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Body Politic

Talking about politics today makes most people angry. But anger is an emotion that burns out fast. These days, a pissed-off scowl is apt to turn, rather quickly, into a cynical smirk--cynicism being the default spirit of the age. That's fine, to a point, when it comes to the art and practice of citizenship, where a jaded eye is preferable to slack-jawed gullibility. But cynicism can cut the legs out from under the desire to make change. And when a citizenry is thus debilitated, that's guaranteed to mean more stuff to be cynical about. None of us should worry too much about losing our edge; the power elite are bound to continue with their parade of greed, corruption, and ineptitude. But those who want to find a way into public life in the North Bay are likely to see their anger morph into something more useful, politically speaking. There are scores of activist organizations throughout the region working to change this corner of the world. The list below is partial.

Sonoma County

The Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County (540 Pacific Ave., Santa Rosa; 575-8902) serves as a coordinating body for numerous local groups and also sponsors events and programs.

The Environmental Center of Sonoma County (312 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa), operated by the Sonoma County Conservation Council, is a federation of 20 key conservation and environmental groups--including Sonoma County Conservation Action, the county's largest enviro group--offering programs and information.

The local chapter of the National Organization for Women meets on the third Monday of every month, from 7 to 9 p.m., to discuss women's issues, bend an ear to guest speakers, and determine how best to wield its influence to improve conditions for women everywhere. These are scent-free events, at the Volunteer Center 153 Stony Circle, Suite 100, Santa Rosa; 523-9533..

By mobilizing communities, raising awareness of labor issues and helping to support striking workers, the North Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council (1700 Corby Ave., Santa Rosa; 545-6970) acts as a political and monetary lifeline for several local unions in the region.

The group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (say "P-Flag") offers support for families and friends of lesbian and gay teens and adults (431-8364).

For the past couple of years, Petaluma Progressives (763-1532) has worked to nurture an increasingly left-leaning community through lectures, rallies, and an impressive weekly independent film series.

The Town Hall Coalition (P.O. Box 1005, Occidental; 874-9110) is tackling the expansion of vineyards in Sonoma County, along with a slew of related topics, including growing pesticide use. Its members are prime movers in the contentious battle over preservation of the county's rural heritage. And they're well-organized, politically savvy, highly motivated, and--it appears--fearless in their quest to quench the wine industry's thirst for power.

Napa County

In a region that has unprecedented growth in its vineyards, the United Farm Workers of America (1606 Main St., Napa; 253-1398) is gaining political ground.

Friends of the Napa River (68 Coombs St., Napa; 254-8520) is making waves in a county that is showing it has respect for natural resources.

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From the July 20-26, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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