Why I'm running for City Council
My eight year old daughter at her first Piano and Voice Recital this past Sunday
Happy Saturday everyone!
I hope you're all ready to enjoy a weekend of sunshine, fresh air and friendship.
It's nice to have a break from the whirlwind campaigning, advertising, and punditry of the recent provincial election.
The day after the election, I filed my candidacy for City Council for Ward 11 in our beautiful city. I did so, with minimal fanfare, for a few different reasons.
I'd like to touch upon a few of those reasons and some next steps, before enjoying a day with my kids and then hitting the road to Toronto for The Lumineers concert tonight with my beautiful wife. First concert since March 2019! The first thing that you should know about me is that I'm not overly political. As a matter of fact, I can't stand the "us vs them" mentality of politics. It grosses me out that people spend more time blaming others for not fixing obvious problems than they do just fixing the problems themselves.
Once I turned 18 back in 2001, I asked my dad, who I always thought was the smartest person I know, "who should I vote for?" My dad went on disability back in 1996. We grew up with very little. He told me "vote liberal, as they care the most about people who have the least". I nodded, shrugged, and went back to watching VHS tape of Tim Duncan and trying to emulate his low post moves. So I voted liberal for a very long time. But I also can get along to an extent and find common ground with most people, as there's space for all sorts of different opinions in our society. My core values of pro science, pro choice, pro equality, pro diversity, are non negotiable. But I am willing to hear people out either way, and people report me as being easy to get along with.
Municipal politics was first brought to my attention back in 2018. As someone who prefers to only do things with their full energy and attention, pulling a 1, 3, and 5 year old around in a wagon as I went door to door sounded less than ideal. I declined a push by some engaged individuals to throw my name in the hat and to instead continue to focus on helping others and making a difference at a grassroots level. I've always bought into the mantra "if you believe it, you can achieve it." I wanted to follow in my dad's footsteps and be a police officer from when I was a child, because serving my community and keeping others safe from evil felt significant and meaningful enough to pursue full tilt.
My body had other ideas,. I've had a total of 7 surgeries on my right knee due to a basketball injury and post-surgical complications. I was advised by a physiotherapist that I'd "never run again" (I do, but couldn't manage the daily 5-10k runs of police training).
I turned down an overseas professional basketball contract offer the day before my 7th surgery, and instead focused on being the best version of me and helping others without having a badge as my beacon of light pushing me forward.
Prior to 2010, the year of my final surgery, most of my volunteering was in coaching basketball and tutoring children. In 2010, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and began helping and mentoring and leading adults. I started volunteering at Women's Community House, now known as Anova, in the areas of childcare, kitchen help, and donation collecting and sorting.
I reached out to them and asked how I could help because I spent multiple years of my childhood running. Running from our abuser amidst the horrors of domestic violence, and running to places like Anova. I don’t have to run anymore and I’m here to stand up for and beside those who are running away in fear now.
I also started organizing the Parkinson's Superwalk, and volunteering as a Big Brother. My father in law has Parkinson’s and I see first hand every day its effects on patients and their families. I also grew up in desperate need of mentorship and positive male role models, and love the idea of providing that and supporting its provision to kids whenever possible.
I quickly realized that I found my new place of belonging, outside of the painted white lines of the basketball floor. In my community and on the front lines.
Showing up every single day, looking people in the eye, and telling them "I am here and I want to help, because I care" and to authentically mean it created a pronounced and obvious shift in their consciousness, their hope, and their optimism towards a new path forward.
I met my now wife, fell in love, got engaged and then married, and developed the at-home support system I needed to continue to fuel my fire to help and to give and to make a difference in the lives of others.
Coming out of university, I attempted to follow in the footsteps of my colleagues in security at CPR Tavern and Barney's Patio, and get a job in security at LHSC while I continued to pursue police work.
I got a call from their HR department and they said "we are currently fully staffed for security, but given your background and your history in supporting and helping others, how would you feel about working with patients in our inpatient mental health department?"
I'm the kind of person that loves trying new things and evaluating unfamiliar opportunities, and went in for an interview. I met the current staff and leadership, and was energized into happily accepting a job offer in a new field. Meeting people in their time of crisis or greatest need, and breaking their challenges down into small concrete and specific goals became some of the most fulfilling and meaningful work that a 24 year old probably could do in the boundaries of our city. I met so many people who shared so much identity with me. Physical Abuse. Emotional Abuse. Neglect. Poverty. They needed someone to help them and to care as they pursued wellness and a better situation for themselves, and I found a new purpose in being part of that help for them, in a manner that they felt was authentic and that they weren't imposing and that I wasn't doing it because I had to, but because I wanted to.
Once I knew I was going to become a dad, I had a conflict to conceptualize and overcome. I wanted to provide the childhood I never had to my own children, and I wanted to be better than my own upbringing for the sake of my own children. This desire to learn from others who knew what they were doing, and share support and resources and ideas and encouragement led to developing a community of positive fathers that is now 9 years old and over 1,300 members strong.
Despite no one receiving a single cent of pay, our team was able to change the dialogue around what it meant to be a father and to create a positive and supportive community locally, and we were able to directly benefit and improve the outcomes and opportunities for so many local deserving people. Many of the same values and outcomes we SHOULD be able to demand of our elected officials; especially at a local level.
I realize that politics is a tough job, and that City Council is not a full time position. But I've also spent the last four years watching poverty and a lack of a cohesive and effective support system wreak havoc on our city, and more than half of that occur under the broader scope of a 2+ year pandemic. People are being left behind, and their needs, which benefit everyone when addressed, are being overlooked. London has obvious "haves" and "have-nots".
The haves aren't being supported in areas that concern them in Ward 11 - accessibility, safe streets, places to congregate, exercise, and for children to play, and the never ending concern of being able to find and maintain a safe and affordable place to live.
People who work hard, pay their taxes, and help others when they can are reporting not being heard by those in power, and having their concerns go ignored. People have asked me to run, simply because they're tired of their concerns, usually fixable things, go unaddressed.
The have-nots are running into a never-ending wait list for affordable housing, difficulties accessing social services, and a long list of low-paying jobs that are often found in unserviced transit areas, when they can't afford to be housed. clothed, fed and own a vehicle too.
I've spent the last decade addressing those areas with nothing in it for me, and the only things at my disposal being the resources and support that I can accumulate.
Despite those obstacles, we have created opportunities for dads and kids to get active together and to give back to their community. To meet their goals and thrive.
We have provided opportunities for their kids to participate with their peers. Supported local small business. Advocated for change and for equality in areas including race, gender, and sexual identity.
Through my volunteering with Dad Club London, Anova, Parkinson's, Big Brothers, The Optimist Club The London Public Library, and the Mountsfield Home and School Association, I have been able to do some very important and valuable work.
We broke ground and changed ideas and outlooks and re shaped narratives. Now imagine what I can do when it's my job?
I don't have to worry about balancing my time ?
I have an elected official rolodex at my disposal? I have a vote towards the utilization of 10 figure annual budget to address these issues that create a better life and more opportunity for ALL London residents?
The idea excites me to no end. I'm energetic, stubborn, and unflinchingly optimistic.
When we create a safe, clean, welcoming, and affordable life for all, we will generate opportunities to connect and be active and engaged with our community.
When we support local, travel safely and cleanly, and ensure that there are jobs and an environment for our future, everyone feels like they matter and they have a place and that they contribute and are heard. I am tired of feeling like I'm ignored at City Hall, and hearing others frustrated with being ignored too. I recognize my privilege and can't even fathom how others who don't match my gender or skin colour or have my stature or voice or confidence feel. I plan on running a clean campaign focused on myself as a candidate and the job I want to do, and not pointing fingers at my opponent(s).
I believe in democracy and the right to choose for its people. As I mentioned, I hate the political urge to elevate one's profile at the expense of knocking down others.
But I will take a brief "T" as my kids would say, and for the sake of transparency share that my current councillor recently told me that he "avoids engaging with (me) on purpose", which is the very job that I voted for him to do and that he is paid to do.
That's an unacceptable way to hold public office.
That public declaration on twitter lit a fire under me to spin an idea into a plan, and I'm here to ensure that doesn't happen again to anyone else.
I'm here to do politics differently. For that kid at the top of my blog post, her brother, her sister, and my community as a whole. I currently get along well with and work well with a number of City Councillors, and I will carry that spirit of collaboration and positive change over to the 2022 council, whether I have a seat at the horseshoe or not.
A sincere desire to help and to create positive change
Ward 11 and the City of London deserve it. I've done it for over a decade as an unpaid volunteer. And I'm asking for your support to do it as an elected official. Because it's why I'm running. It's who I am.