Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Observations from the Campaign Trail

Published in the Williamson County Sun 11-20-2013

The best part of running for city council was meeting people.  I met so many wonderful people who have quietly been doing good in this town for years; people who believe that even the unlucky deserve a fair shake, people who spend their spare time making things better for the less fortunate among us, and people who believe that the real value in a community cannot be entered on a spread sheet.  Excel is not the same as Excellence.

I drank a lot of coffee with city employees who, without exception, were excited about their jobs and passionate about the future of Georgetown.  We are lucky to have such a wonderful city staff.

Knocking on a thousand doors in Georgetown’s District 2, I learned a lot of interesting things about my neighbors too.  The majority of people who answered the doorbell were eager to chat.  Some offered to introduce me to their neighbors.  Almost everybody loves Georgetown, having moved here precisely because it is a good place to live.  Many told me they intend to die here, even if Georgetown keeps growing, which they know it will.  Most had no complaints, but if they did come up with one, it was usually “Don’t raise property taxes.”  Many want more businesses on the Square that cater to Georgetown residents, not just tourists.  A lot of people really miss the monthly truck load of brush that they used to be able to dump for free at the collection station, and many were puzzled about why we do so much road repaving and curb replacement.  Many, many people thought we should restrict watering more than we currently do.

Several of my block-walking encounters stand out because they were unusual.  One very tall man answered the door in his boxer shorts.  Our conversation was brief.

A young man with multiple tattoos asked me if I liked guns.  When I assured him that city council was unlikely to pass any ordinance that would interfere with his second amendment rights, he confided that he likes to take his rifle out in public to demonstrate for open carry.  He had tried to organize a neighborhood militia but his neighbors weren’t very interested.  Since he lives about a quarter of a mile from my own house, I was secretly thankful for the lack of local military fervor.

Another youngish man only wanted to know if I opposed Agenda 21, the non-binding United Nations document addressing environmental degradation and poverty in the 21st century.  Certain suspicious individuals believe Agenda 21 is secret code for a covert plan to destroy the sovereignty of the United States and take away our private property rights.  I haven’t been able to figure out how stripping away our property rights would combat poverty or environmental degradation, and even if the UN were to set such a goal, it really hasn’t ever been successful at imposing its will on even those most deserving of control.  My attempts were futile to persuade him that Georgetown city council has little to gain by forcing citizens into serfdom.

A young home-schooling couple, after a long sidewalk conversation, wanted me to promise that if elected to city council, I would never vote to provide gay people with equal rights or domestic benefits.  When I refused to make such a pledge, they dismissed me as an incorrigible progressive.  A few days later my opponent’s sign appeared in their yard.

At another home a woman answered but seemed reluctant to talk to me by herself.  She called her husband to the door and he immediately demanded to know if I was a Republican.  When I answered that I was not, he growled “Not a chance,” and turned away.  The wife smiled wanly and shrugged her shoulders, as if to apologize silently for his rudeness.  I left wondering if she was ever allowed to converse on her own, and what kind of behavior she puts up with on his bad days.

A gentleman in a small duplex visited with me on his driveway until it was time for him to pick up his teenage niece from school.  A single man, he had devoted his life to raising his niece since she was an infant, because her mother had been in prison when the baby was born.  An entire wall of his living room was covered with pictures of the girl.

On a sweltering day in September, a young black Navy veteran, recently moved to Georgetown from Washington DC, invited me, a sweaty stranger, into his home and offered me a glass of water.  His hospitality was remarkable enough, but his race was the really unusual thing in district 2.  Of my entire list of voters in district 2, only 5 doors were answered by black people, proving yet again that a “post-racial” America is a myth.  I find this lack of diversity disturbing, not because I was the Democrat in a supposedly non-partisan election, but because I believe neighborhood segregation is an anchor holding us in the past.

It would have been more fun to win, but making so many new friends was a real gift.  And at least I’m off the hook for the repaving job.


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