John Y’s Musings from the Middle: A Call to Non-Lameness

jyb_musingsA call to action. A call to non-lameness. 

Is it really possible that there are a few people still out there who find it downright giggle-worthy to send other people on Facebook a private message pretending to be someone else –someone who is younger and of the opposite sex— in order to fake a romantic interest to see what the person on Facebook will say? 

It was funny the first 3 or 4 times. The next dozen or so times seemed to be when this prank seemed to crest in raw hilarity and start to slowly decline so that by the 70th or 80th time it has been tried on you, you don’t even get annoyed any more at these pranking individuals but have instead started to worry for their mental health and comedic IQ.

Look, when I was younger my generation had some super lame pranks we repeated long after we should have been embarrassed for ourselves. There was the prank call asking “Is your refrigerator running” and after an affirmative answer we would suggest our victim be careful not to let it “run” out the door. Get it? Run as in operating and run as in motion. And there was the prank call to a bowling alley asking the weight of the bowling balls as a set up for a painfully lame and sophomoric genital joke.

And these jokes got repeated so often and for so many years that I worried that if a superior life form existed in our solar system and got wind of this repeated prank, they would write off our entire planet forever as a worthless species.
These jokes were terrible. Just really awful and But, hey, all we had for entertainment was Pong so it isn’t surprising that our wit was running at about the same speed.

But the younger generation, who I am assuming is responsible for these faux Facebook flirt messages, my God. I mean, c’mon! I know you are supposed to be the first generation in American history who had a lesser standard of living than your parents. But that doesn’t mean you have to be the first with a lesser sense of humor. There is no excuse for that and you are going to have to dig down and ask more of yourselves when trying to make a funny.

Geez. Look at me. I’m an old man writing long ridiculous Facebook posts for laughs and I have been doing it for 3 years now. I admit it is a lame use of time but can you imagine how much lamer it would have been if I had spent all that time sending fake private messages to some stranger on Facebook who may not realize i I’m really not a 21 year old ingenue?

You have to do better young wisecrackers and comedic miscreants! And I know you can do it. Stretch yourselves! Get out of your comfort zone. Look at the two old jokes from my generation and study them as building blocks for new lame jokes that won’t be so humiliating to your generation as these fake Facebook flirts. You can do it. You have what it takes. The time is now. And I am real —not a fake teenage girl. And even if I were pretending to be a young breathless girl right now flirting with a stranger on Facebook, that not even you—if you were honest with yourself–would think it was funny.

Let’s commit to coming up with a new Facebook prank–that isn’t inexplicably lame. Together we will make sure that your generation, material measurements notwithstanding, will never be lamer than your parent’s generation. I am that generation. And trust me, we are pretty darned lame.

Jeff Smith Offers His Hometown Recovering Pol Perspective on Ferguson

Tomorrow, our very own contributing RP Jeff Smith will be appearing on MSNBC’s “The Cycle” to discuss the tragic situation in Ferguson, Missouri, from his unique perspective as a social scientist who represented the St. Louis region in the Missouri legislature.

Jeff has already emerged as the go-to guy for many national news sources on the continuing crisis.

This morning, the New York Times published his op-ed, “In Ferguson, Black Town, White Power” which answers the perplexing question as to why it appears that a majority African-American population is being governed by mostly white authorities. Here’s an excerpt:

POLITICS, wrote the political scientist Harold Lasswell in 1936, is about “who gets what, when, and how.” If you want to understand the racial power disparities we’ve seen in Ferguson, Mo., understand that it’s not only about black and white. It’s about green.

Back in 1876, the city of St. Louis made a fateful decision. Tired of providing services to the outlying areas, the city cordoned itself off, separating from St. Louis County. It’s a decision the city came to regret. Most Rust Belt cities have bled population since the 1960s, but few have been as badly damaged as St. Louis City, which since 1970 has lost almost as much of its population as Detroit.

This exodus has left a ring of mostly middle-class suburbs around an urban core plagued by entrenched poverty. White flight from the city mostly ended in the 1980s; since then, blacks have left the inner city for suburbs such as Ferguson in the area of St. Louis County known as North County.

Ferguson’s demographics have shifted rapidly: in 1990, it was 74 percent white and 25 percent black; in 2000, 52 percent black and 45 percent white; by 2010, 67 percent black and 29 percent white.

The region’s fragmentation isn’t limited to the odd case of a city shedding its county. St. Louis County contains 90 municipalities, most with their own city hall and police force. Many rely on revenue generated from traffic tickets and related fines. According to a study by the St. Louis nonprofit Better Together, Ferguson receives nearly one-quarter of its revenue from court fees; for some surrounding towns it approaches 50 percent.

Click here for the full piece.

Last week, Jeff wrote an influential piece for The New Republic, “You Can’t Understand Ferguson Without First Understanding These Three Things.”  Here’s an excerpt:

You can’t really understand Fergusonthe now-famous St. Louis suburb with a long history of white people sometimes maliciously, sometimes not, imposing their will on black people’s livesunless you understand Kinloch.

Kinloch, the oldest black town in Missouri, is now essentially a ghost town, but it wasn’t always that way. In fact, it thrived for nearly a century after its founding in the 1890s. Back then, restrictive housing covenants prohibited the direct sale of property to blacks, so a white real estate firm purchased parcels of land, marked them up over 100 percent, and resold them to blacks.” One advertisement noted, “The good colored people of South Kinloch Park have built themselves a little city of which they have a right to be proud. More than a hundred homes, three churches and a splendid public school have been built in a few years.”

The turn of the century was a heady time for the bustling little town. The Wright Brothers visited Kinloch Airfield in one of their earliest tours, and the airfield hosted an event at which Theodore Roosevelt took the maiden presidential airplane flight, which lasted approximately three minutes. Kinloch Airfield was home to the first control tower, the first aerial photo, and the first airmail shipped by a young pilot named Charles Lindbergh. A streetcar line ran through Ferguson, helping Kinloch residents travel to jobs throughout the region, and perhaps more importantly, exposing many whites to Kinloch as they passed through. Despite the region’s decidedly Southern folkways and segregated housing arrangements, blacks and whites rode the streetcars as equals. Kinloch itself was also notable for its relative enlightenment; despite school segregation, it became the first Missouri community to elect a black man to its school board.

All that began to change in 1938. A second black man sought election to the school board in the district which had a narrow black majoritywhites inhabited the north and blacks the southand whites responded by attempting to split the school district. It failed: 415 blacks in the south voted unanimously against the effort, while 215 whites in the north all supported it. So to get around the small problem of losing democratically, whites in the northern half of Kinloch immediately formed a new municipality called Berkeley, and a rare Missouri effort at integrated governance ended. Kinloch continued to thrive for the next several decades as a small nearly all-black town of churches, shops, community centers, and tidy homes.

In the 1980s, the airportlong since been renamed Lambert International Airportbegan snatching up property to build an additional runway. From 1990 to 2000, Kinloch shed over 80 percent of its population, and as the community fabric frayed, it was increasingly plagued by crime and disorder.

Construction on airport expansion, which cost well over a billion dollars and involved 550 companies, began in 2001. Unfortunately, two other things happened that year: American Airlines bought TWA, and 9/11. Which means that the airport is dramatically underutilized now; a senior airport official told me Lambert could easily handle twice the traffic it currently gets.

Meanwhile, many of the residents displaced by this wasteful construction project have ended up in Fergusonspecifically, in Canfield Green, the apartment complex on whose grounds Michael Brown tragically died.

Click here for the full piece.

Jeff has also been burning up the Twitter feed (@JeffSmithMO) with his brilliant perspective on each day’s events.  Click here to read a “Storify” of his last few days of tweeting.

Lauren Mayer: From Whence Cometh Creativity

As I approach the 2-year anniversary of my weekly song project, it’s fascinating to look back on how my writing process has developed, and to see what lessons I’ve learned.  So here are a few tips to share with any readers who are either contemplating a creative venture (or who would enjoy a vicarious peek at something they’d rather not experience first-hand . . . .)

– Writing is frequently 1% inspiration and 99% putting-your-rear-in-a-chair.  In other words, the best way to learn to write is to write.  (My 8th-grade English class was fortunate enough to meet with Ray Bradbury once, and he shared his practice of forcing himself to write 10 pages every single day – sometimes those pages consisted of “I have nothing to say” over and over again, but with enough repetition, he would eventually come up with something usable.)

– Give yourself permission to write crap.  It’s always easier to edit than to start from scratch, but it’s almost impossible to come up with anything if you are afraid it won’t be fabulous.

– Be open to inspiration from unexpected places.  Sure, some weeks have a fabulous, everyone’s-talking-about-it story, which is how I came up with “Oh Won’t You Put Me In Your Binder Full Of Women.”  (And the fact that you probably get that reference, nearly 2 years later, shows you how memorable that story was.)  But there are definitely weeks I find myself thinking “oh, crap, what am I going to do this week?,” and then when I’m not looking for it, an idea will pop into my head.  (For example, after Dick Cheney started popping up on news shows, plugging his ‘let’s-bomb-everyone’ website, I heard my husband & son in yet another volley of sophomoric, off-color jokes, and that inspired “I’m Sick Of Dick”.)

– And be open to suggestions – especially when you have a deadline.  I am fortunate to have some wonderful subscribers & supporters, who occasionally send me ideas.  I can’t always use every one, but my friend Lucien, who is the web designer for The Political Carnival, sent me the inspiration for this week’s song:

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Math Rude

jyb_musingsI have decided that people in NYC aren’t really rude. They just aren’t very people smart and don’t know how to handle it.

Like the kid in high school who strughled with math and would say things like “Math is stupid!” or “No one will ever use this stuff. What a waste of time!” He wasn’t being rude but what we will call “Math rude” because he was confused about how to do math and was afraid others might notice.

I know this happens for a fact because I was “Foreign languages rude” myself. And “Chemistry rude.” And “Music appreciation rude” and Pre-calculus rude,” too.

So if a New Yorker is brusque with you for no apparent reason, don’t get angry or get your feelings hurt. Just remember, it’s not you. They are just being “math rude.”

The RP: Fancy Farm 2014 — A Twitter Recap

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David V. Hawpe: Fancy Farm, Mitch McConnell and Blackdamp

david hawpeAlison Grimes ought to remind the Crowd of Fancy Farm that Mitch McConnell is choking the U.S. Senate with blackdamp.

Given what McConnell knows about coal mining, aides may have to explain to him that blackdamp is a mixture of debilitating gases – as one dictionary puts it, a miasma “incapable of supporting life or flame.”

Fancy Farm is, of course, the political picnic in Graves County on the first Saturday in August that traditionally opens the Kentucky political season. St. Jerome’s Parish bills the event as the “World’s Largest One Day BBQ,” where you can get the “best barbequed pork and mutton you’ll ever enjoy.”

At the 134th renewal there will be plenty of ridicule on the menu. In recent years the jeers and the taunts have made it increasingly difficult to hear what the politicians are saying, but nobody seems to mind.

The only violence you can expect at Fancy Farm is the violence that a candidate occasionally and unintentionally does to his or her own campaign. I have in mind two of my favorite politicians. One ranted in front of the picnic crowd as if prepping a Nuremberg rally for the appearance of the main speaker. The other claimed he was one tough son-of-a-you-know-what, when in fact he’s too fine a fellow to qualify as, say, a latter-day Louie Nunn.

I said nobody minds the Fancy Farm faceoffs and dustups, but in fact the Goo Goos don’t like them. Good Government zealots think jeers and catcalls are a threat to political civility. They condemn all the mocking and heckling as if it endangers the democratic process.

I have to smile. If anything, our politics are too polite.

I’m reading a new book by Frederick Brown, “The Embrace of Unreason.” (No, it’s not about what McConnell has done to the Senate.) It’s about France in the period 1914-1940, where civic life was a bit rougher. Opposing groups once turned up at a Paris showing of an ideologically-charged 1930s film called L’Age d’Or, to find the theater lobby decorated in Surrealist art. As Brown describes it, angry right wingers “trashed the premises, splattering ink over the screen, destroying the projector, hurling stink bombs, attacking spectators with blackjacks, damaging the art, and tearing up copies of “Surrealism in the Service of the Revolution” (that were) on sale.”

In America these days we’re much tamer.

A Democratic congressional candidate in conservative Central Washington recently got into trouble merely for airing an online commercial in which he fired a pump-action shotgun at an elephantpiñata . The politically correct folks at Americans for Responsible Solutions condemned Estakio Beltran’s video as “irresponsible and offensive.” As it ends, Beltran rides off toward Washington on a burro.

This is a country where Fox News calls out the Muppets for being“anti-oil” and “anti-corporate.”

The worst damage politically active Americans suffer is Rush Limbaugh boring them to tears or Chris Matthews hurting their ears.

If you make it to Fancy Farm you might hurt yourself, by gorging on pig, but glut and heatstroke are about the only real dangers you’re likely to face. Nobody is going to grab a barbecued mutton shank and thwack you for wrong thought. The stink bombs at this event are likely to be verbal, and thrown from the stage, not at it.

Somebody ought to thwack the McConnell campaign if the senator uses this occasion to once again claim that coal miners need him in Washington. How many miners has he put back to work?

Jobs have plummeted at mines and prep plants in Eastern Kentucky since he was re-elected in 2008 – from 15,418 to 7,332. When he was first elected way back there in 1984, the number of miners working in Kentucky’s mountain coalfields was almost 30,000.

If Kentucky voters send Alison Grimes to Washington, she won’t fix the problem. But she won’t be silent about it either. I expect her to tell both Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to take their anti-coal attitude and shove it – politely, of course.

I’m certain she will join West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin in the Senate’s pro-miner caucus.

Manchin explained his view rather reasonably last year: “It is only common sense to use all our domestic resources, and that includes our coal. Let’s make sure that government works as our partner, not our adversary, to create a secure and affordable energy future, and let’s invest in technology which will have the ability to burn coal with almost zero emissions.” Senator McConnell has been a little more theatrical, charging the President with a “jihad” against coal.

It’s a shame the EPA can’t do anything about partisan emissions.

In the old days, miners took canaries with them underground. They knew they had to run from black damp if the canary died

The Democratic leadership also bears its share of the responsibility, but in Mitch McConnell’s gassy Senate, it’s functional governance that died.

David Hawpe, a native of Pike County who grew up in Louisville, has written about coal and Appalachia for more than four decades. This article was crossposted, with the permission of the author, from The Mountain Eagle.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Fancy Farm Redux

jyb_musingsNext Saturday, on what we hope is a sunny and inviting Kentucky summer afternoon, our state will be host to an annual political tradition we call Fancy Farm. 

Fancy Farm is Kentucky’s political equivalent of the ancient legal practice of trial by ordeal–where the accused is set on fire or tied up and thrown into a river to determine guilt or innocence. If the accused survives, they would be presumed innocent. In Kentucky’s political version, a politician who survives Fancy Farm, is presumed politically viable and allowed to continue to pursue their political aspirations. But like the survivors of the ancient legal trial, the Fancy Farm politician will never forget the ordeal endured.

Fancy Farm is probably America’s last vestige of pre-modern political theater. To succeed you need two parts talent; three parts ambition; one part courage; and two and a half parts temporary insanity.

Beyond all the tales about Fancy Farm, and beyond the sound and fury that occur during each year’s big political event, Fancy Farm does signify something. But what exactly that is, no one is quite sure.

So we keep coming back in hopes of finding out.

Maybe we will unravel the Fancy Farm mystery this year. Or maybe not. Most likely Fancy Farm 2014 will again be another irresistible spectacle combining good will and good cheer; characters and charisma; courage and calculation; pleasing food and harsh partisanship; high political drama and low brow political tactics all swirling simultaneously within the context of nothing less than a political orgy sponsored by St Jerome’s Catholic church. All located In the deep recesses of Western Kentucky where real politicians picnicking and politicking face to face with real constituents still matters. At least for a short weekend.

Fancy Farm was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s largest picnic.” Fancy Farm is worthy of Guinness status, no doubt about it. For something. But calling Fancy Farm merely an annual picnic is like calling Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls an annual tour through the city of Pamplona. Perhaps the main attraction of both events is getting to see the people who participate –voluntarily– in these curious historic events that attempt to test and celebrate the human spirit.

Fancy Farm is something to see and should be seen at least once in the lifetime of every Kentuckian. And at least once by every American who is a non-Kentuckian but is a political junkie. Because vestiges of former times don’t last for long. And are painfully missed when finally gone.

So…Happy Fancy Farm 2014!!

May 2014’s political picnic live up to its grand and gaudy tradition –.and just a little bit more than usual this year. Because this year, the nation’s most defining political race may well hang in the balance. Making 2014’s Fancy Farm even fancier than usual. And that is saying a lot.

(Note: This link is to a piece I wrote last year about my political trial by ordeal in 1995, listed by the C-J as one of the more memorable Fancy Farm moments. It not really about me as much as my attempt to capture, the best I could, the essence of experiencing Fancy Farm. It is a flawed human attempt, I might add, to describe a near mythic event. But I tried. Which, in the end, is all that any of the participants at Fancy Farm can do.)

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Wendell Ford

jyb_musingsA very special evening.I attended the annual Wendell Ford dinner tonight.But someone was missing, the honored guest himself, who is home tonight battling lung cancer courageously and magnanimously. Even cancer, as sinsiter and destructive a force as it is, must be ashamed to find itself hosting someone so beloved and beneficient as Wendell Ford. (And, yes, someone also so ornery and determined.)

Wendell may not have been in attendance but no figure has ever– in my experience– been more present in his absence than Sen Ford was at tonight’s event attended by at least 700 friends and political supporters.

Story after story about the iconic Kentucky politician was told by the various speakers, but none were really about politics. The stories all seemed to hew to the personal instead. They were about Wendell Ford the man, who just happened to be a great political leader at the time these memorable and meaningful personal interactions occurred.

The stories could easily have been about great legislative heroics or profiles in political leadership. But each and every one centered instead around little acts of kindness observed and experienced from Wendell Ford when nobody else was watching. Because, it seems, that is what stands out about Wendell Ford’s legacy most profoundly.

I chose this picture of Wendell to post –an action picture of Wendell with sleeves rolled up engaging with others while smiling broadly and contagiously rather than a blow dryed head shot behind his senate desk. The latter would be a picture Wendell just posed for. And Wendell was never a poser himself–or had patience with those who were.

wendell fordHe was, as a friend of the family would say, “The Real McCoy” and “the genuine article.” He is obviously still with us tonight and hopefully for a good while longer. And that is important to note because we may not see another quite like him again. Politics has changed…yet didn’t change Wendell.

Wendell Ford, it is true, is a Kentuckian who has walked with kings. But he is perhaps best described by the elevator man at our nation’s Capitol who proudly boasts that Wendell Ford is “the kindest human being to ever walk these Capitol floors.”

And that is an awfully fine legacy for 700 friends and supporters to celebrate tonight.

 

Jay Steinmetz:

Jay SteinmetzAmerica is at a crossroads.  We sit here on the edge of a fiscal cliff fighting to determine if tax hikes or entitlement reform is going to lead the day.  As we fight to raise our debt ceiling critical questions are not being answered and seem to be ignored time and time again.  How did we get here?  Why did we get here?  And how do we avoid getting here again?

When we rescued two of the three American car companies we did so by removing huge debt and the liabilities of their underfunded pension liabilities.  Did we address why they were all failing to begin with?  Were VW, BMW, and Mercedes in Germany rescued?  Did Japan step in to support Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Subaru or Mitsubishi.   There are concrete reasons why two thirds of the American auto industry was failing.  The truth is that America’s other smaller industries are just as affected but don’t have the glitter and prestige of the auto industry.  Many have already disappeared.

Unfortunately, the hidden statistic that never reaches the lips of leaders in Washington is that the United States of America has had 38 years of consecutive trade deficits.  Our current account deficit is 10 times worse than the worst country in Europe.  The EU as a whole carries a $32 billion trade gap with the world which sounds large until you realize that the United States of America has a trade deficit of $600 billion annually.  So the question needs to be asked, how is it that a continent stocked full of high cost socialist governments, scarce natural resources, expensive energy prices, speaking 23 languages, and with a 200 year history of intra-continental war, can out-produce and out-ship the United States of America.   Aren’t we the most innovative entrepreneurial land on earth?  Are we not the land of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Under Armour?

If you ask many of today’s leaders they will tell you that the new order of the day is an economy based on services, or they may tell you that manufacturing has left and will never come back.  Some will say the cost of manufacturing in this country is just simply too high.  Has anyone told LEGO’s, made in Portugal, or Playmobile, made in Germany that costs are too high?  With 300 million people in this country why was it considered impossible to find a few hundred willing to work for reasonable wages so we could outfit our Olympic athletes in clothes made in the USA?

It is time for a reset.  As a country we need to reflect upon the structure of how we operate and then begin to make the necessary structural changes – regardless of the blow-back from those seeking to benefit from the status quo.  There are many things that need changing as America’s issues are not the result of just one or two burdening policies, but many small issues that together can seem overwhelming. The Chinese call this death by 1000 cuts and we can’t allow this paralysis to threaten the future of our country.

Complicated tax rebates, loans, grants, and special incentive programs while well intentioned, are actually a burden to business, especially small businesses that don’t have the resources to handle them.  A business that is losing money cannot use a tax deduction when it is already losing money.  What business in America needs are not specialized manufacturing technology centers and special start-up technology programs, what a thriving economy needs is simplification.

An entrepreneur to be successful must focus.  They cannot be distracted with complicated tax codes, layers upon layers of insurance protections, human resource processes, burdensome licensing and environmental regulations, and complicated legal contracts. When an organization reduces operational processes it increases efficiencies which in turn creates the necessary focus on providing a better product or service.

Starting a business with core knowledge is not as difficult as some may think.  However, growing a business to any substantial size is exponentially harder.  Once a business grows to $40 million or 100 people it becomes subject to a bevy of interstate and intrastate rules and regulations that don’t affect smaller businesses.  Most companies are completely unprepared both financially and operationally to handle the overwhelming onslaught of regulatory obligations that come when a company achieves these new milestones.  It is my opinion that this is one reason you rarely see new small manufacturers opening production plants in the US.  The labor regulations, the environment regulations, and necessary permits are just the beginning.

If none of these regulations stunt the growth of a new manufacturer, the product and worker liability burden will surely take a huge bite out of any potential profits.  For in America, where companies are not reimbursed for successfully defending themselves in court, the cost of unwarranted litigation is a serious threat.  With over 1.2 million licensed legal professionals in America, frivolous litigation is rampant.

We need to be able to stop pandering to the entrenched interests and start creating visibility to the obstacles of business then remove them one at a time.  This is not as difficult as it sounds.  What is difficult is finding those with the courage to get this done.

Jay Steinmetz, CEO of Barcoding Inc. is a Member of the Maryland Small Business Commission

Arturr Davis: Falling Off the RP Wagon?

From AL.com:

davis_artur-11Let me get the news-making information out of the way:  On Aug. 25, an exact year before the election, I will be setting up a Davis for Mayor exploratory committee. If it reports that the resources and grassroots support are there, I am in.

I don’t underestimate the obstacles. While I was born on McKinney Street; while Dannelly, Montgomery Academy, Cloverdale and Jeff Davis gave me the foundation to make the Ivy League; while I cut my professional teeth trying cases in the old courthouse on Lee Street; and while I spent the first 31 years of my life in Montgomery, and married a Montgomery girl, none of that will spare me the carpetbagger attack. I know I will have to explain to African Americans just what this party switching business was about, and why being a Republican doesn’t mean that I have lost my heart for struggling people who can’t catch a break.

But let me talk for a moment about the city that shaped me.  I have watched Montgomery emerge from its comfortably slow past to become the hub of the largest foreign car manufacturer in America. Downtown is alive again after hours, and not just when the Biscuits play. There is a new vibrancy on the riverfront. East Montgomery is the home of a thriving, and thankfully multiracial, class of professional families.

But only part of the capitol city shares in this progress. West and Southwest Montgomery have more in common with Selma’s entrenched stagnation than Wynlakes’ or Brighton’s manicured lawns. LAMP glimmers as a national model of excellence while virtually every non-magnet public school languishes. One out of five Montgomerians lives at the poverty level; tens of thousands more live on thin ice because their small wages barely keep pace with the cost of raising a family.

And think of this tantalizing detail: had Montgomery gained the same number of residents the last two years that it ended up losing, it would be the largest city in Alabama right now. That is a picture perfect measure of the fine line between advancing and slipping backwards.

It has occurred to me that what will determine Montgomery’s destiny are exactly the themes that motivated me toward political life 15 years ago.  Just how does a community generate affluence and protect its vulnerable at the same time? How do schools build a foundation between 8 am and 3 pm that withstands the wreckage some youngsters face when they get home? How does a city lure jobs that are good enough to transform lives, and then how to prepare its young people to do the work when it comes? How does leadership convince blacks and conservative whites that their interests are really aligned and not at odds with each other?

The familiar left versus right debate is too exhausted, too stale to manage any of these problems. The last thing we need is to import the false choices in Washington into a Montgomery election.

So, my campaign won’t rehash what federal policies have and haven’t worked. Instead, my agenda will be solutions that answer to the test of effectiveness rather than ideological purity. I will explore whether Montgomery needs to design its own city school district in order to take ownership of the best weapon to target high paying jobs, the quality and accountability of its schools. I won’t shy away from the urgent need to draw investment into West Montgomery, or the imperative of saving damaged young offenders before they harden into career criminals. I will talk in concrete terms about the economy Montgomery ought to pursue: there is no reason why Montgomery can’t go the path of Charleston, S.C., a much smaller community that has still found a way to become a top 10 center for high tech jobs; why the home of a gem like Maxwell Air Force Base can’t compete for the defense industries that Huntsville and Mobile win routinely; or why a city 45 minutes from Auburn’s landmark research in alternative energy couldn’t become a national leader in the new energy marketplace.

This focus on issues and details is not the typical Alabama political strategy. But when my hometown is the only metro area in Alabama that is shrinking, when some of its lost children are killing people, when Montgomery is starting to get stuck again, it’s time for an election to focus on what it means to do better. That is what should decide the next mayoral race, and it is why I am ready to take a stand for the city that raised me.

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