Time Management Woes

Posted on Categories Campaigning

I call this little trip to the whine cellar “Time Management Woes”

I keep getting nagged by Facebook to ‘post something’ and this begs a question of ‘time management’. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to ‘doorbell’ -and- do the research I’d like to do on your behalf -and- post here.

One of my PET PEEVES is not just the lack of transparency in local government, but the endless cycle of indifference on both sides. The City makes almost no real effort to engage citizens and frankly citizens make no effort to engage the City–unless there is a personal problem of course. I may be tilting at windmills but part of my job is to tilt that balance. I have to -try- to EDUCATE and ENGAGE and ENCOURAGE people to GET INVOLVED. And that all takes time.

Most people in government at this level simply doorbell to get elected the first time and then simply put out signs thereafter. In the thirteen years I’ve lived in Des Moines I’ve literally -never- had anyone come to my door… and neither has anyone else on my street who is a registered voter. I’ve talked with many City Council people and they stare blankly at me when I discuss the notion of ‘engagement’. It simply doesn’t -register- as a useful idea. In their minds, most people do not -want- to engage with local government. Most people view local government a bit like the power company: I only call you when there is a problem and then I expect you to show up jiffy quick. And I don’t expect there to be too many problems!

I disagree. I think Des Moines works a whole lot better when more people get involved.

Anyhoo… you know how some people seem to be able to (cough) ‘Tweet’ a billion times a day -and- meet with a hundred people -and- watch TV -and- do this that and the other thing? That ain’t me.

I’ve been at this for just a couple of months and I can barely write something once a -day-. And most days? It’s not all that ‘newsworthy’. It’s mostly just: knocked on a bunch more doors. Oh, I get some juicy anecdotes for sure. But they’re private. One thing I can tell you: I have already learned more in two months about Des Moines than I ever thought I was -ever- going to know. 😉 You can learn a lot just walking around doorbelling, let me tell ya. (More of my fellow candidates should join in the fun.) Only four months to go!

Personality Transplant

Posted on Categories Campaigning

This is probably my last post as ‘JC Harris’ for a good while. Bye bye, JC! Aloha, personality!

You know you’re in trouble when you’re worried about quoting Al Franken, but some of the best quotes I’ve recently heard about politics have come from Al Franken who is peddling his memoir “Giant Of The Senate”. It’s about how, after a lifetime as an entertainer he had to train himself to behave like a ‘real politican’ in order to get elected. People in his state simply would not take him seriously so he worked like crazy to change voters’ perceptions. And love him or hate him, he won his last election very comfortably, so they must have worked. And those are some lessons that I really need to learn. Fast.

Because I too have spent a lot of years as an ‘entertainer’–as a musician–and I really struggle adopting the persona of being a politician. It is waaaaaaaaay harder than I thought it would be.

OK, first of all? No comedy. I’m taking a last ‘mulligan’ on that one, like the last cigarette before ‘finally quitting’. No really, Bernice, this time I mean it, honey. This is killing me. It’s a total straitjacket having to avoid irony and jokes. My lower lip will need soon need stitches from all the biting. But sadly, residents simply do not appreciate getting a three minute floor show along with my spiel on parks, public safety and code enforcement. Now what’s frustrating? Is that they turn on the TV and they see a guy do the same gags and they fall over. But if I provide it for free? They don’t get it. Ingrates! Apparently the electorate is not ready for a boffo-amusing politician. Just trust me on this.

Next? No profanity. I don’t give a hoot what you think you may have garnered from the recent election, this is an anomaly that will soon pass into history. You cannot doorbell using the same language that you actually… er … ‘use’ in real life. You want to be yourself with people. But not really. Not here anyway.

You gotta, gotta, gotta, use short sentences and small words. I know how that just sounded and I am soooooooooooo sorry. But I actually (mostly) believe in this one. You gotsta keep it simple. You thought I meant using Masterpiece Theatre English Major words? OK, I did. But you can just as easily lose people using technical terms like a scientist or a boring accountant. You gotta keep self-editing while you speak to make sure you’re CLARO. And that added mental effort can make you look to the outside world like Obama did during those last few years. You know: Where… every… sentence… seemed… to… take… twenty… minutes… to… get… out… It’s exhausting to say (and to listen to!)

Oh… and NO SLANG. No Urbanisms, neologisms, down-home-isms, contractions, etc. But don’t sound too white-bread either. If you can help it.

Look, I’ll make it even simpler. er. You really should consider visiting Switzerland shortly before your candidature begins (nb: only Europeans say ‘candidature’ or use ‘nb’ D’Oh!) So you can have that Personality Removal Surgery you may have heard so much about on Oprah.

Because the reason most successful candidates are such colorless beings is because a winning candidate tends to represent THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. Like it or not, ‘boring and inoffensive’ is not a bad strategy and a winning candidate does need to reflect their entire constituency. If you have too much ‘personality’ of any kind? It likely means that either your area is super-crazy gerry-mandered or that you’re probably going to lose. Big time.

When I ‘doorbell’, I’m keenly aware of the ‘dance’ going on. It’s a lot like dating in that there is so much ‘sincere lying’ going on. I mean you know that old expression “All’s fair in love and war”? Well they should throw voting in there somewhere too. For example, the people who aren’t trying to immediately get me off their porch are often not listening to a word I’m saying. They’re not being mean. But there is this little smile and I can tell that what they’re really wondering is “Democrat or Republican?”. Now I’m supposed to be non-partisan. And the funny thing is that’s exactly how I feel about it! But nobody believes that of course. So like dating there’s this odd mix of cynicism and wanting to believe. Our system is so odd in that way. All politicians are jerks. Except for you, JC. (Until the next person comes along, of course). We want to believe.

But it cuts both ways. I thought I’d be cool with politics because as a professional musician I thought that there was nothing the world could teach me about cynicism. Plus, I like policy and hey, who enjoys ranting more than me? (Or is it I?) But I discovered something: As much as you think politicians lie to you, you, Dear Public, lie to us waaaaaaaaaay more. The public are the biggest fibbers ever. I mean since they invented ever. And that’s exactly the way you like it! One big reason that politicians at even my teensy level tend to be the way we are is because the public is what it is. Promises are not kept. Donations don’t come in. But the candidate has to show up. That sounds like whining, but that’s just the deal we all make.

(And my personal pet peeve of all time!!!!!!! people who spend HOURS every week SCREAMING about Trump this or Hillary that! Stuff that is THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY… But never sent me that $25 *payable to JC Harris for Des Moines* to fix something that we can actually do something about!–notice the clever way I weaseled in sincere outrage and guilted you into following through on that check ya cheap so and so? That’s how politics works. It’s exhausting and humiliating and it never stops.)

And I mention all this because the process has the Darwinian consequence of making candidates tend to be either people who have something to gain or those who are certifiably insane. Normal people just don’t put up with it. America sure is great, but ‘the public at large’ can be truly awful. And that makes it hard to have the candidates that we really need. Yes, even at this picayune level.

But still I believe in it. Because it has to work. Or maybe I’m too negative. Maybe you would be a lot more positive because the skills would come much more naturally to you. Maybe you’re like one of those animals that absolutely thrive living next to those steaming underwater volcanoes. If so, I encourage you to go for it!

Where was I? Oh yeah. Vote for me in November. No wait that’s not quite right. Make your tax deductible contribution of $25 payable to JC Harris For Des Moines now. Then vote for me in November.

And whether I win or not, I’m taking my personality. BACK! (Not that I’m being insincere or anything at the moment. 😀 )

Why I’m Running

Posted on Categories Campaigning

I love Des Moines. I think it’s an absolute jewel. I started sailing and going to church here over twenty years ago when I first moved to Puget Sound. And when I bought my own house in 2005, I wanted it to be in Des Moines near St. Philomena and the Marina and the Downtown.

Then the Great Recession hit. I saw how the neighborhoods and families and businesses were hit very, very hard. A lot of people moved away and a lot of businesses simply boarded up. But a lot of new people have moved in and have added a great energy to the city.

Several years ago the regional economy began to recover. And the airport was ‘expanded’ (boy was it ever!)

But have you noticed? Des Moines, despite all its obvious assets doesn’t seem to be sharing in the recovery nearly as much as the rest of the region. Our Downtown still looks much the same as it did five years ago with many businesses still shuttered. Many homes are untended because there is no Code Enforcement to speak of and our Marina arguably our most important asset is in need of essential repairs.

Then there is the airport. The Third Runway is turning out to be not just an annoyance, but an absolute disaster, not just in terms of noise but in terms of damage to our health–and that of our children. Worst of all, unlike other cities, we get no compensation or relief for the ever increasing levels of traffic and pollution. We can do better, not just for ourselves but for the next generation. We cannot let them down.

For the past thirteen years I’ve been a gadfly at so many City Council meetings I’ve lost count. And there comes a time when one has to decide to either put up or shut up. So I’ve decided it’s time for me to try to do something about these problems.

It is my belief that what ails Des Moines is that it is now trying to be something it is not. Our city is, at it’s heart, a town for families and a waterfront community. Somewhere along the way I think the government lost sight of that. There have been an almost constant series of grand schemes that have almost completely occupied the attention of the council while largely ignoring the needs of small businesses, families and neighborhoods.

As you may know, for far too long, the city was dealing with budgets only from one term to the next and getting closer and closer to bankruptcy. The current government will tell you that they have turned this around. Fine. But remember that it’s also largely the same people who got us into trouble in the first place! Plus, they have performed this trick by partnering more and more with the airport for large development projects. But it is the same airport which is making life more and more dangerous with the increases in noise and pollution; not to mention the loss of property values for home and businesses. Do not believe the myth that the Port provides ‘jobs and economic growth’. For Des Moines, this is simply untrue.

We have to start planning for a future without the Port and with the help of a vibrant small business community and fully engaged residents. Des Moines is now a city of almost 33,000 people. We need to start planning five, ten, twenty years out when it comes to our Downtown, our Marina, our neighborhoods and most of all, our children’s futures.

I believe I’m up to these challenges. I’m making an effort to put down my ideas here so you will know how I feel about the issues I think matter most. It is mid-October as I update this post and by now I’ve “doorbelled” over 6,000 homes because I really wanted to hear what you have to say. If I happened to miss you when I visited your street, I strongly encourage you to contact me any time. My goal is to be the one person you can count on in Des Moines to really listen and then to take the long view.