Thursday, October 01, 2020

Picking Up The Torch From Bernie Sanders – Why I Am Running For Mayor Of Aurora, Illinois



Sanders' political career is far from over and his voice still echoes powerfully on the floor of the U. S. Senate, but we need to be thinking about the next steps in fixing our economy, addressing the climate crisis and establishing a government and economy that works for everyone. The progressive movement must stay focused on winning down ballot races, non-partisan seats, and picking up the torch to carry it forward for the next generation.

We need more people to get involved. If you are not helping a progressive like Cori Bush, Marie Newman, Jamal Bowman or Paula Jean Swearengin then you might want to think about adding your name, with your populist/progressive views, to the ballot in the next election. With Covid creating nationwide unrest and The Black Lives Matter movement pushing significant police reforms, the space for more people to run for city and municipal seats is needed more than ever. We must elect strong leaders to take us where we need to go.

My decision to run for Mayor of Aurora, the second-largest city in Illinois, came when I realized that Trump, a climate denier, and Biden, a fossil fuel enabler were not going to address the climate crisis. I see our nation divided over racial injustices and white nationalists openly taking to the streets with weapons-- not even hiding behind badges.

Goal ThermometerAfter an explosive night protesting and rioting in Aurora on May 31st, our city council is now considering some minor police reforms like an appointed citizens’ review board for any cases of police brutality. But this came only after purchasing more riot gear against the community wishes, and a complete failure to even discuss crime prevention. The city has finally agreed to purchase body cameras, is discussing a citizens’ review board, and/or requiring Aurora police to live in our city. These are low hanging fruit ideas. Unfortunately, the City of Aurora is not talking about proven crime prevention methods like job creation and mentorship services that are directed at intervention for at-risk youth. This is where we need to go as a city and nation.

The intersectionality of these issues creates opportunities for the needed change. We need fundamental change and I believe that we can work locally to create a template that mirrors the goals of the Green New Deal. Creating jobs, economic stability, and moving towards real solutions of addressing the climate crisis and racial divide. Our campaign for mayor is focused on making Aurora one of the greenest cities in the United States, closing the wealth gap, and making sure that ALL Aurora citizens can participate in a growing green collar economy. This city can show other cities in the nation that the GND is indeed the only practical solution.

As a union carpenter I have made my own house dramatically more energy efficient, bought a hybrid and I mow my lawn with an electric mower. I’m reducing my carbon foot print every day, but we need to move much faster if we want to stave off the climate crisis. The next step for me, was looking at what we could do to empower more people in my city to make the same necessary changes.

Such a large-scale plan will require the City of Aurora to align our tax incentives for energy efficiency improvements and solar initiatives with state, national and utility programs to bring more dollars to the effort. We need job training programs in our high schools, junior college and Aurora University. If we are aggressive about the green building movement, it will attract new companies who want to be part of our green collar economy. I want Aurora to be an epicenter of change and a model city for how to address the climate crisis. Over one hundred years ago Aurora adopted the motto “The City of Lights” to highlight its being the first city in the United States to use electric streetlights.

Aurora sits astride the beautiful Fox River and I would like to see how many mini hydro-turbines we could put in to power our city. Turbulent, a Belgium company, has designed a turbine that might work really well along the Fox River.

We can improve and adopt more stringent building codes. Future public buildings to support roof solar panels and increased insulation to lower energy uses are needed. Currently, installing solar in public buildings that can handle them or creating cool or green roofs are additional ideas.

I would phase-in replacing gasoline-powered city vehicles with electric vehicles and transition our public transportation to a smaller, electric fleet of vehicles that serves transportation needs for the community.

We would offer incentives for home and business owners to install electric charging stations. Incentives would be congruent with state, federal and utility incentives. While many state and federal programs are only available to low income housing, the city’s approach would be to make all residents eligible.

I would create a department of sustainability that would be responsible for implanting these programs. The department’s primary function would be to proactively engage the community and actively help people take advantage of new and existing programs. Another function of the department would be to conduct energy audits for residents so they could prioritize safety and efficiency improvements, help them find resources and contractors to make those changes or enable those who want to DIY the project. Currently, the City of Aurora pays people to drive around neighborhoods and police lawns that don’t get mowed on time and they penalize old people who don’t bring their garbage cans back from the curb in a timely manner. I would significantly downsize this department and transition those employees over to the department of sustainability.

Finally, over the long term I would work towards developing a local food economy that provides fresh, locally grown food to local restaurants and residents via an expanded farmers’ market and home delivery system. We can engage schools in teaching how to grow locally, create local jobs, and provide spaces for community gardens.

Our campaign is about turning the City of Lights into a beacon of hope. I believe that we can make progress undoing systemic racism, combating climate change, retraining those who have fallen through the cracks, welcoming all to our city who want to be part of this necessary change and providing inspiration to those who have lost faith in our broken political system.

This is a campaign for and by the people which is why I’m not taking campaign contributions from those who do business with the city. The pay to play tactics result in only the select few being represented and we must have leaders who create government that helps everyone. Supporting candidates who are challenging corruption will be the only way to change the campaign finance laws we have today.

I will never forget the sage advice of a retired teacher, Doug Donnan during an organizing meeting against a Democratic-led pension theft bill years ago, as he pounded the table and said, “power belongs to those who take it. Do not be afraid to take power.” To my sisters and brothers in the movement, the torch has been passed. It is time to lead. Put your name on the ballot, manage campaigns, step up and do what we need to take hold of our future. If you aren’t ready to run yourself, please consider supporting my race for Aurora mayor.



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