On June 23rd, I was asked to run for City Council in the town where I live, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Needless to say, I have been busy. However, I have to tell you that this somewhat quixotic run for city office has been immense fun. It has also made me realize that the work I’ve been doing on Adjunct Advocate and on issues that impact part-time faculty have prepared me well for this opportunity.
Our incumbent Council member was forced to withdraw from the race, and local democratic officials, as well as other City Council members and neighbors asked if would like to take a stab at a write-in campaign. I had one day to decide. I spoke to my family, and thought carefully about the time commitment. I would have to spend a solid month working to pass out literature, meet some of the 1,500 voters who typically cast ballots in the August primary, and run a campaign in one month while the other candidate has had six months to prepare.
Fortunately, there have been people to help, including the incumbent, as well as people who have done this sort of thing before. When asked by a local newspaper reporter recently who was closed out of the process of running for city government, I replied that it was, of course, people who didn’t have the money to do so, but also people who didn’t have the expertise. One quick example, in my Ward there are over 400 absentee voters. First of all, I had no idea there were so many. Second of all, I had no idea that you could easily get a list of them from the City Clerk’s office, and then send along a letter to them. Someone did this for me while I was in California on vacation.
Next, we have money. Well, I don’t have a lot of money. I have never contributed a dollar to any candidate’s political campaign. If campaign financing laws are changed in our country, I would consider donating, but as it stands now, individuals are solicited, but it’s the corporate donors who end up with the access to the candidate. So, I decided to take money I’d earned from freelance writing to pay for campaign materials, such as postcards, signs, etc…Then, I announced that I would not fundraise, but rather live on a budget, just like everyone else in my part of the city.
I went away to California for vacation, and came back to several campaign donations. It seems not asking people for money is the best way to inspire their generosity.
I have spoken to, literally, hundreds of my neighbors, and I am having great fun doing it. If I am elected, I will get a $15,000 stipend for the part-time job, and have the chance to serve the people who live around me.
In the meantime, I am getting an opportunity to test out my theory that the political system actually does work.