What It Means To Be An Effective Representative; Why Leadership and Community are Essential

What follows are some thoughts I put together for Vic Harris that reflects ideas discussed during his campaign. –MBock

I am seeking the Democratic primary nomination to be elected representative for the 40th Ohio House District. As one representative out of a group of ninety nine, some representatives are more effective than others. I’ve been analyzing what it means to be an effective representative.

I find it interesting that the those in control of the government in Ohio decided to give an annual windfall of $460 million to the top 1% of incomes in the state — incomes that average $650,000 — and that these same representatives, because of decreased state revenues, are now diminishing and cutting important state programs that benefit average Ohioans. This is interesting because I am amazed at how those controlling the government advance such indefensible actions. You would think that in a democracy such a government would not stand.

What seems obvious is that our system of government that we are rightly proud of — our representative democracy — is simply not working as it should. If our system was working as it should, our government would not advance indefensible actions, our government policies would reflect the consensus of the vast majority, not the selfish interests of the few, our government policies would work to promote the common good.

So, when I reflect on what it means to be an “effective” representative, it seems to me the central question that needs to be asked is, “effective” at what? It seems the majority of the political class first of all seek to be “effective” at getting elected. And reelected.

In my thinking, an “effective” representative, is a person who, first of all, focuses his or her dedication on promoting the general good. As a core belief, this definition of “effectiveness” is huge. Can you imagine the impact that a political party could have that could become driven and controlled by this central core belief ? The name of that Party, of course, should be, The Democratic Party.

The general good is what advantages the vast majority of citizens, so it makes sense that a representative of the citizens would make promoting the general good a central aim of his or her leadership. If our democracy were working as it should we would be empowered to choose representatives who would be effective in promoting the common good. One impediment to our democracy, as it turns out, is the undemocratic practices of political parties.

For our democracy to flourish, we need leadership. I’ve given a lot of thought to this — what leadership is, how leadership is developed. A effective representative of the people should be an effective leader for the people. A leader is one who raises up everyone around him and who inspires and empowers others. An effective leader raises up other leaders.

But, here is the problem, I’m convinced that leadership is a function of an effective community. Without community, leadership is void. And, the truth is, community is lacking.

Right now, there is not a 40th Ohio House District community as such. There is Trotwood, Northridge, Riverside, Brookville and part of Dayton that is contained in the 40th District. But these together do not make a 40th District community. And, a more profound problem is that there seems, other little community anywhere. How many people who have a Trotwood mailing address really participate in a Trotwood community? How many with a Northridge address participate in a Northridge community? Hillary said, “It takes a village,” but it seems that the village itself, the community of people who know and care about each other, has largely disappeared.

The model for effective community that is often cited is the New England Town Hall Meetings. These meetings occur in small towns, and all interested citizens in the town have a voice. In such a communities, effective leadership is nurtured and potential leaders have many opportunities within the community to prove their capacity for leadership.

The thought I want to develop is this: I believe it is possible to create effective community here in the 40th Ohio House District. All the pieces are in place ready for us to create an authentic cyber community.

In the 40th District, there are 104 precincts. I believe with the right invitation, that on average, at least two or three persons from each precinct would come forward to volunteer to be a regular participant in a 40th District cyber community. I believe that there are many citizens who would welcome the opportunity to meaningfully participate, if given an invitation.

I think here in Dayton we can become known for making a new breakthrough in innovation — a breakthrough that effectively uses the technology of the day to vitalize local democracy. So I’m thinking what such a web-site for such a community might look like, how it might function.

So here are my conclusions. To be an effective representative means to be effective at defining and promoting the general good. An effective representative is an effective leader, and leadership is always a function of community. So, in order for me to be an effective leader, I plan to invest my time and skills in creating an authentic 40th District community. If I am to effectively “represent” the people of my district, I need to be part of an authentic community that reflects the whole district.

My thinking is that although we are not a New England town, we can create a Town Hall feel and a Town Hall reality by creating an organized group of individuals, each dedicated to communicating and respecting each other, dedicated to learning how to function as a community. I think such a group should be internet based.

The 40th House District must be united as a community. Even twenty years ago this would have been much more difficult to accomplish than it is today. Our opportunity is to use the power of the tools of our age to help solve the challenges facing our democracy

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