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Where Have All The Voters Gone?

Last Tuesday, Cincinnati was sent two messages:

1) Very few people in our City care about what happens in our City,

and

2) The people who DO pay attention, do not like the streetcar.

Now, these two facts can be dissected and analyzed all day long, but they are facts nonetheless.  So – kudos to the voters who showed up at the polls last Tuesday, victory is yours!  And “WAKE UP” to those who did not bother to vote, but are now upset that our City’s momentum is in jeopardy.

A final message to those who did not vote but are now upset (and then I will carry on with this post) – democracy & government do not happen by magic, they require your participation.

In happier news, many have flocked together to attempt and save the streetcar.  It is inspiring to see such effective grassroots organizing happening as we speak.  It has been a bit overwhelming, I’ll admit, as I still haven’t had time to really get my head back on straight after campaigning, but it is nice to have something on which to focus.

Lastly, as a way to segue into the body of this post, I would like to thank everyone for all of the support this year.  Team Moroski feels very pleased with what we accomplished.  We made numerous new friends, forged many new relationships, and opened a ton of new doors.  We’re not done yet – be sure you keep an eye out for us in 2017.

OK.  So, with all that said, where have all the voters gone?

Your guess is as good as mine, but I do have a theory.  My theory, it should be noted, only covers one demographic of the voting bloc, so do with it what you will.

Furthermore, my theory is predicated (in part) on a major point:  That John Cranley received roughly 5,000 less votes and 8,000 less votes than the total votes that shot down Issue 9 & 48 in 2009 & 2011, respectively (the ballot issues that were intended to kill the streetcar).

So, if we assume that people’s opinion did not change on the streetcar (which it didn’t – 16% of the electorate is hardly a “mandate”), then we must beg the question, where have all the voters gone?

Some voters thought the game was a wrap one way or the other; meaning, they thought their candidate would win no matter what (whether that be Council or Mayor).

Some, as WVXU points out, were not enticed to vote on something as un-sexy as a local election with no hot State or Federal issue on the docket.

Some didn’t know that we were electing a new Council & Mayor for four years.

Fine.  But who DID vote?

The older electorate voted.

Conservatives voted.

Some right-leaning liberals voted.

Some left-leaning liberals voted.

Some progressive voters voted.

Angry people voted.  A lot of them.

And good for all of those people.  Thank you for participating in our Local Democratic Process.  Seriously.  This is not tongue-in-cheek stuff right here.  Thank you.

And for those who didn’t vote?

Progressives, urbanists, hipsters – whatever you want to call them.  A lot of them did not vote.  If they had, the results would be very different.

I may not have won if they did vote, but I can tell you that Roxanne Qualls would have stood a better chance, Laure Quinlivan would have gotten elected, and probably Michelle Dillingham & Greg Landsman as well.

Their loss is attributable to two phenomena – the low turnout (obviously), and the Hamilton County Democratic Party endorsing ten people.  The Dems also did not stake a claim in the Mayoral race, leaving Democratic voters confused when there was only really one Democrat in the race and she did not win.

If the Dems had left their endorsements alone after their initial 9, it is without question that Quinlivan and Landsman would have won.  Who knows for Roxanne, but if they had given her the nod and left Mayor Elect John Cranley to his own devices with the Tea Party and GOP, then she would certainly have fared better.

The Hamilton County Democratic Party also took issue with the Young Democrats who had their own slate printed.  Their slate only had nine candidates, and one of the versions only had eight Democrat candidates with one Independent candidate on it.  While the Young Dems are permitted to print their own material, they were strongly urged to back out of passing out the slates.  Over night, it seemed, the Dems finally printed up their OWN slate – one with all 10 that was handed out at the polls.

It is time to rejuvenate the Democratic Party in this City.  Today, it appears we have the GOP, a slightly more palatable GOP (Dem Party), and a progressive culture.  The problem lies in the third group.  The progressive culture in this City is awesome, but it is quite clear after last week that it has not, as of yet, figured out how to harness its power into a truly progressive political force.

And that force may be within the Hamilton County Democratic Party.  I certainly hope so.  Maybe they just need a “wake up call.”

The past six days have found me running around town, answering phone calls, responding to e-mails, recording podcasts – all in my effort to bring progressive people together.

But, who the hell are “progressives” anyway?

I’ll be the first to say, “I don’t know.”

I have been called “progressive” because I believe that people experiencing homelessness & those returning from prison have rights.  Others, and myself, are called “progressive” because we believe in Marriage Equality.  In today’s Cincinnati, many are called “progressive” if they want a streetcar.

I suppose that last description is the one that is rallying everyone today.  The cause du jour, if you will.

I support the streetcar and I always have.  I have to say that I would love to see people as mobilized over ending hate crimes against the homeless as they are over the streetcar, but I digress.  For the purposes of this post, I am going to keep my focus on the streetcar.

So, why do I support the streetcar?

Simple.  I have three 10-year goals for Cincinnati – a 10% drop in the poverty rate, a 10% reduction in the recidivism rate, and a 10% increase in population.  It is that last 10% regarding population that will enable the first two 10%s to even happen.  We NEED to grow our City if we are ever going to be serious about alleviating the strains of poverty.  Human Services takes money, and we don’t have a lot of that.  Furthermore, the first thing to go during budget cuts is Human Services – with Parks & recreation not too far behind in 2nd place.  And, for the record, the streetcar’s construction is NOT taking away from the pot of money that funds Human Services.  Anyone who tells you that is being disingenuous.

John Cranley likes Human Services and he has a plan to help low-income people get jobs.  This is something I truly admire about our Mayor Elect.  The problem is that his vision is shortsighted.  How in the world does John Cranley expect to fund the City without revenue generation?  How does he intend to promote upward social mobility when different incomes are not encouraged to live next door to one another (the surest way for upward mobility to occur)?  Our City needs more small businesses, more young people, and more people with means.  One (of many) things I have learned in my career in the not for profit sector, and from studying nonprofit business, is that without money the poorest in our communities will continue to suffer the most.

It is simple economics.  We need the additional revenue before we can even start talking about creating a City who values ALL of her residents.  Yes, the conversations have already begun, and many are fighting for justice daily, but for them to be heard we need to have a means through which we can make City Hall strong enough to embrace every single citizen.

Is the streetcar the answer to this dilemma?  Absolutely not.  But, as I have said for years, it is PART of the solution.  We have to start somewhere to grow our City.

And. . .like it or not, the streetcar has become the symbol for so many things in Cincinnati.  So, as a writer, it is the metaphor that I use to guide this analysis.

The streetcar has become the symbol for so many in our City’s anger.  They may be upset that their neighborhood has been neglected for years (a valid concern, to be sure), they may be upset that the roads aren’t paved well enough (yet another valid concern), or they may be concerned that safety personnel’s jobs become political pawns every single budget cycle (a most significant and rightful concern).  No matter their concern, the streetcar has become the single easiest target for them as it somehow, in their minds, represents everything about which they are upset.  Fuel, it should be noted, was added to this fire by a number of Council candidates and one Mayoral candidate on the campaign trail.  This was disheartening for me to see.

One more point – the streetcar ALSO became the symbol and Holy Grail of many progressives in our City.  This was equally blinding as those who “fear” the streetcar, as there are SO many concerns in our City right now that need immediate attention.  That said, I have always found that getting one-issue-streetcar voters to understand the pressing need for affordable housing is FAR easier than someone who simply and unabashedly hates the streetcar (or Roxanne Qualls).  The streetcar became a symbol of our success as a City, a megaphone announcing to the Midwest that Cincinnati had finally made it.  To these voters’ credit, the tracks ARE in the ground, so it kind of DID seem like a “done deal. . . . . . . .”

. . . . . .wait for it. . . . . .

Enter Cincinnati Politics!

Stop!  Halt!  Wait!

“This is a waste of money!  This has no economic value!  This will take away police & fire jobs!”

(It should be noted that the above three statements are just simply untrue.)

So, here we are.  Cincinnati got what she voted for.  And now those who are concerned for our City are scrambling to get mobilized.

Details on tangible next steps will be coming out in the coming weeks via media outlets, Cincinnatians for Progress, and from individual community organizers like myself.  Stay tuned.

Opps.  Appears I got a tad bit de-railed.

(pun intended)

So.  If I am right and more people LIKE the momentum in Cincinnati than DON’T, then why the pathetic voter turnout?

I call them the “9/11 Progressives.”  These are 18 to 29 year olds who were 6 to 17 on September 11th, 2001.  I taught this age group and am very familiar with them.  Feel free to correct me, but I will tell you this about them:

– They LOVE community service

– They LOVE feeling connected to something (community, friends, smart phones)

– They LOVE cities because cities are more connected (communities, friends, networks)

The students I taught for 12 years are some of the most committed & caring people I have ever known.

So, why did so few vote?

Well, first of all, many DID vote and they are the very same ones that I am organizing with to combat a potential end to the streetcar project.  The ones that didn’t?  My theory follows.

A number of the 9/11 Progressives did not vote because they either thought everything would work out alright (very hopeful), or they didn’t really know what was going one (very disengaged).

Many of these folks were turned off of politics from childhood – what with watching an horrific attack on New York City, and then growing up in the midst of a never-ending war that a Cowboy President irrationally began, and a Liberal Peaceful President continued.  As a result, these progressives never saw what actual progressive politics looked like.  They DID see a lot of “9/11 Rhetoric,” i.e., leaders telling them to be afraid, that a phantasm was going to get them, that they had to believe everything they were told if they wanted to be safe.

(*Note:  No progressive political platform has ever really held elected office, but numerous progressive movements have indeed changed the course of history and influenced well-intentioned & courageous politicians.  Furthermore, I, too, have never seen any real progressive political platform in office, but since I have been paying attention since a young age, I know what they could look like.  In the case of the 9/11 Progressives, if they tuned out at an early age, then they do not know what this looks like.)

So, we get to Tuesday, November 5th, 2013.  These 9/11 Progressives (many, if not MOST, of them being supporters of the streetcar) were either just simply disengaged, or heard the “savior” rhetoric from Mayor Elect Cranley’s camp and bought it.  Either way, these very same people are quite disappointed today.  At least they woke up and are ready to hold our new local government accountable.

Whatever the cause, we are where we are.  I would encourage everyone who is upset with the turnout (and resulting Mayor & Council Elect) to take a breath, relax, regroup, and be sure that we all move forward with a unified voice.  I would also encourage everyone to not get nasty.  You can point fingers and shoot arrows of truth just as easily, and those often hurt more in the long run.

Also – retain hope in this Council.  I am not the least bit convinced that Mayor Elect Cranley will even get a majority of Council to agree to cancel the project.  I got to know all 9 of those folks very well on the campaign trail and I can tell you that they are logical, intelligent, and pragmatic people.  It is one thing to say that you hate the streetcar on the trail to get elected, it is quite another to hijack your political career by signing your name to cancel something that will not only COST you money, but set you up to experience revenue declination for years to come.

Yes, that is quite another thing indeed.

So, stay hopeful and stay tuned.  There is much organization to be done, and it is all happening quickly.

The main point is this:  We need to harness our progressive culture in this City and turn it into a truly Progressive Political Force.  And not just for the streetcar, not at all.  For the people of our City.  For the homeless and those struggling to make ends meet.  For the middle class family trying to get by.  For the C-Suite executive who can enable others in our City to aspire to his/her level.  For everyone.

Unity Assists.

191

What I’ve Learned (A Retrospective)

2013 has been a year of change for my wife, Katie, and me.  It all began in February when the Archdiocese of Cincinnati catalyzed my run for City Council by terminating me for publicly supporting marriage equality.  I now find myself on this day, the Friday before the election, reminiscing on how I got here and what this year means.

I am a writer.  I have always been a writer since I was a very young child.  As a writer, I am called to reflect and find meaning in events.  Like it or not, it is a blessing (curse?) I have had from birth.  Other writers reading this no doubt understand what I mean.

And today is the perfect day to reflect on this year as it is the first real day that I have been able to breathe in nine months.

The question that plagued me is how to frame my retrospective of this year.  Maybe it is the teacher in me, or maybe it is the student, but I decided that framing my reflections around what I have learned is the surest way to keep me on track and make my points clear.

So, I begin with my conclusion; the overarching theme of what this year has taught me.  It is nothing new to me, but it has been reinforced this year in ways hitherto unknown or seen by me in my 35 years of existence.  And that theme is this – without relationships, nothing worthwhile or long-lasting can be accomplished.

Relationships are what brought me here – relationships are at the heart of every single initiative, nonprofit, or decision in which I have ever been involved – relationships took a first time candidate’s campaign and thrust it to the forefront of a crowded field of 21 candidates.

I’ve learned that I am blessed to have so many honest and loving relationships in my life.  I’ve re-learned that I am running for office for those without relationships, those who struggle to make ends meet, those who rely on those given a voice to represent them well.

I’ve learned that I am running for those who do have relationships, those who do have the means to make ends meet, those with a voice – and that I have a responsibility to connect the voiceless with the voiced in an effort to truly move Cincinnati forward.

I’ve learned that I am the candidate that can get that accomplished.

I’ve learned that, no matter how far we’ve come as a society, that there are organizations who still embrace fear and bigotry.  I’ve also learned that there are many more people who do not embrace these things and that they desire a change.  I’ve learned that these very same people are willing to work very hard to actualize their dreams.

I’ve learned, sadly, that big corporate money is still capable of trumping the “little guy,” and that it is past time in Cincinnati to make it illegal to unnecessarily pick on the poor, the homeless, or those who have made the decision to try and get back on their feet.

I’ve learned that, even though I was advised against speaking to this topic at the onset of the campaign, the citizens of Cincinnati are far past ready to talk about recidivism and working with returning citizens to create healthier communities.  I have seen evidence of this in my positive reception at nearly every community gathering or forum, and in other candidates beginning to speak about this very same issue as the campaign winds down.

I’ve learned that the streetcar is one of the easiest ways for people to vent their frustrations.  Many of the people who oppose the streetcar are awesome people who are simply upset at other issues, e.g., roads not being paved, their neighborhood going underrepresented for years.  I’ve learned that many will latch onto this misdirected anger toward the streetcar in the hopes of getting elected – often promising things to voters that are simply not true.  I’ve learned that my unwavering support of the streetcar has shown my ability to stand firm in my beliefs and to not “change my tune” from forum to forum.  Most importantly, I’ve learned that this garners respect from voters who are not as easily misled as many would like to believe.

I’ve learned that parking meters and how they are managed can become a point of interest, and, again, many are willing to use peoples’ anger over an issue to their own advantage, all the while ignoring (hopefully not deliberately) the facts associated with said issue.  I’ve learned that it is difficult to hold your ground for what you know can benefit the City overall, even if it hurts your chances of election.  I’ve learned that my integrity does, in fact, serve me well as more and more people seem willing to listen to the facts of this parking issue.

I’ve learned, amidst the muddy waters of these two issues, that people would rather hear about visitability & accessibility ordinances and how these measures will actually not only boost our local economy, but also enable our aging population & citizens with disabilities to live freer lives.  And I’ve learned that visitability & accessibility are but one example of the issues that truly matter to voters.

I’ve learned that my policies for anti-displacement legislation and affordable housing mandates are quite well-received in every neighborhood in the City – proving, yet again, that Cincinnati is a City of neighborhoods, yes, but that it is also a City of relationships.

I’ve learned that there are two camps of candidates in this year’s race – those who feel we can cut our way out of our budgeting woes, and those who know that we have to grow our way to prosperity.  There are candidates who constantly compare Cincinnati to Detroit.  Let me clear the air – we are nothing like Detroit.  Namely, we didn’t have major auto manufacturers leave our City.  Furthermore, our bond rating, while lowered, is still in the top 16% in the Country.  Lastly, Detroit did try to cut their way out of their mess, and look what happened.  People want to live in Cities again and those who are taking steps to attract and retain citizens are the ones succeeding.  Cincinnati is doing just that and we need to support her as she grows up.

I’ve learned that there are numerous players in the shadows of Cincinnati’s political scene that call far too many shots.  Many of these folks, it should be noted, do not even live in the City.  That is not to say that their voices should not be heard, for they should, but they need to come out from behind the curtain and make their intentions clear if they are to have any part in the future of Cincinnati.  For, all too often, these groups descend into the dark abyss of hate-speech and anti-progress referendums.  As a Councilman, I promise to not let them govern our City from the shadows.

I’ve learned that Margaret Mead’s maxim is true, and that one does not need a well-oiled political machine to win an election.  I’ve learned that relationships built on honesty and integrity are the key to success.  I’ve learned that hard work pays off.  Much love, Team Moroski – thank you for all you’ve taught me this year.  I promise to make you proud once I take office.

I’ve learned that, when you receive really bad news (like you don’t have enough signatures to be on the ballot), that having strong relationships is the surest way out of a jam.

I’ve learned that the citizens of Cincinnati were waiting for something fresh, something bold, something they could get behind.  I’ve learned that having a Team of honest, hard-working people will get you noticed like no backroom strategizing can.  I’ve learned that the local media still does respect honesty and openness.  These things make me happy & proud to live in Cincinnati.

I’ve learned (or rather, was confirmed of my belief) that money does matter in political elections.  What I learned was that voters look for more than campaign finance reports – they look for honesty, transparency, and someone who is willing to talk about the issues that will impact society as a whole.

I’ve learned that a 12 year career working with the community is the best preparation for public office.  Having advocated for the homeless, more affordable housing, better safety nets for our returning citizens, and educational opportunities for all has positioned me well to take seat on December 1st, 2013.  What’s more, I’ve learned that there are a lot of people in this City who feel the same way.  And this, more than anything, makes me happy.  Why?  Not simply because it will earn me a position on City Council, but because it tells me that we live in a City that cares about her people.

I’ve learned that progress can be defined by how well a City takes care of her most disenfranchised population by investing in economically moral initiatives.

I’ve learned that my ONE PROMISE on the campaign trail is welcomed in every neighborhood to which I travel.  My promise?  That Human Services will restored to 1% of the general fund by the end of my first term on Council.

I’ve learned that Cincinnatians are ready to move forward.  I’ve learned that grassroots campaigns and a first time, Independent, non-incumbent candidate can be a real player in local politics.  What’s more, I’ve learned that he can and will be elected on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013.

I’ve learned that picking yourself up off the ground when you’re down is the only way to succeed in this life.  I have the relationships to be able to do this.  Too many in our City do not.  I have received numerous accolades for taking a stand in February and losing my job.  My ability to take that stand is a blessing and one for which I am truly grateful.  My ability to fight for those without a voice is a gift; a gift that I take very seriously.  You see, those in poverty could not take the same stand that I took in February.  They could not afford to lose their job & their health insurance.  Thanks to my family (my safety net), I was able to take that stand – a stand I would have wanted to take even if I had not been in a position to do so, but one that, ultimately, I would not have been able to take.   I’ve re-learned why I am running for Council this year – I am running so that those who have long felt their power stripped away from them can begin making moves to regain some of that power.  When one is blessed with the ability to fight for what’s right, one should.  I feel an overwhelming calling to do just that – and I have for many, many years.  I cannot promise that you will always agree with me after I am elected, but I can promise you that you will always know why I voted the way I did, and that I came about my conclusions after deliberate, honest, and collaborative study.  Lastly, I can promise you that I will govern with integrity, and not let the fear-mongers or bullies run our City.

I’ve learned hope will lead the way.

I’ve learned fear will hold us back.

I’ve learned that making friends is the best form of protest.

I’ve learned that family is all that matters.

I’ve learned that hard work pays off.

I’ve learned that sleep is overrated.

I’ve learned that not being beholden to anyone is a good thing, indeed.

I’ve learned that sticking up for those who many would rather ignore is the only way to be.

I’ve learned that people love our City and want to stay here.

I’ve learned the West Side & the East Side are both really awesome and have their own, unique, beautiful personalities.

I’ve learned that our citizens are far more similar than different; each wanting to raise their families in a safe Cincinnati.

I’ve learned that our police and fire men & women are some of the hardest working folks around – not to mention some of the nicest and most courageous people in town.

I’ve learned that many politicians change their tune as campaigns wear on, and that voters notice and don’t respect it.

I’ve learned that saying the same thing to everyone can be a challenge, but is worth it in the end because you sleep better at night.

I’ve learned that I get my best ideas in the middle of the night.

I’ve learned that campaign tote bags and coozies are a huge hit, and that no one wants bumper stickers.

I’ve learned that people actually don’t mind when you knock on their door to talk to them.

I’ve learned that Government Square is my favorite place to canvass.

I’ve learned that it is best to have a campaign manager in his mid-twenties because he doesn’t need to sleep.  Ever.

I’ve learned the very same thing as above about neighborhood outreach coordinators.  No sleep.  Ever.

I’ve learned that a Campaign Team is very much like a family and sometimes needs to have “family talks” to make sure everyone is ok.

I’ve learned that all-natural Wild American Ginseng is all you need on the Trail to stay alert – no Red Bull for this guy.

I’ve learned that Taco Casa, Skyline, and Frisch’s are my favorite campaign pit stops – thank God for canvassing or I’d be 800 pounds!

I’ve learned that collecting 1,000 signatures in five days can be fun if you let it be.

I’ve learned that Community Council meetings are the place to be to hear what is really happening in the City.

I’ve learned that taking time out to listen to records and play guitar is, and always has been, the best way for me to stay level.

I’ve learned that campaign teams can become lifelong friends.

I’ve learned that I made the right decision in February.

Lastly, I’ve learned that Katie is the most amazing person in the world.  Today marks our 14th month of being married.  Nine of those months have been campaigning.  Without her undying support, love, and acceptance I would not have made it here in this strong of a manner.  I’ve learned that I can’t do this by myself – that having her by my side makes me a better person, a better man, and a better politician.

In closing, I look forward to serving you, Cincinnati, for the next four years.  It is time to move forward and invest in our City and our People.  I appreciate the support you all have given me this year.

From Mt. Washington to Mt. Airy, and everywhere in between, I’ve learned that Cincinnati is the place for me.  Let’s show Cincinnati that I’m the one for her on November 5th.

 

Another Great Article from CityBeat on Moroski for Council

Hannah McCartney from CityBeat writes: “If every local politician were more like Mike Moroski, Cincinnati would be a better place”.

In this article out today in the Election Issue, CityBeat summarizes Mike’s personality like this:

But Moroski has earned his own spotlight with his reputation as a staggeringly authentic, earnest and easygoing Cincinnatian bubbling over with integrity, enthusiasm, open-mindedness and morality that’s not just rare in politics; it’s a rare combination to find anywhere.

There is also attention given to his positions on issues near and dear to his heart, like reducing recidivism, widespread poverty in our neighborhoods, accessibility and visitability, and economically moral initiatives. Read the entire article for yourself…and while you are at it, read the whole issue!

Again, thank you CityBeat for your thoughtful, in-depth reporting.

CityBeat Endorses Candidates for Mayor and Council, including Moroski

CityBeat endorsed Roxanne Qualls for Mayor, and well as eight other candidates in this article. There was also a nice profile page on Mike, which included this quote: “While many council candidates fixated on vague budget and neighborhood issues at a CityBeat-hosted candidates forum on Oct. 5, Moroski trumpeted social impact bonds, a little-known policy that could help former jail inmates get their lives back together and lower the costs of imprisonment.”

Thank you, CityBeat!