"Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

Local Politics

2018-07-27T07:50:37-04:00

Stop me if you've heard this one before, a quick glance at archives suggests that I haven't already shared this, but I could be wrong.

After the 2016 election, I was shocked enough to the point that I felt as though I had to do something more than just bitch from the sidelines. In truth, I had more faith in the American people than they probably deserve.

For all of my adult life, I had been a registered voter with no party affiliation. Like most "independents," I regarded both parties with little more than contempt. While I didn't believe they were entirely corrupt, I did believe that they were both beholden to their own special interests, and most politicians to their own self interests.

But when Trump was elected, I guess I had some kind of epiphany. Thomas Jefferson supposedly said that people usually get the kind of government they deserve; and if we deserve Trump, perhaps it's because people like me were too smart or too sophisticated to get involved in something as unsavory as "politics." I voted, but that was all, and clearly that's not enough.

So, I found out where the local Democratic Party club met and went to their first meeting after the election. You couldn't fit all of us in the room they gave us at the library. One of the oldest members said that attendance usually increased in the run-up to an election, but then dropped off precipitously after the election. This was the first time he could recall that there were more people at the first meeting after the election than the one before.

I chose to affiliate myself with the Democratic Party rather than the Republicans, because I didn't like what had become of the Republican Party. While I know that there are many good, honorable people who are Republicans, the party has chosen to appeal to white nationalists, racists, neo-nazis, xenophobes, climate change deniers, misogynists and 2nd amendment zealots. Previous to that, I understood their affinity for corporations and the wealthy, and their courtship of the religious right, and while I don't agree with much of that, it's not ugly. In their desperation to hold off the demographic tide that's turning against them, they've embraced and mobilized the worst fringes of their constituency, and they've done nothing since they've achieved power to repudiate them. They are irresponsible, and derelict in the performance of their duties as statesmen, and far from "making America great again," they are tearing it apart and down, and making the world a more dangerous place as well.

All of which is merely just more opinion, and little more than I would offer as an NPA.

But one of the members of the county Democratic Executive Committee suggested I should run for a seat on the Soil and Water Conservation District Board. My initial reaction was simultaneously, "What the hell is that?!" And, "Sure, why not?"

When I became a member of the party (I sound like a communist now.), I started getting, of course, the emails. But this turned out to be kind of useful. One of the first ones told me that our state representatives would have an open forum in January 2017, where citizens could present their issues and priorities for the state legislature. You'd get three minutes to make your pitch, then maybe get a question or two.

For me, climate change in general, and sea level rise in particular, are the two greatest challenges facing us as a civilization. If we fail to meet this challenge, we will lose this civilization and humanity will be reduced to a much smaller population leading a mostly agrarian, feudal existence. An idea that I know appeals to many people; but I'm not one of them, and the amount of human suffering that will take place in the transition is staggering beyond comprehension.

So I sent an email to get on the agenda and spent a couple of weeks trying to craft a three minute pitch. Now, you can't lay the survival of civilization at the feet of your state representative and state senator. You need something achievable in the near term that relates specifically to their constituency. I've posted the text of my remarks here.

At the event, as everyone was gathering, my state representative, Cyndi Stevenson, walked through the room introducing herself. She eventually got to me and we shook hands as she asked me what I was going to speak about. I told her I wanted to talk about sea level rise, and she actually rolled her eyes at me and excused herself. I figured I wasn't going to get much of a reception, but that surprised me.

Eventually it was my turn to speak, and I gave my pitch. There was a fairly robust round of applause following it, and there had not been much in the way of audience reaction to many of the pitches before. This event was after Hurricane Matthew, but before Hurricane Irma. My state senator, Travis Hutson asked me if sea level rise wasn't more a job for FEMA than the state legislature? We didn't have any sort of discussion, but I mentioned that the state had to take a hand in securing its future.

After I sat down, a woman came over and handed me her card and suggested we talk afterward. Turned out she was Nancy Shaver, the mayor of St. Augustine.

I met with Nancy and some of her associates shortly after that, and she's great, she gets it and she's a champion for Florida and St. Augustine in particular. She was on a local call-in show on the NPR affiliate here, and I happened to be listening so I called in and managed to get on the air, that was also a first for me.

All of which is not to say very much. But eventually the deadline approached for getting on the ballot for the 2018 election, including three seats on the Soil and Water Conservation District Board. Members of the club kept asking me if I still intended to run, and one of our other members was going to run as well, there were three seats up for election. I kept assuring them I was, so eventually I had to get off my dead ass and drive myself down to the Supervisor of Elections Office and turn in my paperwork.

I was fairly impressed with the operation at the Supervisor of Elections. They made the process very easy, and had a packet of information useful for any prospective candidate. The first step is to file that you intend to seek the office. I guess that's to let everyone know so that folks who may want to enter the race know who they're up against, if anyone. A couple of months later I had to go down and submit all my paperwork and a check for $25.00 and I was registered as a candidate. If no one else registered to run for the seat, I would win by default and my name wouldn't appear on the ballot in November.

As it turned out, nobody did file to run against me. So, I'm in. It's an elected office, but I wasn't elected! How's that for democracy in action?

The Soil and Water Conservation District is something left over from the Great Depression and the Dustbowl. Is it relevant today? I checked the web site and tried to look at the minutes of their most recent meetings. It didn't appear that they did very much. Most of the responsibility and authority of the Districts has been handed over to state and county government. But it does have a mission, and an office and a letterhead, and those can be leveraged to good effect, I think. I have some ideas anyway.

This post is probably long enough. There will be more to follow. I'm in the arena. Kinda.

Bender

2018-07-27T07:48:10-04:00

Any idea I had of returning to some sort of disciplined use of the internet and social media pretty much failed. I've been adhering to the misguided ways of my past, surfing the web, checking Facebook and Twitter, and mostly wasting precious time.

But, try, try again. We'll try again Monday.