Several years ago, when I became ‘community aware’, I took a stance of opposing the city on several projects. I didn’t like the direction things were going and wanted to offer the other side.
To me, the decisions that were being made were so obviously wrong I felt I would easily gain support and would be able to change things around. I know it is naïve, but when all you hear is how the elected officials are messing things up I figured the people were looking for change. I even got my name on the ballot.
I learned local elections have less to do with issues and more to do with popularity. People don’t vote on your positions, they vote for the people they know. That is unless there are really important issues such as “can I burn my leaves?” to bring people to the polls. Around here, 20% turnout on local elections is considered good.
After finding cyburbia, it was pointed out that my tone was very “us vs. them”. As I mentioned earlier, I really thought public opinion would go my way, and while it seemed to, those who supported my efforts only did so in words and not actions. I got a lot of slaps on the back, 'atta boys, and it’s about time someone said what you’re saying.
The truth is, those who have the ambition to get involved, probably already are. And it is these people you will have to deal with to achieve your goals. Starting by opposing them will earn you the reputation of being against them and it is very hard to shake that rep.
After several months of achieving absolutely nothing, I began to change my tactics. Besides my website, I wrote a weekly column where most people know me from. I began writing more about the things I agreed with rather than the things I disagreed. On things I disagreed with, I took directly to City staff or elected officials via e-mail or phone calls and tried to learn more about their positions rather than attack them. I never changed my views I just chose positive topics to write about.
The tactic seems to have worked with the staff. They seem willing to work with me and take my input seriously. The general public also noticed the change. I am now accused of “joining the establishment” and being “the City’s biggest apologist”. The elected officials however, still see me as that guy who opposes them. I felt that once again today.
Our mayor had to resign for health reasons. After one of the council members moved up to mayor, this left an open seat. It is up to the council to appoint a replacement. They called me and asked if I would meet them to possibly fill the post. During the meeting, I kind of got the feeling I wasn’t a serious candidate. There was very little discussion to my answers.
They called me today to say they went with someone else. They went out of their way to say they didn’t ask me there to make it seem like they took me seriously. While as a collective group this may be true. I don’t think individually they really thought so.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, but I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised. What is most frustrating to me is I am truly in this for the interest of the city. I have probably spent more time trying to improve the city then a lot of the council members. And I cannot even get appointed to a committee. I can count the number of council meetings I’ve missed in the last four years on one hand.
I am not sure on what my next move will be. It is about 18 months till the next election. If I run again and lose, I don’t think I will ever be taken seriously. I don’t want to be the guy who always runs but never gets elected. I don’t think any of my ideas will ever be taken seriously with the current council or any future council member that serves with them.
My advice to those wanting to their ideas implemented is to work within the existing establishment, not to work against them. Changing the establishment is hard, and once you are seen as the opposition, you will always be seen as the opposition.