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Why I'll Vote for Dwight Evans
If you begin reading this with the assumption that nothing I could say would be able to convince you that Dwight Evans is the most qualified man to serve in City Hall, you might as well click to the next thread. Unlike many of the posters here, I am not going to tell you that my candidate is perfect, and yours is not. I’m not going to say that my candidate has the best plan for every single issue hurting Philadelphia, because quite honestly he doesn’t. What I am going to proudly say is that he is in my young philadelphian political opinion and without question the most qualified to be Mayor, and has the experience, charisma, and ideas to lead the city out of a difficult time in our history. My intention with this post is simple: before this election concludes next week, it needs to be known that Dwight Evans is a hardworking, dedicated, and humble public servant, and would make our city proud as Mayor.
Now I am no fool, I know what the polls say and most likely what will happen. While I think the media’s direct influence over the campaign has crippled Dwight’s ability to connect with undecided voters, I’m not going to take anything away from the frontrunners in this post, despite having my own opinions, which I have shared from time to time.
The first time I met Dwight Evans was in 2001 as a student body president for a university in PA. We went to see Rep. Evans to seek his support for increasing state appropriations to avoid costly tuition increases that would widen the knowledge gap based on income and, race. He sat and focused the entire time I spoke, allowing me go through my carefully prepared “schpiel”, which was complete with excel charts and fancy literature. After I was finished, I asked for his thoughts, he replied, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you.” I said, “Excuse me?” He replied (and I paraphrase from what I can remember of our convo, it was 6 years ago) “I know the knowledge gap exists but what kind of person would I be if I told my parents in NW Philadelphia that it was ok to give more money to a multi-billion dollar institution, while their children don’t have access to a simple textbook or functioning toilet at school?” What do you say to that? I’m sure if I had a bit more experience as a lobbyist, I would have had something snappy, but I knew from that moment that while I was furious at him for making me look foolish in front of the group, he had a point, and his heart was where it needed to be. Anyone who knows Dwight knows that unlike many other local elected officials, you don’t need to worry about whether his heart and mind are in the right place, it’s just always been a given.
A few years earlier, Dwight helped engineer the state’s charter school laws. Excuse me?! School choice?! Doesn’t that go against every fundamental education belief of the progressive movement? I came to understand down the road that the issue for Dwight wasn’t taking money away from public schools and redirecting them to charters. It was about giving working parents more choices, so that while the Philadelphia School District needed and still needs massive reform, parents had a few options available to them if they were dissatisfied with what the public schools had to offer. To some extent, I still partly disagree with this, but I have come to respect his rationale that just because urban parents with limited incomes live in the 7th largest district in the nation, their tax dollars should still be able to get them access to whatever education they felt was best for their child. Agree or disagree, it was an unpopular decision Dwight made knowing that the political fallout was meaningless compared to the idea that parents who wanted more of a stake in their child’s education might now have that freedom.
Of course the controversy over Charters was nothing compared to the school takeover, another decisive moment in our city’s recent history. Dwight has a simple saying that he repeats a lot in campaign appearances and I recall it even being on one of his ads: Do Something. And something needed to be done about the school district. I’m not going to proclaim that the state takeover has completely turned the district around, because we all know that’d be a lie. But instead of just taking the advice of other leaders and simply replacing Hornbeck with another chief executive to repeat the same mistakes over again, Dwight chose to support drastic action. The City was not living up to it’s moral and ethical commitment to its students, so instead of pretending that political discourse would solve this problem and letting the Street administration mismanage this problem even more, Dwight made what he knew to be an unpopular choice. Unpopular, but necessary. Now we can argue the nuances of this deal, but I mention all this to point out a few things: Dwight does not make decisions based upon what is politically fruitful, he makes them based on what he thinks the long term commitment might yield. History will prove whether he was right or wrong, but in a time when pay-to-play politics, corruption, mismanagement, political infighting, and opposition suppression runs wild in City Hall and in the local democratic party, we have a man in this race who is able to transcend that. Edison, Victory, Temple, Penn, and Foundations have not yet turned these schools around, but they have taken some of the most difficult circumstances in the entire system and attempted to make them work. It’s right that we hold them accountable for what they do and cost. But it’d be stubborn and criminal to say that the District didn’t need outside help. And until the city and district have serious, long-term plans for funding and reform that they can commit to, regaining control from the State would only be a move to satisfy political needs. Students don’t care about whether the state or city oversees their principals; they just want a future. Until we figure out the best way to give it to them, we need the state’s support.
Crime is a tough issue to talk about, and admittedly one that I am no expert on. What I do know is that violence is not just a product of inadequate police funding or lack of truancy officers. Violence is a sad communal trait that has embedded itself into our youth and culture, where it has become the norm that the way to react to a problem is to fight or use a weapon. I say this because throwing 1000 or 5000 more police officers on the street won’t change a thing until we begin to look at the root of violent behavior, and begin training the next generation of Philadelphians to handle conflict differently. Jobs are important to keep at-risk people from staying out of questionable behavior, but again, it won’t just magically change the psychological impulse to react that comes from years of growing up in violent circumstances.. This isn’t just an economic or judicial problem; it’s a sociological problem. Dwight demonstrates this through his famous table analogy, which you can see here: http://evansformayor.com/media/video/table/. We need to begin looking into crime by empowering communities, not just cops. We need the clergy to be more visible. We need to embrace community-based organizations and give them funding to provide programming for education and outreach. We don’t need martial law, we need citizen’s rule, and you cannot empower communities with a stop-and-frisk policy. We need a safer Philadelphia, and that begins through empowering one block at a time.
The common criticism I’ve heard of Dwight is that he’s a great legislator and Philadelphia needs him badly to stay as Appropriations Chair. Some people have told me that he’s foolish for forsake one of the most powerful positions in Pennsylvania for Mayor of a struggling, divided city. For Dwight, it’s not about power or executive privilege. It’s about where he feels he can make the good and necessary decisions, and be as much a part of the solution as he can be. For him, that’s in City Hall.
Now I know what many people are thinking: Dwight’s chances are slim and impossible. A vote for Evans is a vote better spent keeping Tom Knox out of office, or something along those lines. Strategic voting. Believe me, I’ve thought a lot about it. I voted strategically in 2003 because I foolishly thought I needed to keep Ashcroft and Bush out of my city. Look where that got us, but I got a good lesson came from that. I voted strategically in 2004, even though I was tempted to vote Green and have about as much in common with John Kerry as I do with George W. Dumbass (although I did vote for Dean anyway even though he was out by that point). That turned out well, too. Whether its Nutter, Knox, Fattah, Brady, or Evans, I need to know that I voted for the best man for the job, in my own opinion anyway. Ed Rendell agrees with me. Rep. Mark Cohen agrees with me. The Philadelphia Tribune agrees with me. Dwight Evans is the right choice.
My message with this post is 2 fold:
1. Don’t vote for the person you think is most electable. Don’t vote for someone because they aren’t Tom Knox or John Street or Bob Brady. Vote for whom you like, because you need to be able to look into the mirror a few years down the road and know you voted for the person whom you felt at the time was best for our city. Most of you have already selected your candidate, but for any of those 21% of undecided, forget the ads and mud slinging and vote your conscious, even if your conscious is polling last.
2. We have an amazing friend in Dwight Evans, who has the courage, leadership, experience, influence, and charisma to inspire an uninspired city and actually do something, even if it’s not the most politically safe. We have a man whose ego is not on his list of priorities, and has been able to demonstrate clear leadership that has had actual, tangible results that can be pointed to.
Before you go to the voting booth, even if you already know who you are supporting, do yourself a favor and just take a look at Dwight’s website to learn more about him. I don’t work for Dwight; I don’t have time to volunteer for him. I’d give him more $ if I honestly had it. But being what I think is an avid YPP reader, it was important to me to say all this publicly so others can understand why Dwight Evans’ supporters are so loyal and why having him in City Hall would be a great thing for Philadelphia. And as a supporter, giving 30 min of my night to type this post for you seemed like a good way to spread his message and contribute to the dialogue. Thanks for reading.