Thomas “Tip” O’Neill- Former Congressman and Speaker of the U.S House of Representatives.
As November in the United States is an election month, I thought I would blog about somethings “electoral.” I didn’t have to look far for ideas.
Recently, my next-door neighbor Steve Stycos ran for Mayor of my hometown. Steve has been a member of the local School Committee and City Council member to account for his 20 years of public service.
Disappointingly, for Steve, and those who supported him (including me), he lost in the primary election.
For Zulu Delta, this is not “where the story ends.” For many citizens of the world, the outcome of elections is constantly on our minds. Much is at stake, and for 2020, the stakes are proverbially high. There are many common themes where world and local politics criss-cross. Steve was gracious enough to sit down with me and answers some questions I had about his election and local politics in general. I did my best to ask “proper questions,” and refrain from, how not only was I disappointed in the election results (losing by about 200 votes), but disappointed that I would not be able to “drop” his name as “My Next Door Neighbor; The Mayor” to get a faster seating at Twin Oaks Restaurant, a reduction in my personal taxes, and most of all the opportunity to finally get a ride in the FRONT seat of a police car…….ah…..just kidding; who actually waits at Twin Oaks anymore (wink, wink).
I’ll do my best to merge my thoughts and questions along with his responses to this blog.
The idea of actually being Mayor in my city seems to have become just a stepping stone for politicians to get some exposure and clout so they can move on to higher office; Governor, Congressman, Senator. It would seem that the people who want to commit to actually “doing the job” are few and far between. Steve seems like that guy who wanted to be Mayor….just Mayor. Steve chuckled when I asked him if he minded being a “cog in the machine.” He pointed that out that besides the immense glory and limelight of a local Councilman (OK, I used those expressions), the reward for the job was thousand of hours of meetings, phone calls, and discussions to actually get the job done. Add in the time to learn how the “machine works,” as well as sifting through budgets, regulations, and policies, the job is not for those with a short attention span.
“OK,…Now…….so……where was I?”
For Steve, the willingness to “hone his craft” and learning where “all the bones” are buried has its rewards. He told me one of the things he was most proud of, was “finding” $50,000 dollars to put back in the budget for the local Head Start Program after the Federal Government cut the funds. He also found a way to fund a tree-planting program. Besides beautification, there are practical environmental benefits to planting trees; well, for those of us who believe in science anyway.
Elections are not run on good thoughts alone. I asked him what more money “buys” a campaign. A campaign manager for one, he told me. I would often see Steve drag his ass home from his “other” job running a community farm and then have to go out talking door to door. Informational Mailings were also near the top of the wish list a campaign desires; an idea even more necessary during a pandemic when personal interaction and large gatherings are prohibited in our area, therefore, limiting the opportunities to “get out your message;” not everything is a “Super-Spreader” event like a motorcycle rally in South Dakota or a Supreme Court Nomination party on the front steps of the White House. Steve spent $4-5000. on his city council campaign. He spent about $40,000 on his Mayoral race. His opponent for Mayor spent $180,000.
Where does that money come from? A good question. Many times the answers are available if “someone” knows, or cares, or has the time to find them. One organization that “used’ to have an interest in finding those answers fairly easy was the former largest print media in the area; The Providence Journal. That organization has been gutted by financial hardship and reader decline. That’s unfortunate, as the printed media was always a great source of information, reporting, and fact-checking, as well as all things related to candidates and elections.
I have this idea that all political campaigns should be financed by either the local or federal government and run like a sporting play-off structure; a “November Madness” if you will. Candidates would prepare plans, visions, programs, and outlines for the future. These candidates would oppose each other in debates, lectures, and symposiums only to be voted upon to advance. The benefit would be especially evident in large national politics. Should the candidate win “all the way,” they would start “day one” in elected office NOT owning billions in political favors to special interest groups and donors. Of course, special interest groups and large political donors hate this idea. Non-profit and charitable groups seldom have the same nefarious and financial intentions as large for-profit corporations and would have legitimate access to legislators without having to “outbid” for it.
There were more ideas, answers, illuminations, and questions from my recent chat with Steve that we don’t have time or “digital pixels” to continue here. I appreciate Steve’s time and the fact that M.A.M (Mayoral Assistant Mary) didn’t come into the executive office (Steve’s front porch) tapping her watch and announce that my time has expired for my inquiring nonsense. Nothing but respect M!
That doesn’t mean I won’t be back……….As the old-timers in Rhode Island say; “I know this Guy!”