A Message Worth Considering
Last month, I asked Chris Charvella to write a "short" essay for the Genesee Blues.
The message Chris sent was a little longer than I anticipated, but so sincere, I printed it anyway. Chris gave me his permission to share it.
What We Can Do
I had intended to give you a quick piece about how great my campaign is going, about how I intend to win in November and, most importantly, about what an honor it is to have been given the opportunity to get involved in local politics. I can’t do that though. It’s not because all of those things aren’t true, as a matter of fact they’re truer than I’d ever dreamed they would be, it’s because I’ve found that win or no win, there’s real work for Democrats to do in the City of Batavia and it’s about time we put our noses to the grindstone.
I’ll use as a case in point one of the less affluent neighborhoods in my district. The south end of State Street between Washington and Park is an area of Batavia long forgotten by its elected officials. It is filled with mostly black, mostly poor citizens who are distrustful of politicians and public figures and, it seems, with good reason. One of the neighborhood kids asked me if I was the social worker, a woman on her porch thought I was a cop. All of the folks there looked at me with disdain and distrust and when I told them who I was it got even worse.
’The politicians come down here every election year and make us promises,’ I was told by a woman outside her house. ‘They never do what they say they will, nothing changes.’
Her sentiment ran true throughout the neighborhood. The people who live down there have no use for politics or politicians because we have failed them. I told the woman and everyone else who lives on the south end of State Street that I would make them no promises but that I would listen to them and advocate for them. This small article is the first step in keeping my word.
We’re Democrats. Our party has done its best to take up the mantle of the poor and underserved. We have painted ourselves as a bastion for minorities and those who believe that the good of the community is just as important as the good of the individual. The people I talked to the other day aren’t asking for handouts and freebies, they want street signs that will make their kids safer; they want the occasional visit from their representatives; they want someone to stand up and take notice. We can do that folks. We can reach out to the good people that Batavia has forgotten and let them know we care about their lives.
When I walked that street I didn’t just see poor folks and houses in need of repair, I saw a real community. Kids were riding bikes and playing on the sidewalks under the watchful eye of parents and neighbors. The kids all knew who was home and who wasn’t and they weren’t shy about telling me about it when I went to knock on a door. Neighbors were sitting together outside their houses just visiting and passing time. I felt for a moment like an outsider at a family picnic.
I’ve always counted myself as lucky. I grew up well and I’ve been successful in life. I have a beautiful wife and daughter, I own my own home and whatever worries I have are relatively simple to address. It would be easy for me to forget that not everyone is as lucky as I am and I’m writing this to remind all of you that though we may be well off and comfortable, there is no excuse for ignoring those who aren’t.
I would like to issue a challenge to you today. Don’t let communities like the one I described fade away from the public eye. Let them know that we’re here. If you’re an elected official, pay them a visit. If you’re not, pay them a visit anyway. Committee members have the ear of local representatives. We can all listen and we can all advocate.