Bringing the People Together (Come Together Rally Speech)
Thanks to everyone who showed up and to all other supporters who weren't able to do so. The following is the text of my closing remarks:
"We’ve come together here today, in the heart of the city we call home, looking towards our future and wondering about its outlook. Will the path forward be paved by us or the few whose voice is always heard? Are we prepared to take a stand for better services and opportunities or are we content with the bare minimum? Shall we establish that our unity supersedes the importance of our political identity or have we determined that it is best to remain divided with stagnant progress? The time has come for us to choose!
Gazing about the Square and the work that is being done here, you can see the realization of a carefully thought-out plan. The brains behind this project mean well. They saw an environmental mandate as an opportunity to transform this struggling part of town into a booming beacon of hope. With the roundabouts and other improvements to come, their dream is that businesses will locate here and that young people will follow by moving in to the lofts throughout the downtown. Truthfully, there is little wrong with this vision of optimism, except that the crafting thereof seemingly had little input from the citizens with no personal stake in the success of these changes.
Yes, the grant money was specific to this area and could not be spent elsewhere, but what is the game plan to spread the gains from the final product to everyone in Newark? Will we be seeking additional grants to make similar improvements to the parts of town with less businesses and more impoverished inhabitants? Newark isn’t just comprised of the Square and what you see near the hospital, OSU-Newark, and Twenty-First Street. At some point, we are going to have to acknowledge that people don’t just shop here, they live here as well, and we depend on that realization coming sooner than later.
Might I suggest starting with a stern discussion about our infrastructure? What good will come of this beautification of the downtown if citizens are incapable of safely traveling to such from any part of the city? Our roadways are getting paved, but at a sluggish pace and with a conspicuous preference for putting poorer neighborhood streets last. Even so, infrastructure consists of more than just paving, but a focus on transportation and the provision of services in general. Let us begin a conversation on how to fix this.
We can restore our roads by fully exploring all possible options for finding the money that is needed to fund as much. We can alleviate the wear and tear on same said roadways by re-examining the issues of fixed-route busing and adopting a reformed policy on trash collection. Also, we can further reduce the damage done by vehicles through encouraging fellow citizens to take up alternative and even healthier means of transportation by way of bicycling and walking and with an emphasis on creating jobs that are near residential areas. Related to this is the need to provide bicyclists with more trails and pedestrians with more sidewalks.
On that last point, it is important to remember that the laying of sidewalks requires cooperation from property owners. People tend to be hesitant to lend something to the public, but the need for reaching out and inspiring a sense of civic mutual duty is strong. It is simply unacceptable to make our children and other fellow citizens choose between dodging traffic and walking through someone’s yard. Essentially, to successfully promote the expansion of our sidewalk network, we must strengthen the unity of our neighborhoods.
Unless citizens in every neighborhood of this city come to perceive themselves as united with common interests, our objectives of building a brighter future will fail. While the individual is certainly talented and resourceful, a group of citizens with a common purpose is unstoppable. The city can not expect to transform Newark into a model community from the top-down. No, what we need is an active population that engages one another and is prepared to lead from the grassroots.
Moreover, a safer community is more likely to see the benefits of participation. On the government side of this coin, the responsibility is to work tirelessly so as to adequately equip and otherwise support our safety forces. We do this by working with, not around, the men and women we entrust with the duty of protecting us. We do this by respecting the organizations that exist to represent them and by honoring the terms of the contracts negotiated. Having a tight budget should not serve as an excuse to undercut the collective bargaining process. These people are our neighbors as well as our servants, and they deserve our respect all of the time and not just when they are in uniform!
On the citizens’ end of the coin, we have a responsibility of communicating better amongst ourselves, with the city, and especially with the authorities. We have already begun to see the fruits of reviving neighborhood block watches, and extending this revival to every street would ultimately be in our best interest. Beyond that, we need to establish a regular, open system of communication between community leaders and police so as to strengthen the relationship where such needs work and create an atmosphere where crime can’t thrive. This emphasis on safety isn’t just good for you and me or the people who risk their lives on our behalf, but it is central to our obligation to future generations of Newark citizens.
And what do we owe our brothers and sisters lacking a place to call home? I challenge you to imagine for yourself a twist of fate wherein you wind up in their predicament. Let’s take into account that the nights are now getting colder as fall begins to set in. Those of us with a roof over our heads more likely than not can enjoy the cooler nights since it is easier to get to sleep by cuddling up with your comforter and fluffy pillow, but what if you had no walls to block the brisk winds at night and only a slab of cardboard upon which to rest your head while covering your body with a jacket? Picture this nightmare of an uncertain existence as something that you may one day experience thanks to the unpredictable nature of life and tell me if you are content with doing nothing to help lift the homeless out of despair.
We know from successful and compassionate actions all across this country that a community can do far more by reaching out to help than by casting these poor souls aside alongside yesterday’s trash. Give a person a chance to walk again and they will quickly progress to a sprint. That’s all we need to do, give them a chance and they will not only climb out of the pit, but many of them will soar higher than they could have ever previously thought possible. An opportunity, not public shame, is the best antidote for the plague of homelessness.
As for opportunities, the people of this community – just as with many others like ours –are yearning for and are eager to liberate themselves from the clutches of poverty and to rebuild our Middle Class. In recent times, it has become commonplace to see our leaders at all levels patting themselves on the backs and high-fiving each other over the reports about job creation irrespective of what those jobs offer the workers. It’s time that we awake from this slumber and stop accepting the economic purgatory of part-time and temporary work. You can’t raise a family on minimum wage or in a job where your hours are not guaranteed from one week to the next. Yes, we can do better…we must do better.
How? You may ask this and I’m prepared to answer. Your city government, with your pressure, must become aggressive in appealing to quality job creation. If an employer is big enough to higher hundreds or more and could afford to pay them a living wage, then they should only be given a tax abatement for a short period of time if they commit to paying their employees enough to avoid applying for public assistance. Stop celebrating the job numbers unless they actually make a difference in the lives of working people!
On making a difference, it has become clear to me – and it should be clear to you – that we will continue to accomplish little so long as we remain enslaved by our strict adherence to partisan politics. These labels that we affix to ourselves do nothing but divide you and me by separating us into artificial warring camps and commanding our blind obedience. Who benefits from this division? Is it you? NO! In fact, the only winners are the powerful who thrive on your lack of faith in the political process. Some count on your apathy and want you to remain disengaged. I’m here to pledge my allegiance to you – the people - and to the all-important mission of strengthening your voice.
Central to this enhancement of our democracy is the need to rid ourselves of partisan elections. When the charter comes up for review in 2017, I will press hard for eliminating the distractive partisan labels from our ballots. No one should get your vote simply because they are of one party or the other. NO! They must be forced to EARN your vote of confidence by proving their worth via a discussion of the issues. Yes, this is a more difficult path for voters, because it requires that you do your homework before entering the voting booth, but if you care about the future of our community – even of our country – then this is the journey we must embark upon.
Think about that for a second; the notion of “we”. No election is about “you” or “I”, because policies do not affect the individual in isolation. A community is a family, or at least it must act accordingly if it desires success. When a society fails to instill this value into its membership it sows the seeds of its own downfall. By coming together, we can as effect as a tightly-made fisher’s net in not letting any opportunity to thrive pass through.
This, our Newark family, can achieve many great things when we work as one. We can fix our politics, bring living wage jobs back, offer a way out of poverty, improve our infrastructure, and get the services we need. Cynicism may appear to be insurmountable, but that’s because we haven’t dared to believe in our collective potential. I plead to you, believe in what we are capable of and you will not be disappointed.
In closing, I offer this final appeal. No matter how this election turns out, please know that your power will not go unrecognized should you resolve to maintain your focus for change. Power belongs not in the hands of those who you elect, but in your hands as the electors. The elected are nothing more than your servants and it is up to you to make them serve. Cede nothing to the few who have long had a seat at the table, because the table is yours and always has been. Now, let’s get up and prepare to claim a resounding victory for the people!!"