By Ruth Ann Angus
In 2016 it became apparent to me that my town was in trouble. Too much violence, mostly verbal, on social media sites and at a variety of civic and city meetings alerted me. It was an election year, not only for the country but also for Morro Bay. In the history of my time in this small town nestled by the ocean and famous for the granite volcanic plug that sits just off shore, I had never seen an election for mayor and city council that wasn’t divisive and contentious. What could I, one person, do about this?
I am a journalist and write the entire community newspaper Morro Bay Life. I decided to utilize that and write editorials examining our attitudes towards the issues of poverty, homelessness, drugs, racial hate speech, and direct violence that resulted in two murders and two suicides. In a town of only nine to 10 thousand people, I felt these problems were overwhelming, but not unsolvable. Then through recalling a chance meeting with John Dear in 2015 I felt impelled to look him up. Through his web site I found the web site of Pace e Bene and ultimately locked onto the section explaining the Nonviolent Cities Project. I signed up Morro Bay without even thinking what I was getting myself into.
How to make Morro Bay a Nonviolent City – that was the task I took on single handed. Yes, I formed a steering committee of friends and people I knew felt the same as I did, but obtaining support from city council, the mayor, the police or city administration was more than elusive. Instead I offered my services to go about and speak to as many organizations as I could on the topic of nonviolence as I had learned it during the 1960s during training to march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Then the country elected Donald Trump, and while I was appalled, I realized that we had suffered through a no-choice election and ended up with the worst of the two. Suddenly people became awake and a variety of political groups formed. I spoke at every one of them throughout the county, convinced that trying to affect change at the top was futile, but to work up from the neighborhood and city level was the only answer. I was looking for a shift in consciousness, a new way for us to think that would lead to better communication and actions.
As a Rotary member for many years I was introduced to the peacebuilding efforts of Rotary International and signed my club up to be a peacebuilder club. I was then contacted by a Rotary district person in Hawaii who asked if I would be interested in applying for International Peace City status for Morro Bay. He sent me all the materials and included in the information he sent me was a draft proclamation for a city to use to set up as an International Peace City. After reviewing them I realized that we did not meet the qualifications for International Peace City status. But why not have a proclamation for Nonviolent City status, I thought.
I took some of the wording from that draft proclamation and enlarged upon it with verbiage that worked for explaining the concept of nonviolence and what would be expected from a city to be established as a Nonviolent City. I knew then that I needed some assistance to get this idea across. From the beginning I always stated that my organization, Yes We Can Peacebuilders, was affiliated with Pace e Bene/Campaign Nonviolence. This leant credibility to my cause. My next step was to bring John to the Central Coast of California and have him speak at three separate events that reached more than 300 people. At the event in Morro Bay I invited all city council and city officials including the mayor. Only one came. The mayor, and he was all that I needed. I literally pinned him down that evening to the idea of issuing a proclamation establishing Morro Bay as a Nonviolent city.
Since then my steering committee completely fell apart leaving me alone to carry on, but a church stepped in to fill the gap. After repeatedly contacting every member of the city council and the city manager, I finally was able to hold meetings with them, one by one, and obtain their support for the proclamation. One council person even introduced me to a new injustice that he said I needed to include – Intergenerational Injustice. The concept being that what we put in place today will most likely impact several generations down the road.
The proclamation is long, packed with every concept we have all talked about in our discussions as participants of the Nonviolent Cities Project. This proclamation doesn’t claim that the City of Morro Bay is already a Nonviolent City, but that it will now, in perpetuity, work on each of these concepts to one day truly be a Nonviolent City. I offer this proclamation to the groups working to also establish their cities and towns as Nonviolent Cities.
The launch for Morro Bay to be established as a Nonviolent City happens to fall on the second Tuesday of September, and that turns out to be the 11th. I can’t help but think that God didn’t have just a little bit of something to do with the fact that it took me this long to reach my goal. What better day to bring my hometown into being a Nonviolent City!
WHEREAS peace is not merely the absence of war and violence, but a condition where a society has achieved a balance of prosperity, security, justice, and hope, and peace is achieved through following the concepts and methodology of nonviolence and
WHEREAS for peace and nonviolence to prevail the citizens of Morro Bay will endeavor to foster a culture of peace through education and sustainable economic and social development as a necessity for peace to prevail, and
WHEREAS equality between women and men, racial justice, intergenerational justice, economic justice, and a clean environment are the ultimate desire of the community, the citizens of Morro Bay desire to promote and respect all human rights, advance understanding, tolerance, and solidarity, support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge, and
WHEREAS the concerned citizens and community leaders are committed to establishing peace and nonviolence in the region to promote understanding, economic opportunity, and improve the quality of life of the people of our region, and this vision builds on the expertise of each person and involves all segments of our city in planning actions and making a difference, and
WHEREAS the citizens and political leaders of Morro Bay will work together to create and implement initiatives that not only foster peace and nonviolence but create a positive and lasting change in our community becoming a model for other communities, and
WHEREAS with these statements the city of Morro Bay rejects war, poverty, injustice, and environmental degradation, and these statements are in conjunction with Pace e Bene/Campaign Nonviolence/ Nonviolent Cities project, to this we are committed.
RESOLVED that the Mayor and Morro Bay City Council proclaim the City of Morro Bay to be a Nonviolent City in perpetuity, and be it further
RESOLVED that the Mayor and Morro Bay City Council supports the United Nations Resolution A/RES/52/13 designating September 21 to be International Peace Day and so designates September 21 of each year to be the City of Morro Bay Day of Peace and the month of September designated as Peace & Nonviolence Month in perpetuity, and be it further
RESOLVED that the City Council of Morro Bay, community leaders and concerned citizens develop policies and procedure that promote establishing peace and nonviolence in our region in perpetuity
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the city of Morro Bay to be affixed this 11th day of September, 2018
Mayor Jamie Irons
City of Morro Bay
You can contact Ruth Ann Angus by emailing her at yeswecanpeacebuilders1@