In this election, two candidates will be elected to serve on the Kettering City Council. I am voting for Jyl Hall and I am voting for Jacque Fisher — the incumbent first elected in 2017
There are three candidates for the two “at-large” positions. I sent each candidate three questions — with a lengthy introduction explaining my concerns. Fisher and Hall replied. But from the third candidate, Joseph Patak, I got no response, even though his webpage says, “Please, contact me and ask me anything. I will try to personally respond to each and every email.” I sent Patak the same message three times — with no response. His refusal to respond says a lot about how he would behave as a Council member, if elected. (See:Joseph Patak, CONSERVATIVE Candidate For Kettering Council, Boasts That A Crackpot Propagandist — David Barton — “Is One Of My Heroes”)
I like Fisher and Hall because they both are committed to service. Fisher is the founder of Kettering Backpack Program and has managed the Neighbor to Neighbor Food Pantry. I like that in her answers to the DDN, Fisher said, “As I have continued to champion, the most at-need in our community are our working poor.” Fisher was the highest vote getter in 2017 for the “at-large” position.
Jyl Hall earned a Master’s and PhD from Asbury Theological Seminary — in Wilmore, Ky. — adjacent to my alma mater, Asbury University. She teaches part-time at United Seminary. She says, “In my family, dinner table conversations centered on the importance of having the back of the working people in the Dayton region.” She is the daughter of Tony Hall, who served as a U.S. Congress person for the Dayton region as well as a U.S. Ambassador, and the granddaughter of Dayton Mayor Dave Hall.
My questions deal with what is the central problem of our time — the disunity and polarization of the citizenry. Here are the questions and the answers given by Fisher and Hall (My lengthy intro is shown below.)
1) What is your response concerning the urgency to build citizen unity?
Data pulled from our citizen surveys show the residents aren’t radically divided on the direction our city is proceeding. Yes there are times when residents want something immediatelychanged in their neighborhood, but I would not characterize our city as divided. I do agree there is always more that can be done to ensure synergy, but diversity of thought always brings great ideas.
You make an important point with your question because the situation is urgent. Many people would not guess that the huge majority of voters agree on much more than we disagree on when it comes to policies. At the same time, misinformation and division have reached a boiling point. Some studies have shown that even before 2016 politicians were more polarized than the at the time of the Civil War. Though we often want the same things, in truth we have mistaken beliefs about what the “other side” actually thinks. Extremists on both sides often have the microphone, but I do not agree with extremists on either side and neither do most people. We can’t solve our problems in the city without some unity. At the end of the day, we all hope for a safe and peaceful place to live and raise our kids, with decent jobs in a city we take pride in.
2) Do you agree that as an elected leader you should work to help build a civic community in Kettering that at present does not exist?
As a leader in the city, yes I believe I am a role model on bringing our residents together. Being the liaison of the Board of Community Relations is a role in which I can and have used those skills. Each time a resident uplifts an issue to me as council, I again get an opportunity to use my collaborative skill set.
It is vitally important for local politicians in particular to build civic community. Local politics in Kettering is not supposed to be partisan because the issues that City Council actually influences are not partisan: paved roads, efficient services, and property maintenance for example. The Dayton Daily News recently did a great op-ed on how inappropriate it was to use to use partisan titles at the local level. It is a critical time to demonstrate more humility in civil discourse. I believe it is important to be humble as a leader, seek consensus, and to condemn hatred from either side.
3) Would you be willing to form a group of interested citizens to study this challenge of creating a meaningful civic community in Kettering and to make recommendations?
With our current city manager form of city government, the role of the city council has specific roles. It’s not as easy to click fingers and just create a group but rather it would be a topic to discuss for council to establish. Ultimately, a charter would need to be formed.
I would love to be a part of a Kettering citizen group for meaningful civic community! It would be wonderful to see public/private partnerships towards building unified consensus and peaceful, inclusive neighborhoods. I hope you will be part of helping to make it happen!
Premise of the Questions:
The disunity, division and polarization of our citizens is becoming so severe that I am increasingly afraid that our republic might collapse. The dissolution of our republic would be a calamity of Biblical proportions leading to great suffering, turmoil and lasting consequences.
What our nation desperately needs is leadership with a vision and a plan for unifying the citizenry. The most likely place for citizen unification is at the grassroots level in a prosperous and pleasant place like Kettering.
Kettering has a wonderful volunteer program and a leadership training program. But, like most jurisdictions, Kettering is lacking a meaningful organized civic community. Twelve years ago, I decided to offer to serve on the Kettering School Board and I quickly discovered how hard it is to seek election to this non-partisan office. I had assumed that in Kettering there was an organized civic community with members keenly interested in making our public schools as good as possible, but I discovered that such a community does not exist. As a candidate it was up to me to create my own audience and to somehow pay for the huge expense of delivering my message to Kettering’s 40,000 registered voters. (The League of Women Voters organized one event to “meet the candidates,” and only about 30 people attended — all friends and relatives of the candidates.)
In Mayberry, with Andy, Opey, and Aunt Bea, etc — I still watch that show — the townspeople come together as a community to discuss town issues. The elected officials are held accountable by this group. If someone was seeking election to the Mayberry Town Counsel or the Mayberry Board of Education, he or she would address this Mayberry community and would answer questions. When elected, he or she would be a partner with this community.
In the traditional non-partisan Vermont Town Halls, in local jurisdictions, citizens regularly came together to discuss town issues and to meaningfully communicate with elected officials. Now the term “town hall” indicates a shouting match with angry partisans.
Disunity is not just a national problem. Somehow we need to build unity, we need to build “community” at the grassroots level. The challenge is to build a Kettering civic community that at present doesn’t exist. In the ideal, at the center of our politics, I believe our long-term goal should be — as MLK and John Lewis advocated — a “Beloved Community” with citizens connected by love and mutual respect doing the hard work of building harmony and consensus.
Our hope for the future is that citizens of good will, citizens dedicated to “civic virtue” — on the right and left — will unite. A united citizenry would not tolerate hunger or privation in our great country. A united citizenry would find consensus to deal with the enormous challenges plowing towards us. This unification will require imagination and leadership and the place to start is not in Washington or Columbus. Citizen unity must bubble up. Unity must start in the grassroots. It must start in a place like Kettering.