Last Friday, January 10, I met for coffee with Republican Jim Butler, my Ohio House District 41 representative. And, after what was a generous amount of time for discussion, I was surprised that we kept going. We had an extended talk and a lot of agreement.
My goal in meeting Mr. Butler was not to get all the details of his votes in the Ohio House that I disagree with, but, to attempt to develop an understanding with Mr. Butler that might be a basis for working together to accomplish goals that we both agree with.
In his last campaign (2012) Butler raised about $240,000, and his Democratic challenger, Carolyn Gentry, raised about $60,000. Regardless of his unpopular vote on SB-5 — eventually repudiated by the voters as Issue 2 — and regardless that Ms Gentry was an exceptionally strong challenger, Butler still won with almost 60% of the vote.
As of last Friday, no Democrat had taken out a petition to challenge Butler — the deadline for completing the petitions is February 5 — so, it is possible Butler will remain unopposed. Butler thought it unlikely. As an active Democrat and a Kettering ward leader, I indicated to Butler that I would support a Democratic challenger.
In our discussion, I sought to find agreement with Butler on the big picture idea that key to a successful future for this district and this nation is a successful democracy. I quoted David Matthews, President of the Kettering Foundation, from his book, Reclaiming Public Education By Reclaiming Our Democracy that, to improve education, there must be a more engaged, more informed, more active public — that, in short, to improve education we must improve our democracy. I stressed that, in general, to meet the challenges of the future, we need to develop a level of citizen awareness and participation that simply is missing now. Mr. Butler agreed.
A search for articles pertaining to “democracy” on DaytonOS, reveals democracy and public education to be the focus of many of my posts. My POV is that in order to meet the challenges of the future, public education must be transformed and that the transformation that is needed is of such a magnitude that it will be possible only when a community of energized and active citizens work together to advance a shared vision. See here and here.
I told Mr. Butler that he — and everyone in public life — could gain public support by taking actions that advance a non-partisan approach to building democracy. Below is an excerpt of a letter (revised) that I gave to him at the start of our meeting:
At a Kiwanis Club meeting a few years ago, I asked the group to contemplate Lincoln’s words, “that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain,” that, “government of the people, by the people and for the people should not perish from the earth.” I asked each person to write down a number from zero to 100 indicating, in his or her opinion the degree to which our government meets Lincoln’s standard. The average was 40%.
40% is a failing grade. There’s a lot of evidence that citizens feel that government is operating a level much lower than what they find acceptable. I am suggesting here four areas for you to develop that would positively engage citizens. Four areas that I would like to offer my help. These areas are non-partisan; they transcend the usual right / left, and conservative / liberal divides:
- Transparency — providing the information that would make it easy for voters to understand your work as representative, your votes, your analysis.
- Dialogue — welcoming questions about your work as representative and responding in detail.
- Planning for the future — providing opportunities for education and in-depth discussions about the big challenges of the future.
- Community Building — helping to develop and to support networks of citizens who can work, communicate, plan and problem solve together.
I have some specific projects in mind that speak to these areas that I hope you will support, and that I will soon describe in detail.
Sincerely, Mike Bock
Mr. Butler shared a lot of good ideas and enthusiasm in all this. He is an influential person in our community and I’m encouraged to believe that he will positively respond to any good idea that will advance these four areas. I left the meeting challenged to put together a proposal that we can both support.
Previous Articles of Interest:
- Republican Senator Lehner and Representative Butler Defend Ohio’s SB-5 At Kettering Town Hall Meeting
- Caroline Gentry And Jim Butler — OHD 41 — Will Have Lincoln-Douglas Type Debate At KHS On Friday, Nov 2
- Our Community’s Success Depends On Whether Residents Can Be Persuaded To Behave Like Citizens
- Grassroots Dayton: “Sowing The Seeds Of Democracy”