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.)
In June and July, our campaign hosted four open-ended community town halls. For the most part, Lakewood hasn’t seen anything like these in years.
I’m more convinced than ever that it’s time to change that.
Turnout has grown at each ward town hall (after making allowances for extra turnout in Ward 4 to see a very special guest). On July 29, dozens showed up for the Ward 2 town hall for no reason other than a conversation about our city. As I told everyone there, I want to keep this going. If I’m elected to city council, I will continue holding open town hall meetings.
Former state senator Nina Turner, recently named the new chair of Our Revolution, is one of my heroes. So I was beyond honored when she stopped by Lakewood’s Madison Park to join our Ward 4 town hall, this weekend.
Nina was kind enough to encourage people in supporting my campaign. But she also had some powerful, inspiring things to say about the bigger mission of progressive change, and I want to share some of these here.
On grassroots activism: From the civil rights movement to women’s liberation, change “didn’t come from the grass tops, it came from the grassroots.” There’s an important part for the “grass tops,” i.e. people in office, but the power they exercise is always the people’s power. Don’t ever feel powerless, no matter who is in office.
On local government: “Every level of government is important, every single office is important.” Local government is closer to the people and can make the quickest difference to people’s lives. Our Revolution will be highlighting local candidates as well as high-profile races, for that reason. “Local level matters too, local officials matter too.”
On Three P’s: 1) Push and breathe; just like going into labor, when it’s painful is the time to push. 2) Protest and plan; resist today but also plan for a time when it becomes possible to do more. 3) Persevere; the fight for justice is an endurance race. In the words of Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, “The struggle is forever, so we are in the struggle forever.”
The discussion at town halls has been wide-ranging, so far. We’ve talked about greenery, historic preservation, sidewalks, block clubs and much more. Often, though, conversations about our city come back to inclusivity, one way or another.
In three town halls and on hundreds of front porches, I keep hearing a few things from all kinds of people:
- Lakewood takes pride in the idea of a community where diversity is welcome and celebrated.
- Our city can do better at living up to that idea, in practical policies.
- Including more people, voices and ideas will help solve the challenges facing Lakewood.
Our city faces serious challenges with population loss, and with related finance problems. To address both, we need to give more people reasons to call Lakewood home, and fewer reasons to look elsewhere.
Close involvement with the community should be local government’s best feature. We can find solutions through real, open conversations among people, without the barriers that tend to divide us otherwise.
That’s how it should work, and as a candidate for Lakewood City Council At-large that’s what I’m committed to delivering. Let’s have open discussion, let’s discuss the issues, and let’s get more people not only heard but involved.
Let’s get started, too. Please attend a town hall conversation about your ideas for a better Lakewood. Starting June 10, I’m hosting a series of town halls in our city’s wards, but the focus is you and your input. What’s working in Lakewood, and what should work better? Whether it’s a citywide issue, a larger issue, or an issue local to your block, this is the place for it.
All voices are welcome, especially if you haven’t been engaged in local issues before! Your input does matter.