Honoring Reverend Gates

This morning, at a potluck brunch after the 10 AM service at the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, I presented Reverend Alan Gates with a City of San Carlos coin, in recognition of him having alerted the community about the imminent opening of the Turner firearm store last Fall. This is a copy of the remarks I made before making the presentation.

Thank you for that kind introduction, and good morning to everyone!

As Reverend Donahoe said, my name is Mark Olbert, and I have the privilege of representing you, and all your neighbors, on the City Council. Our job, basically, is to act as stewards for the San Carlos community, and make sure that those who will come after us get to enjoy life here at least as much as we do.

Many people see the Council as somehow separate from the community it serves, let alone the individuals who live here. That’s implicit whenever people talk about “the government”, as if it were separate from them. The truth is all government, and particularly representative ones, require a deep connection with their community to be effective. One governs at the consent of the governed.

But the relationship goes deeper than passive consent. We depend on community members being our eyes and ears. Because none of us is either all-knowing or all-seeing.

Which is why I’m here today, to honor Reverend Alan Gates for bringing an issue that the community cares deeply about to the Council’s attention.

The specific issue involved the opening of a new store in San Carlos which heavily promotes all manner of firearms. But the specifics don’t matter. Because, whatever your personal beliefs about gun stores, the community can’t discuss issues it doesn’t know about. Which makes it essential that individuals speak up, so the community can decide whether to get engaged.

As often happens to those who speak up, Reverend Gates was chastised, and attacked, by people who didn’t share his concerns. They could have saved their time and energy. Because, as I’ve come to learn over the last few months, Reverend Gates accepts that people may disagree with him, and is not put off by vitriol. He listens, and reflects, and adjusts…and keeps speaking his mind, politely, and respectfully.

And that is why, Alan, I’m presenting you with this City of San Carlos commerative coin. It doesn’t work in any vending machine I know of. But it recognizes the important role you played, and will continue to play, in our community, by choosing to speak out about your concerns in the way you do.

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