One of the things I've gained during this campaign is a new appreciation for how challenging it can be to produce and facilitate a meaningful and substantive political debate that is valuable to voters. Between the spring primary and the general election, I can think of at least eight events where myself and some combination of other candidates for office were asked to debate (or converse, or discuss) the issues facing Richmond and Wayne County for an hour or more.
At each event, as a candidate I've tried to balance a series of (sometimes competing) goals for my participation, including:
A recent editorial in the Palladium-Item again called for candidates in this City election to provide more detail about the specific changes and tasks we will take on if elected to improve City finances and the community as a whole.
I feel confident that in my own campaign I've provided a thorough look at how I would approach my role as a member of City Council. I've posted a consolidated list of my views on a number of issues facing the community, I've continued to post updates and more thorough commentary on the topics that have emerged in this election, and part of my history in this community as a volunteer is some extensive writings on my personal website about Richmond and our approach to governance and community building.
Last night was the second scheduled event during the general election cycle when candidates for an at-large position on City Council got together to answer questions from people in the community about issues facing Richmond. More so than the Chamber-sponsored debates last week, I thought the questions posed by attendees revealed a lot about what's on the hearts and minds of members of our community.
We were asked about education, access to affordable housing, how to pay for proposed improvements in City government, the local Latino population, the community's relationship with its workers, what we can do to keep more college graduates here, whether Council members should be injecting themselves into private business decisions, and more.
But I think the one question that was probably most piercing for all of us was from Toivo Asheeke, who asked what we as Council members would do to restore a sense of hope and empowerment to people who live in Richmond. It's a huge, important, emotional question, and as Toivo was quoted as saying in today's Palladium-Item, our answers as candidates were indeed "insufficient."
As candidates running for one seat on a 9-seat local legislative body in a small city in the Midwestern U.S., it might be tempting to shrug off the call to play a role in restoring hope and empowerment in our citizens. And politicians should rightly be careful to make promises they can't keep - if you believed the statements that sometimes came out of President Obama's election campaign, for example, as soon as he was sworn in there was going to be so much hope and empowerment flowing in the streets we'd choke on it; how's that working out for us?
But I do think restoring hope and a sense of empowerment is something City Council can impact here in Richmond, and that's what I said last night: