Meet the Authors
By Lance Simmens
As we steady ourselves for the beginning of a new year that promises to test our patience further with a triple dose of pandemic (COVID/Flu/RSV, which is short for respiratory syncytial virus) and the potential return of masking and/or other measures, let us not forget to look at life and its challenges from the standpoint of the beautiful surroundings in which we live. Many individuals have approached me and complimented the thought-provoking articles published on a biweekly basis in The Malibu Times under the side-by-side column “From the Left/From the Right.” As we enter a new year in what can only be described as trying times, let us join together in wishing everyone a very Happy Holiday season and a resurgent new year.
I present “From the Left” and my writing partner Don Schmitz presents “From the Right.” We rarely agree beyond the timely topics we choose, but since hope springs eternal and since comity is in short supply these days, we decided several years ago to at least give it a try. We both thought it would be a nice touch in a divided world to present our respective bona fides for tackling such a difficult task in this year’s closing article and hope you find our distinctly different backgrounds interesting.
We approach each topic with respect for and tolerance of opposing viewpoints, and sometimes we actually come very close to a mid-point that passes for compromise. The reader should know that we come together on the topic and then do not see what the other has written until after it is printed. Thus, we strongly adhere to the principle that no personal attacks are allowed to inject substantive argumentation with toxic recrimination. This, hopefully, allows for civil discourse that is grounded in logic and provokes thought.
Healthy debate may rarely change one’s opinion, but it does allow for a degree of respect for opposing viewpoints that challenge our inherent biases. This is a hallmark for democracy, it provokes different perspectives and encourages compromise. While the current political environment certainly offers a challenge, moderation usually prevails and continuity of governance provides a roadmap for progress. Indeed, our Constitution has always been viewed as a living document, one that incrementally bestows enhancement of benefits on a diverse society. That is the essence of a healthy nation.
I have spent my entire professional career — four decades — in public service. I have worked for two presidential administrations, two U.S. Senators, the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, two prominent governors, have written two books on public policy, authored over 800 op-ed pieces for prominent newspapers, including over 300 for Huffington Post, delivered over 100 presentations on climate change as one of the first of Al Gore’s climate messengers, appeared on numerous television talk shows, including “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” taught American government at Temple University and public policy at Santa Monica College.
I represented my undergraduate university as an intern in the Georgia State Legislature, was a teaching fellow at Temple University, where I received my Master’s in public administration, was selected as one of 50 individuals in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Managers in Government (1995), and was one of 55 individuals representing over 40 countries at Harvard’s Environment Economics and Policy Analysis Workshop (1997). I was also one of seven individuals chosen to serve as a participant observer at the U.S. Army War College (2007).
I have been very active in local politics, both in Santa Monica and Malibu. Currently, I am a Malibu Public Works commissioner, a member of the Community Emergency Response Team, VP of the Malibu Democratic Club, and a member of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party Central Committee. I have run for Malibu City Council on two occasions and spent a year as chairman of the Adamson House Foundation.
I have worked on the podium of the Democratic National Convention in 10 of the last 13 conventions.
I was married and am blessed with two children. My ex-wife passed away from complications with lupus and multiple sclerosis, and I raised my two sons as a single father.
I have read and studied history and public administration and attempted to exercise a degree of realism into problem solving that pushes the envelope without sacrificing the good in search of the perfect.
The divisive nature of the current political and ideological spectrum is threatening to take our society back in time rather than reaching for the stars that promise a better day for as many people as possible. The key to salvaging a society growing rather than deteriorating is to open as many lines of communication as possible. That is what our columns are intended to do. Thanks for listening and for the opportunity for us to help engage in thoughtful dialogue.