Many of my posts here have been about running or other outdoor events. Oddly enough that is not what this post title is about. Sheila and I are considering – and considering in depth the possibility of me running for local office here in Rochester.
No matter if you are on the left, the right, or in the middle like me – That is a statistic that should shock you. Now not only are we not voting much – Turnout was around 15% for that election. We aren’t even being given a choice. ANY choice.
Can we make a difference? That’s the big question right now.
On November 9th 2016 I sat in our home on Cranberry Road in Greece, NY in shock as I watched the coverage of a completely split electorate in the United States Presidential election.
I watched America vote for 2 of the most un-liked candidates in history and, sadly, I was part of the argument that helped to create a deep rift in this country.
That night I went to bed beside my wife with our dog at our feet and I told myself I would find a way to become part of the solution.
The next morning we woke and spent more than 12 hours at our school. We hosted a night for our English as a New Language students. We had translators, we had food, we had warm clothes for those who would be facing their first Rochester winter, we had games, and music, and fun.
Sheila is a public school teacher at an international school full of immigrants and refugees. Fitting, as her grandparents came to America that very same way. Escaping post WW2 and it’s own refugee camps to come to this country in a time of uncertainty. Her grandfather started a business with the skills he had from the old country. Her father now owns that business and they have created a home and a family here in Western NY.
I have worked for 8 years in public service helping children in our schools try to escape the depths of poverty and violence. After years of watching my father spend his entire career working in the service of U.S Veterans it seems fitting to be where I am. My time working at the Center For Youth services, a non-profit, youth first organization, has opened my eyes to realize we must create a better future for the children I work with everyday.
Standing there in that room at school #50 the night after that election, surrounded by people who dream of, struggle for, and are so thankful for the opportunity to chase the American dream, I had a thought. I could stay here in my current position to help this community from the ground up and at the same time run for public office to try affect change from the policy level on down.
So we are considering a run and what my candidacy for the 1st Legislative District for the Monroe County Legislature would look like.
I was asked when I brought this up to a few close friends and advisers to ask myself a serious question. Why do you want to run for office and what do you hope to change? For me those answers are simple. The two party system is broken. Everyone knows it, but no one does anything to change it. If I run, I plan to run on a progressive platform. I believe it time we move forward not back. I do however believe there are many conservative values that have helped shape this country and we should look to those values to help us in the future. To this I will respect those issues. Not tied to an issue based on party. I will vote on what is best for this couhttps://emergingtrail.wordpress.com/2016/12/08/to-run-or-notnty and its future. On the issues, for the people.
Education: I believe in quality Education and equitable funding. I grew up in an affluent suburb. I work in a struggling city school. I believe both can succeed. I want to see the quality of education rise in both systems. I want to see equitable funding. I do not believe in high stakes testing and those scores being tied in to teacher evaluations. I believe in more local control over our schools and their budgets. I believe in directing money found to be corporate waste to education.
Poverty: Monroe County is sort of like a tale of two cities. Poverty is rampant in the city, but we are kidding ourselves if we also think it does not exist in the towns surrounding the city. Anti-Poverty initiatives should be in place to help, teach, and eventually work to end poverty. This includes job training, better public transportation, more access to affordable education, and giving incentives to companies who want to stay here in the area and hire local residents while paying a living wage.
Improved infrastructre (roads and bridges) – One way to do this is to fund infrastructure jobs that many of our hard working families are clearly qualified to work in (see above). This is two fold as it helps our local economy and creates a better and safer commute for everyone. Infrastructure also includes public transportation. Improved bus stops (safer) More lines, bike lanes, safer walkways and more investments in these projects. Rochester has begun implementing a bike cooridor – We should build on that.
LGBTQ Rights – It is my belief that if we want truly want a small government we stay out of others bedrooms. As a progressive I believe that everyone should have equal rights protected by our laws. We should not be maintainin or pass laws that discriminante and denegrate members of our society. To me LGBTQ rights are human rights and we should treat them as such. Monroe County has been progressive on this matter and it should continue and even improve our protection of all members of our society.
Environment and open spaces – As an avid outdoorsmen who bikes, fishes, runs, hike, and climbs I believe some of the most profound days of my life have happened out in open space communing with the environment. We must protect our environment and preserve and care for our open spaces. This protection must include hunters and our history of gun ownership in this country. The future of our environment is at stake here and we should continue to fight for every park, trail, and hunting zone this county currently offers. Included in this is a way for the county to begin to find ways to become more environmentally aware. Supporting solar initiatives and other alternate fuel sources is a major hope of mine.
So there it is. It is public now. We are considering. Sheila and I have had many talks about this. I have met with many close friends about this. I don’t hide from the fact that I am socially to the left. I find it frightening that we continue to attack members of our society that need us now more than ever.
I find the break between the left and the right too be large and I know we have more in common than we think.
I have in the past said, and with the utmost sincerity “If you vote for Donald Trump you can just go ahead and unfriend me”. On election night and the days after as I saw violence and hate crimes sky-rocket I began to think maybe that is not the correct way to think. Maybe offering people a chance to talk, in person, not on the internet would help.
My positions haven’t changed. They are clear as day, but my willingness to listen while I consider this run has opened up. I can’t possibly represent everyone, we are so diverse. I can however try to see that viewpoint.
If we decide not to run for office, Sheila and I are committed to getting involved in behind the scenes work. Voter reg drive, turn out the vote days, contact your rep days. There is plenty of work to be done.
Let’s work on fixing this, because honestly, it’s broken.