Socialist. But not a pure socialist like Castro, more like Xi. So privatism is fine if that industry provides goods or services that forward the ideology. However, essential services must be government owned or controlled. That’s her ideology. In her ideal world government would control housing, infrastructure, utilities, energy and food supply. If you made widgets or provided services that support those things you could profit of that. Everything else is inessential.

However, humans never tolerate that for long, and she will learn what they all do eventually. It doesn’t work because cooperation without coercion drops off quickly.

“It’s a cheap slam to label anything…” Trump racist or idiotic “unless you actually know and can explain…” what Trump believes. Do you Marxist’s really want to fulfill the outcome of Orwell’s 1984 or the movies Soylent Green and the Hunger Games? Because, that outcome where one big corporation takes control is right there to be seen.

You’re projecting…

The BLM is a Marxist/socialist organization. Harmon supports the BLM (or Race Cars Matter or whatever the local affiliate is called.) Both are a matter of record.