Not just a slogan: A different perspective on the Bay mayor's race
I am a political science major at Cleveland State and volunteer on the Jim Scott campaign. When I tell people this I am usually asked two questions: (1) "Why are you helping Jim Scott?" and (2) "Why is Jim Scott a better choice than Deborah Sutherland?"
By now you probably know a little bit about Jim Scott. If you live in Bay you may have met him during his door-to-door canvassing. But if you're still not sure why Jim is a better choice for mayor than Mrs. Sutherland, I believe my perspective as a college-aged volunteer on the Scott campaign can help clarify the extremely different leadership styles of the candidates. I'm sure you're busy, so I'll keep it brief and try to spare you any campaign rhetoric.
During the spring semester of 2009, I visited City Hall in search of a volunteer position to gain experience in local government. The Mayor was not in at the time, I was told she already had an intern but left a message for her to get back to me.
To follow up, I sent e-mails directly to the Mayor and the Law Director, asking for any volunteer position in local government. About three weeks later I got a response from the Law Director: "Unfortunately, we are not in a position to hire under the current economic conditions."
Not hiring? I was not aware the volunteer force was putting a strain on city budget. I still have not heard back from Mayor Sutherland. I would like to give the benefit of doubt here; I'm sure these two were busy. However, receiving a response that indicated that noone actually read my inquiry left me a little bitter.
What really grinds my gears? Over the past several months I've come to realize I am probably not the only one who feels left out by this administration.
I did not consider campaign work until a Jim Scott flyer showed up at my door. I met with Tom Davis, a fellow PoliSci major and Bay Alum, and we decided it was worth a shot to see if Jim needed any help. We heard back from Jim... quickly.
Since then, Jim has thoroughly considered every suggestion that has been brought to him. More importantly, Jim has been exemplary when it comes to putting forth a collaborative effort. But any "collaboration" we do helps his chances of winning, so why wouldn't a candidate challenging an incumbent want our help? A little self-serving, right?
Not really. Jim contacted Tom and I shortly after our first meeting to let us know he had gotten in touch with a law director in a neighboring community and arranged a shadowing opportunity for us (we are both considering law school).
Mayor Sutherland has been in office for a while and Bay is doing pretty well, so she must be a good mayor, right? I agree. So why is Mr. Scott the best candidate?
Seeing Jim's interaction with residents on the campaign trail and getting a chance to work with him personally makes me comfortable in saying that out of the two candidates, he is more likely to advocate community involvement, new ideas, and that transparency he keeps talking about.
These are three traits the current administration ignores. We live in a great city, yes, but what good is living here if you're just along for the ride? If you're like me, you might be asking: Why is our Fire Department at odds with the executive branch of our city? Why are there complaints of residents being stone-walled by City Hall? Why is Alex Dade so angry? Why is he writing about illegal closed door meetings (see View from the Cheap Seats) and not light-hearted poetry like Carl Christman? And yes... where is our money going?
Jim does not plan on answering these questions; as mayor he will work to make sure they don't need to be asked. Annual reports filed by each department and viewable by residents, an independent audit committee (like that of many surrounding communities), and avoiding wasteful spending seem like a good starting point to me.
More importantly, Jim's agenda and actions demonstrate he encourages involvement and communication. His agenda involves a better city website and newsletter; during the campaign he has employed social media like Facebook, and he has gone door to door relentlessly just to hear from residents.
His message has obviously reached one group of residents. Jim won the mock election at Bay High, receiving 60% of the vote.
Lastly, I think it is important to remember Mayor Sutherland was able to run for another office last fall due to adjusting the city charter. Jim has stated he will not seek a higher office while he is mayor. With this in mind, I think it is safe to say any charter re-writes by Jim would be to help the community, not elevate his position personally.
In my opinion, this election is not about what each candidate will do as mayor, but rather, who is more likely to listen to and collaborate with residents on what concerns them.
If you think some time in the next four years you might have questions on how things are being done, new ideas for public or private benefit, or suggestions on how things could be done better; I would put my money on Jim Scott as the best candidate for mayor. A familiar campaign slogan from last fall was "Change We Can Believe In." I know I promised no rhetoric, but I think "Change We Can Participate In" sums up Jim's campaign.