Friday, January 29, 2021

#29 / File Boxes Full Of History


Not too long ago, I had an opportunity to visit the offices of the Romero Institute, whose work combines public education, grassroots organizing, policy initiation, and high-impact litigation to expose injustice and to develop life-sustaining solutions to critical challenges to both human communities and the natural world. I was there to talk about the Romero Institute's effort to help inspire and catalyze a "Green New Deal" for the state of California, as a way to address human-caused climate change. The Institute correctly identifies human-caused global warming and associated climate change as probably "the single greatest threat to our human family."

The Romero Institute now operates out of a former high school building, located right next door to the Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz, California. What I saw in their offices, among other things, was LOTS of file boxes, the contents of which document the history of the justice campaigns in which the Romero Institute and its leaders have been centrally involved. The picture above is NOT from the Romero Institute. It is for illustrative purposes only. The Romero Institute has a LOT more boxes and files than are pictured above!

Seeing those file boxes in storage at the offices of the Romero Institute made me remember the file boxes of records that I amalgamated during my twenty years as an elected member of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. I was a history major in college, and have a strong belief that remembering what we have done, both individually and collectively, is actually quite important. History, it seems to me, is often under-appreciated. This is not a recent thought, either. When I was elected to the Board of Supervisors forty-six years ago, at age twenty-nine, I immediately began a practice of systematically documenting the events with which I was involved during my tenure on the Board. 

By the time of my retirement, in 1995, I had created a 365-page set of indices (three volumes) listing every significant decision with which I was involved. Organized by date, this index will let anyone who is interested know where the relevant county records are likely to be found. The three-part index is called "The Patton Record," and anyone interested can get access through my website, on which this blog appears. You can find the link in the list that is located on the lefthand column. 

In addition to my personal index, I kept files on many of the key decisions in which I was involved. When I left the Board, I had 165 file boxes, measuring 220 linear feet. Again, my website has a link to these files, which are now maintained by the University of California. Check for "The Patton Political Papers" in the lefthand column of my website.

I am hoping that someday these records will turn out to be useful to someone who decides to do a history of Santa Cruz County during the final 25 years of the Twentieth Century. This was really a very extraordinary time, and I like to think that someone, someday, will want to write it all down. I am pretty sure that the Romero Institute is hoping that someone is going to write its story, too. It's a pretty extraordinary, and heartening, history. 

Aren't all of our histories a little bit like that? 

That's what I think!

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