I am profoundly honored to be a councilman-elect for the city of Lakewood.
This was a long campaign; Tuesday was a long day that stretched into a long night, before final results.
But it's official, Lakewood has called on me to serve on City Council.
The support from this community is incredible. Over 4,500 voted for our campaign, more votes than any campaign received in Lakewood's last at-large race four years ago. This response to my first-ever campaign for office is moving. I am more than happy with this overall second-place result, and I congratulate first-place finisher Meghan F. George.
Our swearing-in will likely take place around the first of January. There is much to do even before then, to start delivering on a more inclusive, better Lakewood for all. Please stay tuned for updates as we recover from the campaign and get to work on realizing that promise.
Meanwhile, there are far, far too many people and organizations to thank, but I will make a start and keep trying in the days ahead.
Polls close for Election 2017 in a little over five hours. It has turned into a beautiful fall day in Lakewood, and I hope as many people as possible will enjoy it while being part of our community's future.
For anyone taking a last-minute look,
My background includes degrees in business administration and public administration; two startups; volunteer work as county coordinator for OSHIIP; a great tenure doing outreach for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank; and working as regional field director for Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign.
Since I set out an initial platform including better senior amenities, and protecting Lakewood's green space, I have spoken with people throughout the community about dozens more issues that matter to them. Lead safety, youth recreation opportunities, nuisance laws, just to name a few.
Throughout the campaign, however, proactive communication and transparency has always been a priority. That's why I have encouraged people to speak out with ideas and questions, holding frequent public events and trying to bring the conversation to people throughout Lakewood.
On Election Day, I hope you will allow me an opportunity to take these conversations further, as an active representative for you on City Council.
There are other questions on our ballots in Lakewood, however, and people have also asked me about some of these. (Especially Issue 2!) I'm glad to answer these questions also. Your vote is ultimately your decision, and I encourage you to check some independent guides like Vote411 or ballotpedia. But I think we have a right to know where people representing us—or seeking to represent us—stand on issues before the community.
So, here are the decisions I made and some comments on how I made them.
I believe this election is about our future. But experience is very valuable in getting things done, especially in a way that’s thoughtful and inclusive.
I will bring real-world experience to Lakewood City Council:
- Greater Cleveland Food Bank, where I was one of the first employees in a new Outreach Department, providing millions of meals per year to our most vulnerable populations
- Business experience creating and running two start-ups
- MoveOn.org, United Against Hate Program, Deputy State Director
- Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP), Volunteer County Coordinator
- Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign, Field Director and National Ballot Access Officer
- Advocacy at the state and federal levels for increases to food assistance programs and for banking reforms
Cleveland State Democrats, VP
- Church on the North Coast, Media Director
- BONGA Media, a nonprofit program which I organized and led, teaching media, marketing and computer skills to empower the residents of a small community in Uganda
- Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Outreach Volunteer
"It's not about me, it's about us," was how I concluded my first formal speech as a candidate. Since then, our campaign has tried to reflect this as much as possible. I have held open, community meetings throughout Lakewood. I have declined corporate contributions and run the campaign on small, individual donations. Even on our literature, we have chosen photos showing the people that this campaign is for, rather than just photos of me.
I am grateful for all the formal endorsements I have received. But the response from the Lakewood community is what matters most, and I have been honored by all the people who have voiced support for me. In the newspaper, in person, online, with yard signs…
As we begin the final week of the campaign, it's heartening that this support is still arriving.
Today, Lakewood resident Dan Alaimo was kind enough to write "Tristan has put together one of the best campaigns, and campaign organizations I've seen lately in Lakewood. It's been comprehensive from start to finish. Campaign organizing frequently is reflected in effectiveness while in office."
A few others have not only gone on record but on video with their support. Thank you, Sarah Kolberg:
Voting matters. And having a plan to vote matters, because people with a plan are much more likely to complete their ballot before polls close on Election Day.
Right now you've got three main options.
Vote on Election Day: Tuesday, Nov. 7
This weekend, the Women's Convention in Detroit is continuing the movement that began nine months ago with the historic Women's March. Looking back on the march prompts a number of reflections. Along with many others, I helped organize the sister march in Cleveland (and at least half of my campaign committee volunteered at the event). I don't think any of us imagined the extraordinary response that followed.
Meanwhile, both the march and the convention represent major milestones in "a much longer journey…" That's how Cleveland Heights - University Heights student Fiona Macke described this movement, on the flier she created for the Cleveland Women's March. Looking back on what she wrote, it's still an impressive tip sheet for activism, concise and relevant.
It also highlights what I think is one more milestone yet to come this year. As Macke wrote,
"Vote in every election from school board to President. It's the only way to enusre that people in power will hear you"
I'm asking the voters of Lakewood to send me to City Hall to represent them on council. But I also believe that an equally important part of a council member's job is spending time outside City Hall, in the community. Citizens shouldn't have to pay council members, and do all the work of going to council on its schedule, just to speak for a few minutes.
The people's representatives should be accessible throughout the community, for direct two-way dialogue.
That's what I have been doing this year as a candidate. It's what I will continue to do if I'm elected to City Council at-large.
It's what I am continuing to do now, in fact. In June and July, my campaign held four Town Halls meetings, and I'm committed to continuing these. Meanwhile I have also held more public events each month. Nearly all these events have met the Town Hall Project's five criteria of 1) free, 2) open to the public, 3) open questions, 4) an in-person appearance, and 5) sticking around for the whole event. (I took a couple of breaks during the Community Festival, and two candidate forums sponsored by other organizations screened questions in advance.)
June 10: Town Hall (Ward 1)
June 17: Town Hall (Ward 3)
July 8: Town Hall (Ward 4)
July 29: Town Hall (Ward 2)
Aug. 10: Open House at Goddess Blessed
Aug. 12: neighborhood event
Aug. 27: neighborhood event
Aug. 30: forum at the Westerly
Sept. 9: Community Festival booth
Sept. 20: forum at South Westerly
Sept. 23, 27 & 28: candidate forums
Oct. 19: candidate meet & greet
Oct. 25: open “office hours”
Stan Austin is a genuine pillar of the community. He has been an organizer, has worked on campaign after campaign, spent years covering city council as a citizen journalist…
So his endorsement in the most recent Lakewood Observer is very humbling.
For many years, Lakewood exempted students from filing a local income tax return, if they spent most of the year at college. Then, late in 2015, City Council voted to end that exemption beginning with filings for 2016.
This vote came up as a question at a candidate forum a couple of weeks ago, and I was surprised that all of the incumbent candidates struggled to remember it.
I was actually the only candidate familiar with the issue, and replied that I would have fought to keep this exemption for students. To be entirely fair, City Council holds a lot of votes, and I can’t say for certain that I would have recalled the details of this one almost two years later.
But the issue also came up again just this year, when people went to file 2016 taxes and began asking where the college student exemption went. People discussed it online, the Lakewood Observer published an article, and Lakewood’s Finance Director as well as Ward 4 Councilman Dan O’Malley all weighed in.
I noticed this, and the discussion convinced me that this was not a decision that I would have supported on council. While the city cited changes in state law as the reason for taking away the exemption, residents noticed that other Ohio cities have kept this filing exemption. The Director of Tax Policy at the Ohio Society of CPAs says that nothing in 2014 tax law changes prevented Lakewood from doing the same.
Based on that, I can say that I disagree with the choice made by City Council in 2015. It’s a relatively small thing in practical terms. But with so many people struggling to afford college, we should stand up for whatever support Lakewood can offer, not take it away in a vote that no one seemed to notice.