Thursday, May 22, 2008

Leland Township Trustee

I think it was Al Gore's book, The Assault on Reason, that got me thinking about rejecting the default role of consumer and more fully embracing the role of citizen. This was the underlying subtext of my decision last week to file as a candidate for Leland Township Trustee.

But the more direct reason is that friends were asking me to run. I, in turn, kept asking other people to think about running, but in the end, at the deadline, there were two candidates filed for two trustee offices. I filed as a Democrat, so we will all be unopposed in the primary, but three wil vie for two seats in November. (An independent candidate has until July to file for the November election.)

When I was trying to recruit other people to run, I did some thinking about what makes a good candidate. I came up with a list of three themes:
  • Stewardship: We think of land stewardship, but in the older sense, stewardship is a word that means "caring for the things that belong to the community." The community assets could be tax dollars or dark skies or a volunteer's hours. Stewardship is the opposite of using an elected office to enrich one self or one's cronies. Efficiency in government is a form of stewardship, making sure that tax dollars are not wasted. Respect for volunteer efforts is also a form of stewardship; you don't waste the many volunteer hours that went into developing a Master Plan by treating it as a nuisance or a joke.
  • Good Government: We follow the law to ensure that decisions are made fairly, with all parties having meaningful input, and avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. Good government values transparency, avoids conflicts of interest, follows procedures, and operaties under the rule of law, especially in regards to the Open Meetings Act, the Freedom of Information Act, etc.
  • 21st Century Vision This was a hard one to articulate last winter, but events have caught up to us. Far-off goals like vibrant villages, universal broadband access and a local food chain are suddenly very much on everyone's minds as we confront ever-rising fuel prices and wonder how to rework our lives for greenhouse gas reduction. Today's entrepreneurs would love to locate their businesses in our area, but they simply can not do so without up-to-date internet access. We have alternative energy entrepreneurs here already --if we help them with zoning and utility decisions that support their work, they will support us in crafting new, energy efficient ways of living. We have family farmers, some who have been here for generations and some brand new farmers. We value them, not just as scenery, but a source of food security and an economic driver of our community. Another economic driver is tourism. We cannot afford to take tourism for granted and mindlessly remake our community to look like everyplace else. The future of our community depends on forward thinking and flexible government and citizenry.

I'm not sure if these are values, personal attributes, or overarching themes. I just know we need more of this in government on all levels.

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