Monday, May 5, 2008

Election 08: Showing up is half the Battle

Last Thursday, I was invited to speak to the Sedgwick County Pachyderm Club. The Pachyderm club is a Republican group which meets to discuss policies and issues affecting the people of Kansas. And while I personally am not a Republican, I was pleased to accept their invitation and I took the opportunity to speak for an hour about the issues and concerns facing our community and constituency.

This was the second time I had addressed the group, having been invited to do so about a year and a half ago. One of the points that I made during my talk was that I was certain that we would not agree on everything, however, as activists, and personally as someone who is loyal to the interests of the community and not to a Political Party, I would hope that we could work together on those issues wherein we were able to find common ground. And that message seemed to have resonance with the group. And while I have no illusions that a couple speeches here and there could somehow transform the relationship between the African American community and the Republican Party, I commend the Pachyderm club for their willingness to engage in meaningful dialogue and their willingness to look for common ground.

In light of that, I thought I'd share a few thoughts I have about this coming election cycle with particular emphasis on Kansas races. There is no time of year when the phrase "Under-served" is more befitting our community than during an election cycle. Because during election cycles, we are visited by candidates and would be politicians, who share platitudes and platforms that they developed to speak to the needs of others. We hear stump speeches, which may poll well, but are often devoid of any real consideration or understanding of the issues affecting our lives. And as we prepare to elect a new slate of City Council Members, County Commissioners, School Board members, State Legislators, and Congressional Representatives, I'd like to offer you a few points to consider...
For those candidates who seek our support, we want to hear your thoughts and plans about *TIFF districts, STAR bonds, economic development initiatives, and your plans to create a climate where small businesses can develop and be successful within our communities. We want to hear your thoughts and plans about *education financing, charter schools, the educational achievement gap, suspension and expulsion rates, and what can be done to address our drop-out crisis. We want to hear your thoughts and plans about *health disparities, rising food prices, senior care, and the rates of "excess death" in our community as a result of preventable disease. We want to hear your thoughts and plans about *racial profiling, excessive force, and the unacceptable incarceration rates for African American teens also referred to as DMC (Disproportionate Minority Contact) We want to hear your thoughts and plans about *predatory lending, Yield Spread premiums on home loans, and the proliferation of payday lending and title lending establishments in our community. We want to hear your thoughts on *the lack of inpatient drug treatment facilities in our community and how that affects the jail population... We want to hear your thoughts on *SRS and the unacceptable numbers of children who are removed from their homes in Sedgwick county and never reunited with family... We want to hear your thoughts on *cultural arts funding and how too many worthwhile organizations within our community are still funding themselves with Fish Frys and donations, while annual fund disbursements are made in support of uptown and downtown projects... We want to hear your thoughts about *rising gas prices and efforts you could initiate to offer some relief... We want to hear your thoughts about *the multitude of municipal taxing agencies in Kansas and Sedgwick county which have led to the spiraling property tax rates and the escalating costs of home ownership... And we want to hear your thoughts on *diversifying our local economy so we are not so heavily dependent on aerospace manufacturing...

Now let me tell you, I am an Political Independent. And I don't say that "tongue-in-cheek"; I am independent in the truest sense of the word because I will support anyone who is willing to support the positions and aspirations of my community. Conversely, I will work to withhold support from any candidate who is unwilling or unable to speak to these same issues Regardless of Relationship or Party. And as the Kansas State Political Action Chairman of the NAACP, I intend to hold us accountable to that same degree of political independence.

Now what does this mean to you...

It means that any candidate or would be candidate who seeks the support of this community must speak to the issues of this community. Any candidate that hopes to coast by on the strength of party allegiances is making a gross miscalculation. Throughout the State, the Kansas Branches of the NAACP will host candidate forums, listening sessions, and town hall meetings. We will provide the microphones; you must provide your positions... We encourage all parties and candidates to come and be a part of this great dialogue and to offer your insight and solutions to the problems we face throughout the State. Election day is just around the corner; now is the time for us all to get acquainted. So to all of the candidates and would-be candidates for office, please take another look at your schedule... because we're looking forward to hearing from you...

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