Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Why I am Running for Barstow City Council
My Decision To Run For City Council of Barstow
In the past various people have suggested that I should run for elected office and I have always rejected the idea for various reasons. But recently, just three days before the deadline to do so, I was contacted by a group of concern citizens of Barstow that urged me to make a run for City Council.
My initial reaction was to reject the idea out of hand. My own personal opinion on this is two fold:
First, I have never had any political ambitions toward any elected office. I have been a life long activist and I have learned from that experience that it is easier, more powerful and effective to speak truth to power as a political activist than a politician. As an activist your words are not challenged as having a personal agenda for personal gain. Politicians are always accused as saying whatever it takes to get elected.
Secondly, I did not initially see myself as in a position to win this seat at this time. To start with, I do not personally have the financial resources to finance a campaign with signs, buttons, bumper stickers, advertising, and other advertising that is necessary to win an elected office. More importantly, experience has taught me that when you make a practice of speaking truth to power, you usually make more enemies than friends. The existing power structure always controls the media and the means to get their message out more effectively than you can. This is certainly true here in Barstow with the Desert Dispatch.
Still I was open to the arguments being put forward as to why I should set those issues aside and make a run for the Council anyway. Those arguments were as follows:
1. I'm a Democrat. The makeup of the existing council has been dominated by Republicans with the sole exception of Helen Runyun, a 4 term incumbent who is a senior citizen. As the President of the Mojave Desert Democratic Club and a Delegate from the 34th Assembly District to the San Bernardino County Central Committee, I am a prominent and vocal representative of the Democratic Party. Democrats enjoy a slight majority within the registered voters this City of 22,000. At the least, my candidacy will be an indicator of how much the Democrat label will pull votes here in Barstow.
2. Give voters a choice. I have been quite vocal in where I stand on a host of issues that we face here in Barstow. I attend every City Council meeting that I am able. Most of the other candidates are people who stand on the opposite side of those issues from me and are essentially aligned in every way with Mayor Dale and politics as usual. In the last election in June, we had two Republicans running against each other that were deeply divided on the issues. This time around there will again be mostly Republicans candidates that are largely in agreement with each other on the issues. There is one Republican and one Independent that are voices for change. However, they are both running to get their message out and have no real expectations about getting elected.
3. Unite Democrats. By increasing my visibility there is a belief that my candidacy will bring more attention to the existence of the Mojave Desert Democratic Club and motivate local Democrats to join the Club and get involved in Democratic issues. We live in a largely red zone. Four out of five council members are Republicans. Our California State Assemblyman, Senator, and Governor are all Republicans as is our Congressman. Yet in Barstow, Democrats enjoy a slight majority in registered voters.
4. Get the issues out! As a candidate, you are able to participate in any candidate debates that are scheduled. In addition, there is usually some candidate statements that are put in the local paper. The campaign platforms are issues that are given attention that exposes voters to those issues that are important and need voter attention.
All of these arguments that were put forth to convince me to run, are the reasons that made me conclude that a run would succeed in getting the word out, whether or not I was successful in my race. So quite reluctantly I agreed to throw my hat in the ring. On Tuesday, August 8, I stopped by City Hall and took out the papers to run as a candidate for City Council. In order to qualify as a candidate, I had to first collect 30 signatures of Registered City residents on a petition that had to be turned into City Hall, three days later on August 11.
That was barely 48hrs to gather the signatures and fill out the paper work to qualify for the ballot. In addition, it cost $300 to have a candidate statement included on the ballot and that money along with the 200 word statement also had to be turned in by the same deadline or forgo the benefit of having a statement on the ballot. Without having the funds personally, I decided to forfeit the advantage of having that statement on the ballot.
The signatures were hastily collected and the forms filled out. All of this was turned into the City Clerk just a couple of hours prior to the 5 pm deadline. It was only then that I learned that if you didn't have the $300 for the statement, you could fill out an application to have the fees waived. I filled out the application while I was still at the City Clerk's office and raced home to draft my statement. I finished at exactly 200 words and with just minutes to spare before I emailed it to the City Clerk.
I was contacted by the City Clerk a couple of hours later and congratulated as a qualified candidate. Then another hour later, I got a call from Howard Decker to get information on how I wanted my name listed in the Desert Dispatch. My campaign as a Candidate for the Barstow City Council was now begun!