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Monterey Herald - Casey Lucius: A dire need for compassion in politics

By Casey Lucius
Guest commentary

In the past two years that I have served on the Pacific Grove City Council, I have made two decisions that I truly regret. The first one was when we passed an ordinance outlawing sleeping in cars. At the time I justified the decision as a public health and safety issue, but the decision has nagged at me ever since, especially as the homeless population among us grows, services remain insufficient, and no city in the region has come up with alternative solutions.

The second decision I regret took place just last week in my capacity as the representative of Pacific Grove on the Fort Ord Reuse Authority board. I joined with my fellow board members to approve a rent increase for the Preston Park apartments. Preston Park is in Marina and does not house any of my constituents, but I was nevertheless still concerned about the additional financial burden we were placing on renters during these difficult times, even if the increase was rather modest. There was a clear tension between compassion and my fiduciary responsibility to FORA. The revenue from these increased rates would support projects at Fort Ord, including upgrades to the Preston Park units.

As soon as I voted, I immediately regretted the decision I had made. I usually try not to allow sentimentality or my personal interests to influence my decisions as an elected representative, but the truth is, my personal experiences do inform the way I think, and they do shape my point of view on many topics. This decision especially touched my heart because most of my life was spent living in apartments and surviving paycheck to paycheck, trying to figure out how to pay the next month's rent. As a child, I remember moving once from one apartment complex to another because the rent was raised and my mom couldn't afford the higher rent. I never want my decision to put someone in that position. Instead, I hope to be more creative in finding alternative solutions to our revenue shortfalls, rather than shifting the burden to others.

I am convinced now more than ever that there is not just room for compassion in politics, but there is also a dire need for it. Those of us charged with making decisions that impact the lives of others have an obligation to put ourselves in their shoes, and to be guided by the kind of wisdom, creativity and compassion that will make us good stewards of our community's resources. This is as true at the local level as we discuss water, unemployment, homelessness, housing and education, as it is at the state and national levels as officials seek solutions to the ongoing border crisis and health care access. It is all too easy to stand on principle, yet forget those who bear the burdens we create when we cast our votes. We are all called to love and serve the least among us. As an elected official, I hope that we can rise to the challenge by seeking a higher standard of compassion and creativity on behalf of our communities and those in need.
Casey Lucius is a resident of Pacific Grove.

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