An Open Letter to Local Candidates
by Joe Trapp, President
First of all I want to thank Judy Cox for her service as MGO President these last few years. Judy has represented us all well, within the group and outside, with great dignity and patience. I last served as President of MGO in 2001-2002.
A few years before, I ran for East Bay Municipal Utility District, Ward 3. As anyone knows who has run for competitive office, and as those who are running now for the first time are finding out, besides draining your bank account, the work takes up much of your time and mental, emotional, and physical effort. Fundraising and cultivating political allies can be treacherous ground, and one sees how easy it is for politicians to lose their way during a campaign. Maintaining integrity 100% without making enemies is impossible, and most normal people do not wish to make any enemies!
And, as we have learned from the internet age, most people do not naturally handle political conflict gracefully (perhaps we look back upon not a more civilized era, but one that was publically handled by the experts in civic diplomacy). Campaigns do generate a certain amount of energy, especially as Election Day approaches, but the act of campaigning is ultimately emotionally draining. So, from those of us who have done it before, to those who are running now, we understand how difficult it can all be.
But please remember, it also is the best job interview for actually doing the work of an elected representative, and those hours spend knocking on doors, calling, and interviewing, do give the prospective elected official feedback on whether or not their ideas and methods are accepted by the general public. That Oakland and its neighbors comprise a solid Democratic Party area is no great secret. Republican candidates rarely contest an election here. That fact acknowledged, we have a hard time blaming the Republicans if we blow it here, and many of us feel that Oakland is not what it could be.
Oakland is a Democratic town; if we believe in progressive principals, and want to see them flower and succeed, this is the place to start. Failure, for the greater part, is our own fault. Certainly, Oakland has its set of challenges: we have many, poor, marginally skilled people, and the margin for error in governing this City is less than richer, smaller towns. Certainly, this City has progressed some since I first moved here in 1989: our neighborhood shopping and dining districts, for one, have definitely become destinations the past few years.
But there are core problems that have seen small and ephemeral progress: public safety, education, and the general advancement for each succeeding generation in Oakland. Beyond progressive pronouncements during the campaign, we need honest governing and effective execution. We need governing that is not afraid of admitting and learning from mistakes. We need leaders who always put the greater good first, regardless of the affect on their political futures. We need civility and leadership, so that the people of Oakland will feel proud of not just of what can be, but of those who we elect as leaders.
Of course, we do see these qualities at least some of the time, from at least some of our leaders. We just need more of it – as much of it as we can get. Many of us may not wish to acknowledge this, but politics takes skill and natural ability – like hitting a baseball or playing a ukulele. Some people are both born and driven to pursue this craft. To those locally who do posses this gift (and to those who don’t but somehow end up elected anyway!) all we can ask, is that when elected, that you treat your office as a sacred trust; if you do, we can forgive your missteps.
For Thursday, September 16, MGO will host the candidates for Oakland City Council, Alameda Count County Supervisor, East Bay Regional Parks, BART and EBMUD. We will also discuss the State and Local ballot measures.
For Thursday, September 23, MGO will host the candidates for Oakland Mayor, City Auditor, and Oakland School Board.
Both meetings will be at the Dimond Library in Oakland.
2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Local Candidates”
January 9, 2010 at 5:02 pm
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September 9, 2010 at 7:12 pm
Thank you for this very pragmatic and well-spoken letter. What time will these Endorsements Meetings be on the 16th and 23rd? Thanks you.