In recent days, I have had several people encourage me to run for Hastings City Council. I really appreciate everyone’s thoughts and several offers of significant financial and logistical help. I’ve also had local elected officials tell others that I am running, without actually asking me. However, I already have several things on my plate that I would need to sacrifice in order to run and serve in an elected capacity for a minimum of four years.
Plus, I believe I can have a much larger impact on my community and achieve my goal of getting more residents involved in their government on the outside of City Hall than occupying a chair on the inside. Also, on a personal note, while my wife’s health is currently good, the next three years are critical in determining her long-term prognosis.
I’m energized about the coming months and years here in Hastings, and I plan on remaining very involved in the community. For instance, this fall, I will begin serving as a council member on the Flint Hills Resources Community Advisory Council (CAC), representing Hastings, monitoring activities and environmental conditions at the Pine Bend refinery and their effects on surrounding cities.
I will continue hosting “Everybody Loves Politics,” my monthly politically oriented show on Hastings Community TV — which will undoubtedly be a blast during the upcoming presidential campaign. This is one of my favorite things to do and I’d have to give it up if I ran for office.
I’m part of a growing group of citizens that’s reviving the Hastings Democracy Project, an initiative that existed 10 years ago and had a major impact on the city — giving birth to HPAAC and contributing ideas to build a better city trail system. Look for more on that soon, with many new people already on board and plenty of opportunities to involve even more in the near future.
I’m also going to continue, and expand, what I’m doing with Hastings Happenings, which started out as a community website in 2008 and has evolved into a blog and popular Facebook page with more than 1,700 followers. For example, over the past few months, I have spent more than $300 promoting Facebook posts to build awareness of the city council election filing period, encourage people to run, and provide links to helpful resources. Several challengers have since filed for election and there’s the potential of having three new council members starting in January. Stay tuned for even more coverage of community issues from Hastings Happenings.
And, I’ll continue to be a proud member of HPAAC, having worked on their gala event last fall and assisting in communications and PR efforts for this amazing and talented local group of artists. With the new Artspace building on the way downtown and additional outlets for the arts happening in Hastings, I can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
You can indeed make a big difference where you live without running and serving as an elected official. The notion that somehow you can’t ask questions, seek more information, or expect a more responsive and well-run government as a private citizen is just false. Many people who should be contributing their perspectives to community decisions buy into this and never get involved because they think they’d have to run for office, or spend countless hours in meetings.
Because I have dared to share my opinion and offer my perspective, I’ve actually had several local elected officials tell me “if you don’t like the way I do things, why don’t you run?” So, by that logic, if I disagree with something Governor Dayton does or says, I have no right to question or criticize it unless I run for governor?
Elected officials sometimes forget who the boss is — the citizens. And the minute you start limiting access to their viewpoints, tuning them out, telling them to “sit down and shut up” at meetings (yes, it happened here in 2014), or writing nasty social media posts to constituents, is the minute you need to be replaced.
So there you have it. Not running, but more involved than ever.