On Tuesday, January 24th, at the General Membership meeting, three candidates were endorsed for the three available positions on the City Council. After much deliberation the membership endorsed Jefferson Smith for Mayor, Steve Novick for council position 4, and Mary Nolan for council position 1.
These endorsements were made following an extensive research effort undertaken by the 189 Political Action Committee. This group, chaired by Mark Gipson, was made up of AFSCME local 189 members who were motivated to become involved in the political process. Everyone was aware of the unusual opportunity that this particular election presents. A new mayor and two new council members could completely change the focus of the council. This is of particular interest to those of us who work for the City.
The selection was difficult since this year’s field includes some very accomplished individuals. These were, by and large, good candidates and choosing between them was difficult. Also, in the past, we have endorsed candidates only to watch them ignore or even turn against us once they are elected. This has always been a problem and a difficult one to avoid.
Each candidate was sent a list of questions that addressed issues, which were of concern to our membership. Later, in early January, candidates took part in a question and answer session. This made it possible for our members and also those on the Political Action Committee to quiz the candidates.
Questions covered issues such as budget cuts and the possibility of actually cutting management rather than front line workers. Would the candidates be willing to provide support in the process of coaxing city management to observe the existing contract? Could we expect more civilized behavior when negotiating our next contract in 2013? There were also questions concerning overtime issues and contracting out as well as more general questions such as the possibility of a city wide health care system.
In the end it was also recognized that talk can be cheap and that we really must also look at the candidate’s history of action concerning issues specific to our needs.
Jefferson Smith has a record of consensus building. In 2002 he founded the Bus Project which was a movement designed to get out the vote and encourage young people to become involved in the political process. He has a genuine relationship with labor as demonstrated by his 100% voting record on labor issues. More to the point, as a legislator he carried a bill that directed state agencies to cut middle management and redirect the budget to preserve front line services. This is an attitude currently lacking at City Hall. When interviewed he demonstrated a practical realistic approach to the problems we all face. His solid record and pro-labor approach proved to be convincing when the endorsement was being considered.
Steve Novick has a record of seeking innovative solutions. He has ideas for health care reform and will work to keep health care costs down and preserve family wage jobs. He is committed to urban issues, jobs, sustainability and growth. Moreover, he has taken on public employee antagonist Bill Sizemore. In fact he led the fight to defeat Sizemore’s anti-union initiatives. This is a recommendation in itself.
Mary Nolan also has a record of support for working people. When interviewed her energy was impressive. She has practical experience working for the city as well as the private sector. As a legislator and in her work on the Ways and Means committee she projects strength of purpose coupled with a 100% voting record on issues important to labor and public employees. She has the courage to take action and be an effective advocate. Mary Nolan has a history of getting things done and she makes no secret of her support of labor and all working families.
The idea was to endorse candidates through a democratic process. In the case of position 1 on the council there was strong support for Amanda Fritz among some of the representatives from her bureaus. However, there were also calls for change at City Hall and Mary Nolan’s proven track record of support for working people proved to be convincing.
This year we are fortunate to have candidates for the Mayor and council positions with a wide variety of experience and qualifications. Choosing the best candidates was a difficult time consuming process. Ultimately this was accomplished through member involvement and participation.