- Pennsylvania Among 'Terrible 10' Most Regressive Tax States
- February 4 Non-Partisan Training: HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013: HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Republican Governors Opt-In to Medicaid Expansion
- The Reports of Unions' Death Are Greatly Exaggerated
- Ask Allyson Schwartz to run for Governor
- Mind the gap: Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Leaves Low-income Families Behind
- Jan. 14 Workshop:HOW TO RUN FOR ELECTION BOARD IN 2013; HOW TO RUN FOR COMMITTEEPERSON IN 2014
- Seth Williams on Guns, Jasmine Rivera on School Closures @PFC Meetup Wednesday
- PA Revenue Strong Midway Through Year; Tax Cut Could Have Big Impact
- What to Make of the Fiscal Cliff Deal?
The Ward System: My Experience
There has been a lot of talk about Ward Leaders and the Ward system on this blog, and I thought that I might bring things into perspective. I think that first of all, we have to actually realize what Ward Leaders do. I am in no way here trying to talk about straw men as much as I am here to clarify a few things with my personal story.
After Dean lost the primary, I decided that I “had the power” and talked to a long time neighbor, friend, and Ward Leader, Greg Paulmier (disclosure: I’m supporting him for Council in the 8th District). It was an interesting time in my life where I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. I had dreams of moving to NYC still in the back of my head. But I sat down with him, in his kitchen, and we started talking about what I could do to get involved.
From that point on, I think that my whole life changed. Me, the homebody, actually got out and met my neighbors. I got involved in a community Rec Center, volunteered for a local independent Kerry Office, cleaned the streets of my neighborhood, and met a bunch of old ladies from Olney who fought to keep 20th street open who opened up my eyes to the actual needs of people. And because of that, I fell in love with this city and became committed to staying here and making it better, no mater what.
Ward Leaders are like anybody else. Some are great, some suck, and most you can take or leave. But if you are going to talk about Ward Leaders and the problems of the Ward system, then I think that it would be beneficial to at least know what the hell you are talking about.
In my experience, anecdotal at best, most Ward Leaders are open to people who want to get involved. So if you are active in your neighborhood, then give your Ward Leader a call. I guarantee this. Either they will give you a call back and welcome you on board, or the are ripe for a takeover. And if you think that they are shady, then just wait until after the primary to get involved. Pretty much every Ward Leader is open to people working to get out the Democratic vote. At the least you could get some exposure without feeling dirty.
I’ve met many Ward Leaders in my times, including Greg Paulmier who got stabbed in the head and almost died, only to recover and become a leader in the community who provides affordable housing at his own expense, John O’Connell who was a bar tender who became a real estate agent who helped me buy my house, Lou Agre who was a bar tender as well, who went to Law School and became a lawyer and Union organizer, Vernon Price, who worked in trucking and became a key member of my Councilperson’s staff, Dave Cohen, who sat next to Jack Kennedy in WWII and became the most progressive politicians in this city, and Marian Tasco who was a part of the great Northwest Alliance to take over my section of the city. Other Ward Leaders that I have met include Rosita Youngblood, Edgar Howard, Bob Brady, Michel Nutter, Shirley Gregory, Bill Greenlee, and Marg Tartaglione.
The people here and anywhere else who think that there candidate of choice can win without Ward support better think again. My own mother, who I would consider to be a sophisticated person never knew who the hell to vote for for most of the lower elected positions and relied on her local committee people to tell her who was best. And I think that this goes for most neighborhoods. Your volunteer base could be great, but if the people who you get to canvass for you do not come from the community then the effectiveness is negligible, and that is why the Ward system or the “machine” is so powerful, because it puts neighbors upon neighbors.
My whole point is that Ward Leaders are not all bad or all good, but if you are going to talk about them and “the system”, then you should at least know what you are talking about. Give your Ward Leader or Committee person a call and at least see what they are about. You have nothing to lose!
It’s like Gordon Gecko said, “You are either on the inside or the outside.” If you want to effect a change and you want to know what you are talking about, then you need to shit or get off the pot. If not, then you are just some dude on a deserted island shouting at the wind about what needs to be done.