Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day

My legs are sore from walking and knocking on doors. I've talked to a lot of township residents in the last few weeks and I'm once again impressed at the many paths that our residents take in their pursuit of happiness. That drive to live our lives with as much authenticity as we can possibly create, coupled with the capacity to not just tolerate, but to appreciate our neighbors and their unique paths is the key to the economic revival of our township, our region, our state, and our nation.

Sounds hyperbolic, I know.  It’s been that sort of week.  New York suffers under Sandy and suddenly climate change is back on the table and the federal government is competent and people appreciate it.  Here in Leland Township, events have been iconic in a more positive way.  Leland School’s boys soccer team won game after game in their post season until they had claimed the title of 2012 District and Regional Champions, or as it was explained to me “one of the four best teams in the state”.   Their last game was on Halloween in Big Rapids, which left three team members who are also in Mr. Wodek’s  civic class precious little time to complete the required six hours of volunteering on a political campaign.

That’s how I ended up with “bodyguards” on my last weekend of campaigning door to door.  I like going door to door with students, especially on foot. One day we walked from my house down M-204 to M-22.  The next day we walked east from my house into Lake Leelanau.  While we walked, I talked about the the history of the road and the homes, the people who live here now and the ones who are gone.  We met a mom who remembered when Austin’s dad was her oldest son’s soccer coach. We met a 92 year old man who missed keeping chickens in the village. We visited Bad Pony, one of our fledgling internet businesses and, next door, The Washington Building, where Doug Fierberg took time out to give us a tour of the national law firm that they run out of his Lake Leelanau office.  We saw a pileated wood pecker, Provemont Pond, a hidden barn, boots planted with cactus.  Carol Drow told us about her solar panels, "Been there since Jimmy Carter was president!" Simon Dyer turned off his leaf blower long enough to share his comparison between US elections and elections in his native Ireland. 

Sometime halfway through the first day, one of the guys said, “Wow! Everybody here is connected!”  Of course, that’s the point of my patter, the point of the walking tour, the point of going door to door, the point of civics class, the point of serving in local government.  We are all connected, by blood, or by history, or by economics, by sharing the same roads and parks and fire department and lakeshores.

My challenge as supervisor will be to foster that sense of community, and to see where it leads.  The loose ends can be woven in by encouraging our residents to shop locally, by making opportunities for young people to come back and establish their careers and families here, by making township government open and accessible to everyone, not just as a place to complain when things go wrong but as way to meet their neighbors and collaborate to solve problems and create whatever comes next.

I thank all who have helped me along so far, the folks who encouraged me and bankrolled me and advised me and opened their doors and took time to ask good questions and tell me about their lives.  I especially enjoyed the high school students who accompanied me along the way. I hope they have absorbed the idea that governing is not just about winning arguments or elections. 
I’m optimistic about the results of today’s voting.  The results for local races will be available at Leelanau.cc  after the polls close, absentee ballots are all fed into the machine, and the township clerk reports the totals to the county clerk’s office. Vote today, and thank our election workers when you do.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Susan Och for Leland Township Supervisor

If you came here looking for information on my run for Leland Township Supervisor, my "broadsheet", the one page description of my campaign, appears below. On the links to the right, you can find links to pieces I've written since 2004 about my life, my family, my community, and my thought process. I haven't blogged much since I was elected to the town board in 2008. I find that blogging requires a person to be out in front of public opinion, while serving effectively in local government means listening carefully to everyone, even those with whom you most disagree. But I am still the pragmatic, frugal, open minded, curious person I was as a blogger. I still keep a garden and chickens and enjoy my accomplished offspring. Here is my campaign broadsheet:
Leland Township needs a calm communicator to serve as our Supervisor. Susan Och’s experience, integrity, and vision make her the best choice on November 6th. 
Experience: Susan has been an active member of the Township Board, schooling herself on all township operations along the way. She regularly visits the harbor, walks the sewer plant, monitors township parks, and sits in on board and commission meetings. She has taken advantage of many Michigan Township Association Trainings and Council of Governments workshops, observed Board of Review proceedings and closely followed the drafting of our new zoning ordinance. She has spearheaded the successful eradication of the giant Phragmites beach grass, helped win the grant that will ensure preservation of Leland’s Clay Cliffs, and completed the groundwork for a money and energy saving streetlight overhaul. She has served as board rep to the Library Board and Fire Board and monitored our harbor renovation and construction of public restrooms in Leland. Susan understands that township operations are important to every resident. Each resident should be treated with respect by an experienced supervisor. 
Integrity: In local government, integrity is measured by a commitment to the laws and principles of open government. We have a right know how decisions that affect our township are made and have the right to see those decisions fully debated in open public meetings by board members, who have informed themselves about the issues. When we spend tax dollars on personnel, the people should know that we have hired the best qualified candidates. As supervisor, 
Susan Och will work to maintain a culture of ethics and enforce the laws and regulations of government transparency. She will encourage the free expression of opinion by all board members and strengthen communications between the board and the community. All boards and commission meetings will be properly posted, boards will take action only on properly adopted agenda items, and all minutes will be posted online. She will strive to create an atmosphere where all township residents feel included. 
Vision: Our township and our region are often held up as examples in leading the way towards a revitalized Michigan economy. We have excelled in stewardship of our beautiful landscape and authentically interesting villages. We have supported our local food producers, grown our wine industry, protected our village commercial centers, and attracted internet entrepreneurs who could live anywhere, but choose to relocate here. 
Other communities may want to follow our example, but we know that this is not enough. Too many of us are unemployed or underemployed. Our community could be much better insulated from the whiplash of energy prices. While tourism dollars are valuable, we worry about the strain to both our infrastructure and to our community ties. Our infrastructure itself needs constant and sometimes costly upkeep and updating. In Leland Township, we have a history of meeting these sorts of challenges on our own terms with solutions that fit. Susan Och understands this, and is committed to fostering dialogue, good government, and stewardship of our township resources. Susan Och will provide the leadership that best serves Leland Township. 
Vote for Susan Och for Leland Township Supervisor on November 6th.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How to Test

Here's a snippet of an article about standardized testing, by Susan Engels, in today's NY Times:
Instead, we should come up with assessments that truly measure the qualities of well-educated children: the ability to understand what they read; an interest in using books to gain knowledge; the capacity to know when a problem calls for mathematics and quantification; the agility to move from concrete examples to abstract principles and back again; the ability to think about a situation in several different ways; and a dynamic working knowledge of the society in which they live.
I'm preparing to launch 4-H Chess Club for another year.  I hope to reformulate the club as a group of high school kids helping me teach the elementary kids, while I reinforce the fun and challenge of all sorts of brain work with the high school kids.  While I'm not a fan of standardized tests, I do take pride in seeing kids' intellects grow. The markers that Engels mentions in the above quote resonate with me as they reflect the themes of many of the informal conversations that erupt during chess club. I have one kid who likes to draw, not so much to read, but who has checked out and studied every drawing book in the school library.  Snack time is always an exercise in practical mathematics -- chess players want everything to be fair even if it means dividing 36 cookies among eight people down to the last crumb. Chess pieces are metaphors for actual fighters;  in elementary school kids move back and forth between the abstract idea of chess pieces fighting and the "real" fighting techniques of Star Wars characters.  We learn en passant by acting it out on the checkered floor of the cafeteria.  We practice the components of a classic handshake and the more nuanced art of losing and winning gracefully.

Engels' idea of a good test of a kid's intellect is to ask the child to read and discuss a book. I like to observe not only intellect, but perseverance and grace under pressure playing chess.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Liz Graduates!

It was a stormy day in Evanston, but that seemed somehow fitting. The graduates were no less fazed by the weather than they were by the crazy world into which they were graduating. Smart, earnest young people ready to work hard at whatever needs doing -- I had the distinct sensation of passing the torch.
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Spring Break in Washington

Last spring Anna and I were able to go to Washington DC with my brother Chris and his family. Anna and I ended up spending a lot of time downtown, on the mall, hoofing it from one museum to the next. While there is plenty to see in DC, I spent most of the time teaching her the skills one needs to enjoy a city on foot or using public transportation.

Here we are relaxing on the wall around the flower bed in front of the museum of American History. We had brought some small snacks and were listening to the music that was piped into the flower garden. It was all American music, one familiar song after another -- Gershwin, Joplin, and Paul Robeson singing "Old Man River".

If I haven't been blogging much lately, it's because I was living life instead of chronicling it. This was a good day.
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Monday, May 03, 2010