I was just endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety

There are moments that just catch your breath. I just received an email from Everytown for Gun Safety, the umbrella organization that includes Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Along with 10 other Moms Demand Action volunteers from around the country, I was just endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety. (Here’s the press release, if you are curious.)

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I was sitting in my living room, reading the email, feet away from the spot where I first talked on the phone to our local Moms Demand Action lead, Michele Mueller, years ago. I’d talked to her about this impulse I had to do something. We talked about so many things—how scary it is for our kids to live in a country where children need to be trained to get themselves to safety if ever confronted by an active shooter. We talked about how surreal it was that companies like Kroger refused to ban open carry of firearms in their stores (and I ended up working as lead on that campaign locally for a bit). And she told me about upcoming meetings, upcoming lobby days in Columbus.

Over subsequent months, I met with other parents and grandparents—some of whom would never touch a firearm and some who owned them and made sure to store them safely—and we discovered there’s actually a vast middle ground on this issue, where common sense can reign.

My first trip to Columbus, I was nervous. I’d never gone to meet my representative to ask for anything, and there was a strange bill winding through, one that would expand concealed carry of firearms in a bunch of sensitive places, including some city properties and day cares. “Day cares?!” I remember repeating incredulously to staffers and state representatives.

I attended my first hearing and was shocked by how the dais of representatives emptied—as members of Moms, day care providers and police officers gave their testimony. All but one member of the committee left the dais. We knew all those who left supported the bill. They weren’t even willing to sit and listen to those with whom they disagreed.

When those in support had their turn to speak, suddenly the dais filled again.

That nearly empty dais stuck with me. It took so much gall to simply walk out of a room instead of listening to voters’ concerns. Of course, the bill became law.

 

 

Years on now, the tide is just starting to change, I hope, toward reason. Just recently Kroger finally changed its policy on open carry (along with a string of other stores including: Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Aldi, Meijer and Publix). In the wake of Dayton’s tragedy, the Ohio State Senate is considering legislation to require background checks on all gun sales and institute a Red Flag law for those likely to do harm to themselves or others.

I was prompted, in part, to run for city council here in Wyoming after—very briefly—our council used the aforementioned law to expand concealed carry on some municipal properties . It was rescinded within a month, because thankfully, our councilmembers did listen to the community’s outcry. But that moment galvanized me. It led me to run and eventually put me in a position on council when, after Parkland shootings, I was one of the people Wyoming high school student Rasleen Krupp reached out to asking what could be done. Even though municipalities in Ohio are limited in what we can do because cities must remain in accordance with state law, I did know who to have her call: my friends at Moms Demand Action.

With a bit of Moms’ help and a lot of student initiative, I then saw another wave of advocacy, driven by Rasleen, Wyoming students, and other students around the region, who led the student march in Cincinnati and likewise found their political voices.

This endorsement from Everytown garners me with use of a logo, that’s all. But it also is a signifier, after many years of advocacy, that leaders are popping up around the country who know how to come together to talk about issues that have been used as a wedge for too long.

There has been far, far too much heartbreak for so many families.

I have friends who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence. One of the strongest people I know is Pastor Jackie Jackson, a Wyoming resident who is one of the first on the scene in Cincinnati after incidents of gun violence. His work is harrowing, important, and far too necessary.

Gun violence touches all of us.

I have faith that reason will prevail, and that with work, we’ll continue finding ways to come together to prevent harm.

That Everytown for Gun Safety took an interest in our city council race and put its name behind mine is so deeply humbling, I, who write for a living, am at a loss for words.

Other than this: thank you, and #KeepGoing

Why Shop Wyoming, Hire Wyoming is So Vital

When I talk to folks who live elsewhere about Wyoming, they invariably mention the tree-line streets, the schools, and the small businesses. Whether it’s how much they love breakfast at Half-Day Cafe, the art available all along Wyoming Avenue, the warmth that radiates from Wyoming Florist, or any of a number of other favorites (like Destine’s du Jour at right), our small business community creates the background fabric of our city. These businesses also create jobs, and I believe city council must do everything in its power to foster and support our small businesses.

Destine's book sale

Last campaign, I got a motto lodged in my mind: Shop Wyoming. Hire Wyoming. I wanted to find ways to encourage shopping local and also draw attention to the many of us who run small businesses out of dens and home offices around the city.

As a first step, I developed the idea of a children’s book about Wyoming, Good Morning, Wyoming, to be sold exclusively at Wyoming small businesses—an item likely to sell. To me it was about celebrating Wyoming, but above all, foot traffic.

By making a big deal about getting it in Wyoming shops, I hoped to get people thinking anew about the value of our small business community. I wanted the book to be profitable for our small businesses and serve as a marketing tool—but also didn’t want the cost to print it to mean a loss for the city.

Fortunately, when asked, the Wyoming Recreation Foundation, Wyoming Art Show and What’s Up Wyoming were willing to sponsor the book’s printing and creative costs. And really the finished product was its own advertisement for some of the talent we have here in Wyoming, between child and young adult author Emma Carlson Berne who helped write it and award-winning portrait artist Marlena Hebenstreit who captured some of our city’s most beautiful and memorable sights in a series of original oil paintings that became the book’s trademark illustrations.

All told, 18 businesses sold the book, and residents poured out, picking up copies and posting photos at each location with the #ShopWyoming hashtag. Proceeds from the book went back to fund recreational activities for the city, and the businesses profited on each book sold. But for me, the most meaningful moment was when one business owner, who has spent his life working here, told me the book and efforts around it “really makes me feel like the city cares.”

Wyoming loves its small businesses, but Good Morning, Wyoming gave us all another chance to demonstrate it. And that was deeply meaningful to me.

#HireWyoming

The harder nut to crack was figuring out how to tie together and promote those of us who work from home. All around the city is a creative class of writers, artists, photographers, and graphic designers, but also attorneys, event planners, chefs and architects. The more people I get to know, the more I see needed connections: the candy maker who needs a new website. The person with a corporate job who I wish knew about all the design talent in Wyoming for her next project.

This was the idea behind the #HireWyoming group—a living database of Wyoming talent where we support one another, describe our businesses and skills, share jobs as we find them, and we hope, where folks looking to help support Wyoming’s entrepreneurs will come looking to hire. (If you run your own business from home and haven’t joined OR if you find yourself looking to hire talent and want to support your Wyoming neighbors, please join!)

This is what I want to continue bringing to city council: support for our local business community and creative ideas to get people into our brick and mortar shops and thinking seriously about how to grow revenues for our small business owners through local support.

I’d love for Wyoming to be known more broadly for yet another attribute: a city that takes great pride in supporting one another’s business ventures. With the amount of talent here, why not?

Shop Wyoming. Hire Wyoming.

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I’ve been talking to many of you about how we need to grow and better support Wyoming small business, not simply because I am so fond of our small business owners along Wyoming Avenue and Springfield Pike but also because a thriving business district makes a great city an even more attractive place to live and it’s an economic generator for the people who live here.

Most of us also moved to Wyoming because we love our historic village and those buildings are an asset to hold onto (both because history is important and because these are the sorts of walkable downtowns that attract Millennials—the next wave of Wyoming residents). Old Milford is a terrific local example of a community that saw the value in its historic structures, supported growth of additional restaurants and shops within existing structures, and now is a draw for neighbors from Indian Hill who now spend their money in Milford.

Right now, too many of us pour our expendable income out—to Kenwood, Blue Ash, or in OTR. During this campaign, I met one woman who used to run a business in Wyoming.  She relocated her business to Hyde Park in part due to poor foot traffic here. It’s the same business—but she now has more Wyoming customers in her Hyde Park shop than she did in Wyoming! This is a business valued by Wyoming that now supports another city’s economy. It also shows how many of us are simply out of the habit of shopping here.

We’re fortunately already seeing new life in Wyoming thanks to CWC, Tela and the buzz around Wyoming Community Coffee. Along Springfield Pike there are underutilized properties that could become more attractive if we make it clear to interested business people that Wyoming wants to support new business. What’s more, 400 Wyoming is up for lease again, and offers a tremendous opportunity for a strong magnet for customers downtown.

And we need it. Attending the Master Planning meetings, I saw and heard how many other people in Wyoming think we need it too. People asked for more retail, more restaurants, more gathering places—signs of new life within the Wyoming we already love.

I have come to believe we are at an important precipice for Wyoming, and action needs to be taken on a community level to really consider how important it is for all of us to support Wyoming businesses. Our city is marvelously civic minded, and just as we’ve all learned to pour our energy into supporting our schools, I think it’s vital that we encourage supporting Wyoming business as part of our civic participation here.

I’ve been describing this with a catch phrase: SHOP WYOMING. HIRE WYOMING.

As we plan for the next decade, council must commit to actively working to attract more competitive business to existing properties, but also work to help increase foot-traffic for downtown businesses who have been committed to our city for years. The Wyoming Business Association, which seems to be going through a renaissance of its own, could be a vital partner in developing creative ways to draw our existing businesses into community events, to help reintroduce these business neighbors to our city. (Destine’s Du Jour has already demonstrated an eagerness to do so by showing up with everything from ice cream to henna at city events.)

All that said, the vast number of businesses in this community do not line our main streets. They are housed at home, in sole proprietorships and virtual offices all around Wyoming. I’m a writer, and my LLC is among this number. In the digital age, Wyoming’s business community includes graphic and web designers, photographers, writers, advertisers, data analysts, accountants, investment consultants, attorneys and a slew of other companies that currently exist largely as hidden islands within Wyoming. Their success also impacts the city’s success. As their incomes rise, so does revenue from income tax—without adjusting the tax rate all of us pay.

We need to create new ways to make these businesses more visible, both to potential clients and so that new business relationships can form between all of us. Ideally, this would include a sort of shared-working space or hub, so that we can better network, share resources and have options for working outside the house (with a membership plan to offset overhead). A hub also supports the foot traffic needed to grow downtown—and get many of us out of our basements offices and buying coffee, having more meetings over pancakes and brainstorming over late afternoon drinks.

Beyond that, I envision an online Wyoming referral network, foremost, so we all simply know the offerings we already have in Wyoming, but also so Wyoming residents who work for larger external companies know what talent we have here, can see referrals from our neighbors for their work, and when hiring vendors for projects, hire within Wyoming. Our city has a reputation as a place where smart people live. We're smart. We're talented. It's a wise decision to hire from within Wyoming.

This is a city of incredible talent and resources, and all who make Wyoming the home for their business—whether that’s a brick and mortar, or a home office in a converted den—deserve to thrive, and deserve a city council energized to support them, because that benefits all of us.

 

Talking about guns ought not divide us

What’s left to say? Again, we are horrified. We take a moment and grieve as a country, try not to picture it happening to our kids or mother or husband. We imagine the unimaginable, watch it unfold in bumpy cell video. And then we turn off the news. While for a few weeks stray fears will surface occasionally, eventually, we will get back to what we now consider normal in America. Some are already saying nothing will change, because we’ve collectively lived this terror before—Sandy Hook, Orlando, and so many lives lost in between—and nothing seems as though it’s changed.

Guest Post: Passion is What Drives Us

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Today we share a note of endorsement and personal insight from Maria Seyerle, a Wyoming resident and active volunteer. If you're involved in Junior Women's Club, Wyoming Middle School Drama Program, Wyoming Swim Club (where she's on the board) or Democrats of Wyoming, you know Maria. Here's why she says she's voting for Sarah.

I am thrilled that Sarah Stankorb Taylor is running for City Council. When I first met Sarah, I was immediately inspired by and drawn to her passion and optimism. Passion for her work, for service, for her family, for our community, our schools, our country, all of humanity, and a deep belief that working together, we can truly make the world a better place.

Given her job as a writer focused on social justice issues and her history of service in challenging settings, one would expect her to have a horrible outlook on humanity. Instead, she has just the opposite.

It recently occurred to me that maybe she took Mr. Roger’s mother’s advice a step further. He famously said that when something bad was happening and he felt afraid, his mother told him to look for the helpers. I think Sarah decided, I can do better than that, I can become a helper. It seems to be in her DNA to look for ways to make life better for others and to give the disadvantaged a voice.

When Sarah decides to devote her time and energy to something, she gives 100%. She’s brought a recycling program back to the primary schools and started a PSA group focused on the environment. When concerned about city council’s concealed carry decision, she rolled up her sleeves, went to the next committee meeting with research in hand, and spoke out about her disagreement with this decision and displeasure with the lack of discourse with the public in advance of the vote. When I shared with Sarah that I was planning a “Valentines for Democracy” event to remind our congressional representative of the things we value and love in response to all of the negativity that continued to reverberate after the 2016 election, she immediately signed up to participate—and hosted a card making party with friends, neighbors, and kids. Together they created a beautiful banner of their work, and Sarah was one of the first to arrive on delivery day. She’s an active member of the Junior Women’s Club and is especially passionate and involved in the group’s service to local non-profit agencies.

Since Sarah first decided to run for City Council, I’ve seen her go above and beyond. She’s approached it as she does everything else—with passion, with research, with quality questions, with meaningful conversations, with a deep belief that we can make the world a better place and that starts right here in Wyoming.

What I Learned from Serving

I was twenty-one years old, fresh out of college, caked in mud, hauling felled bamboo and ripped out vine coverage by the armload while the buzz of chainsaws rattled the air. I’d had so many ideas about environmental ethics—informed by my philosophy degree, hours spent thinking. Now I learned to hate invasive species and deforestation equally and in a visceral way, not as an academic exercise. Twigs and thorns ripped my arms. On days we did stream water survey, I developed a new outrage for parking lots, those laid out without thought for the watershed, or the dry steam beds that resulted from them. On a project with the Baltimore Aquarium, I’d find myself in the Chesapeake Watershed driving stakes down to contain a row of hay bales we’d lugged into the water to create a path to get out and work beyond the shoreline. We needed to protect the sea grasses we were about to plant.

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That year, my hands were callused, my arms stronger than they’d ever be again. I spent hours a day protecting small plants, surveying salamander populations, learning an awareness that human decisions have real consequences for all the life that seems to exist in the background, but that is essential to our environment. I not only cared about, but cared for the smallest elements of nature.

It was a gift.

Many days that spring, I also found myself in a van packed with a crew of eleven of my new favorite people—reeking of sweat and work. We’d sing along with the radio, joke about whoever fell in the mud the most that day (usually it was me). We’d signed up for this. This was AmeriCorps.

That year post-college, choosing to work a poverty-level job with a bunch of other recent college grads who’d done the same, laboring to serve the environment, is still precious to me. There’s a peculiar magic to spending your waking hours with a group of people who’ve chosen to serve. A few of us offered environmental education programs at Baltimore schools, wearing our uniforms of AmeriCorps T-shirts and sweatshirts to teach kids how city litter gets caught up in storm water. Once we took a group of Washington, D.C. students out in row boats to teach them about their city’s rivers—and they screamed in fear of alligators, because they’d never been out on the water and didn’t know what to expect.

For years I held onto the T-shirts from that time. My favorite included a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” I knew our crew out in the woods was just one kind of AmeriCorps, that there were AmeriCorps volunteers serving the homeless, and the rural poor, and people living with HIV/AIDS, and tutoring kids in low-income schools, and providing disaster relief. AmeriCorps is sometimes called the domestic Peace Corps. The proposed funding cuts to AmeriCorps would be a loss for the entire country.

In all cases, time spent serving others changes a person. Doing it so young shapes careers. I look at my own crew now, grown into their adult lives: the city planner in Philadelphia, the education policy grad student at Harvard, the doctor, the environmental advocate, the environmental engineer, the naturalist. And me—the writer who works to broadcast stories about those doing good in the world and those fighting injustice. Now I’m running for city council. We all found our own ways to serve.

AmeriCorps set a love of service into my bones. In the years after, when I’d find a new friend—a social worker, a nurse, a teacher—who put service to others first, I’d feel a kinship that harkened back to that special bond I had with my AmeriCorps crew.

Until I moved to Wyoming, that shared bond of service was sporadic. But once we moved to Wyoming, it quickly dawned on me that I’d found a community of people who live to pitch in.

There always seems to be someone here coordinating an effort to serve our kids, improve our city, or just make life a little easier for a neighbor who needs it. I know how much we all care about each other. I know how much time and care each of us puts into making Wyoming what it is.

Our city is great, because here, everybody is eager to serve. You’ve all made me eager to serve you.

Thanks, Together We Will

I just finished a live interview with Together We Will, Cincinnati/Southwest Ohio chapter. I have to say I am far more accustomed to being the interviewer, not the one answering the questions. It was a great opportunity to take questions from members of our community and ended up being fun!

Thanks to everyone who tuned in. If you missed it, you can still watch a recording of the interview on Together We Will's Facebook page. And thank you to the Together We Will community, for reaching out to candidates all around our area and helping voters better connect with the people who want to serve them.

If you have questions for me that weren't answered, email me at sarahforwyoming@gmail.com. If you heard something that you think might interest a friend of yours, share the video and send them my way. There are so many things to consider as we think about the future of Wyoming, and I want to hear from as many of you as possible! 

Thanks for tuning in! 

Guest Post: Here's why I'm excited about Sarah

A few words of support from Sheryl Rajbhandari, Executive Director of Heartfelt Tidbits.

A few words of support from Sheryl Rajbhandari, Executive Director of Heartfelt Tidbits.

We invited Sheryl Rajbhandari to write a post about why she is supporting Sarah. Sheryl is a long-time resident of Wyoming and runs the non-profit Heartfelt Tidbits, which helps refugee families in the area find housing and support. Sarah has worked to help Sheryl's efforts by coordinating volunteers and donations for her organization.    

Over the past 12 months I have learned more about politics than I had in my entire 18 years in school. I’m sure many of you have felt the same. It wasn’t a planned event, but happened out of necessity. Just like many of you, I went from living in a world where I paid attention to candidates when I needed to, but for the most part was satisfied and didn’t go digging into their pasts or everything that they stood for.

Now everything is different. Not only do I scrutinize candidates on the issues they support or denounce, I seek out potential candidates to run. Those that I believe will represent the issues that I feel are important.

When I began to think about candidates to represent the people that live in Wyoming, I thought about who really represents what I feel is important: environment, safety, open communication with all levels of government and City Hall, professional, passionate about living their beliefs, great communicator and listener, in touch with reality, committed to the neighborhood and schools.

I wondered to myself if this type of person even existed. My newsfeeds, social media and every conversation focused around politicians that weren’t anything like me. People that I didn’t know—or vote for. This became very obvious when I visited City Hall to express my concern over allowing concealed and carry on city property. I understood how important it was for my beliefs on gun laws to be represented on local council.

I sat next to Sarah Stankorb Taylor at the event. She came prepared with her research and notes in order. As I watched her going through all of her points and reviewing her research notes before speaking, I leaned over and said you really should run for office. Following the meeting I let her know that I was sincere and was so excited when she announced that she would be running.

I’m excited to support her candidacy. Sarah is true to the values she feels are important. I’m confident that she will apply herself to this as she has done on every project I’ve worked with her on. She is an effective communicator who seeks to find common ground on differences, brings solutions to problems, and moves towards a positive outcome. She leads with knowledge and facts. I’m confident that Wyoming is going to benefit from Sarah Stankorb Taylor sitting on Wyoming City Council.

Learning Day at the City Building

I spent yesterday following around city manager Lynn Tetley. I emailed her a few weeks back, asking if I could. I’m a writer, and when I’m beginning research on a new topic, I ask for interviews. Sometimes I ask to shadow people, just to learn their everyday. Fall is coming, and with it, the election and my chance to serve on Wyoming City Council. I recognize how much I need to learn.

So I asked Lynn if I could do this—and she responded with a very welcoming YES!

New city council members usually get an orientation day anyway, and whether I win or lose, I want to learn as much as I can about our city, so doing a version of that now seemed like a great opportunity.

I had a chance to meet with department heads and staff from the Rec Center, Public Works, Water, Community Development and the city building, as well as the chiefs of Police and Fire. I got to follow Lynn Tetley and Chief Rusty Herzog as they renegotiated with contractors about the placement of a crosswalk sign, insisting on safety for pedestrians, ADA compliance, all while protecting the life of a thriving old-tree. It gave me a tangible sense for how many small but vital decisions are made each day in an attempt to make Wyoming better, how many times a week they take part in these small fights for us.

The writer in me wanted to get home to my computer, jot down notes about the people who quietly serve our community in so many unnoticed ways. I found myself wanting to write about Mike Lippert, who takes incredible pride in the quality of Wyoming’s water, and gave a wan smile when he mentioned that it’s almost time for the state tap water taste test—Wyoming’s won before and always ranks high. As I asked questions about our police force, Chief Herzog encouraged me to go through Wyoming’s Citizen Police Academy. And Lynn Tetley explained her ethos for city management—one where she looks for opportunities to help city workers thrive together (not in departmental silos). She wants to make government warm and inviting—and suggested I bring my kids next time I come by. But foremost, she impressed me with her impulse to find ways to say YES to new ideas. It gave me high hopes that if I do earn enough votes to serve on council, I’ll be working with a city manager who is also eager to innovate.

I ended the day sad for one thing though. I wish we had a community newspaper. I know we all have seen the long threads on Nextdoor, heaps of complaint over a curb here someone doesn’t like or an idea that took too long to make a reality, and then complaints that it did happen. Most people don’t have time to keep tabs on the city website or even the newsletters. Ten years ago, a city newspaper would have covered the decisions that went into that curb or the years of discussion and funding-seeking it sometimes takes to make an idea come to fruition. That news would have better connected us to these decisions.

I want to make local government more transparent, but yesterday I gained a sense that what we don’t know or see about our local government isn’t kept from us purposely. The break in the system is a lack of hyper-local press to communicate citizen gripes—which now live on Nextdoor and Facebook—and the explanations, which our city is so eager to give, if someone shows up to ask.

I can’t exactly start a town newspaper right now, but I can say this, if I do win a seat on city council, one of my priorities will be finding ways to help connect residents in new ways with our city building. It might be weekly videos posted on Facebook or a new breed of online forum.

I talked with some extraordinary people yesterday. I want all of Wyoming to know them well.

Rain’s coming… check the basement!

To begin, thanks Wyoming, for your support and thoughts.  It has been great to hear the issues you feel are so important to our community.  As I've been asking people what they care about the most, I hear about coyotes, crime, taxes, but a recurring theme comes up almost more than anything else: stormwater. Yep. Rain. Buckets and buckets of uncontrolled rain.

What our yard looked like before we planted a rain garden.

What our yard looked like before we planted a rain garden.

More than a few people have mentioned flooded basements after heavy rainfall. Up on the hill, one man told me that he’s had to dig trenches to mitigate rainwater that rolls down his street and gushes through his retaining wall. Another woman said after heavy rain she’s got a rushing river at the base of her driveway. On the historical maps of Wyoming, my own backyard used to be part of a pond. When we were looking to buy, our home inspection noted copious puddles.

Our city already has a stormwater management plan in place, but like many cities all over the country, we have to contend with a tricky combination: aging infrastructure, more populous urban spaces with more impermeable land, and a changing climate with more intense rainfall when it does rain. My previous work in environmental protection—working out in the field and at nonprofits advocating for conservation programs in D.C.—gave me a practical understanding of effective and affordable management options.

In addition to construction and pollution controls like those already in place in Wyoming, cities have used green infrastructure to help mitigate the rain.

  • Chicago offered a green roof improvement fund, with a 50 percent matching grant for residents and small commercial land owners to convert standard roofs into green roofs with water absorbing plant life.
     
  • When Oak Creek, Wisconsin built a development with a new town square, the land was turned into a net-zero stormwater area by replacing old parking lots with permeable pavers, bioswales, and turning the entire square into a functional greenspace and wetland.
     
  • Communities in New Jersey offer rebates to residents who attend technical workshops and plant rain gardens in their own yards to help soak up rain.
     
  • Philadelphia has developed an interesting Green Acre Retrofit Program, which invites contractors and construction firms to bundle green infrastructure projects and compete for grant funding by offering the lowest-cost retrofit option to best retain stormwater.In these examples, innovative programs add greenery to reduce stormwater, cool the area (as compared to paved lots or standard roofs), and send a message about the community: we care about the environment here. Sure, these programs aren’t free—but they can typically be funded through grants, and they save cities far more by reducing pressure to immediately overhaul overburdened sewer systems.

In these examples, innovative programs add greenery to reduce stormwater, cool the area (as compared to paved lots or standard roofs), and send a message about the community: we care about the environment here. Sure, these programs aren’t free—but they can typically be funded through grants, and they save cities far more by reducing pressure to immediately overhaul overburdened sewer systems.

Wyoming’s old rain barrel program is a terrific example of a city inviting the community to help manage stormwater in a way that provides a personal benefit to residents. Years of planting at the back of our own yard has created a lush rain garden with big, happy plants and eliminated the puddles and runoff from our yard.

I’m interested in learning about and promoting whatever works.

As I dig more deeply into local concerns, I also want to find ways to build on that sentiment and think of simple, affordable and effective ways to help us all deal with everyday challenges that, with a little adjustment, could make Wyoming an even better place to live and give us all a way to fight the rain more effectively in our own backyards.

Keep sending me your thoughts and concerns, and let me know what sorts of environmental innovations you'd love to see here.  The best part of this campaign has been getting to know so many new neighbors!

First lesson: Listen

Photo used under  Creative Commons  license. 

Photo used under Creative Commons license. 

After Wyoming’s parade last week, a woman came up to me wanting to talk. She was preparing to protest at Senator Portman’s office against the health care plan the Congressional Budgetary Office estimates would result in 22 million people losing health coverage.

The woman told me she’d rather be arrested than die—coverage for her breathing treatments (needed due to muscular dystrophy) would be cut under this plan. She talked about what it’s like to have a preexisting condition, and I commiserated. She’d heard me talk and could hear the skips in my voice, a result of a condition I share with NPR’s Diane Rehm.

I understand her predicament—I think the vast majority of us with pre-existing conditions, or who have kids, or who plan to grow old understand what’s at stake. It was also likely obvious to her that I have zero political clout to help her. (I am after all, a new candidate for city council in Wyoming, Ohio… Congressional legislation isn’t exactly my purview.)

But I did want to talk to her, to hear what she thought. And I hope, for someone facing such serious stakes, my eagerness to listen helped in some small measure. Seeing her willingness to boldly speak out for herself and others certainly put a fire in me.

Yet something has been nagging at me since. It bothered me that she has to fight so hard to feel heard. Too many times, I’ve been the citizen on the phone, wanting a meeting, wanting to share an opinion, and listened as the line went straight to a full voicemail box that had remained full (and presumably unchecked) for days. Among the worst things a leader can do is refuse to listen to the people he or she represents.

I have a quirky voice. It sometimes requires active listening from others, and I’m learning to be grateful for that, because it also has taught me the power of listening to other people. In my life as a writer and reporter, blocks of my time every week are spent listening to people, trying to understand them. It strikes me now that this has been vital training for public service.

I’ve talked to too many people in Wyoming who are frustrated because they don’t feel heard, nationally but also locally. I was part of the group who felt blindsided by council’s expansion of concealed carry on municipal properties a few months ago. Thankfully, after an outpouring of emails and calls, council listened and rescinded that resolution.

But what struck me afterward was the sheer number of people who shook their heads, saying the whole mess could have been avoided if the community had been surveyed. If we’d just been asked.

As Wyoming finalizes its ten-year planning process, it’s clear that we’ll have a number of big decisions ahead. That process has been amazing to watch—because in words and mock-ups, we’ve gotten a chance to see what so many people here envision for our future. It’s also made it clear to me, that in the sometimes small-seeming (but vital) decisions made locally, our community needs to be involved. We won’t always agree—in a town of so many smart, driven people, of course we won’t. But in the decisions that shape our community we all deserve to be heard.

 

Whether you think I’ll agree or disagree, I want to get to know you. If you have an idea or a problem that you think should be a priority, let’s meet and talk about it. Email me at sarahforwyoming@gmail.com.

My First Parade as a Candidate

Fresh Voice shirts

Happy 4th of July, Wyoming... and WOW! That’s really the only way I can encapsulate this morning. I asked a few friends and family to march with me in Wyoming’s 4th of July parade, and some brought kids, some brought friends. A number of friends were out of town, so I thought we’d have a dozen, maybe a few more, show up this morning. Instead, as I stepped out onto Wyoming Avenue in my first public event as a candidate for City Council, I had forty-five people standing behind me—and then in front of me—wearing my campaign shirts, encouraging friends on the sidelines to consider voting for me.

In many ways, this was a very Wyoming response. When a friend or neighbor is sick or has a baby, there’s immediately a meal train organized, lawn care happens as if by magic. Wyoming shows up.

Today, my little piece of Wyoming showed up for me, for a moment when I was stepping into a new role. They helped me feel brave. I feel so grateful to live here.

Thanks to all of you who showed up, and those of you who lined the streets and cheered or waved or happily accepted my handshakes and high-fives. You made today amazing.

 

We’ll need plenty of help into the fall. If you’re interested in volunteering, let us know.

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Votes for Women

Tomorrow is the 4th of July parade in Wyoming. My friends, family and volunteers have been organizing to march with me in matching shirts. I have a feeling I’ll cry tomorrow when they all show up. I need to find a superlative for the word humbled to describe what this experience has been like. Having the people I care about support me in this has meant the world to me.

My husband, Michael, suggested that I shouldn’t wear the matching shirt, so that people in town who don’t know me could find me in the crowd. The campaign colors are red, white and robin’s egg blue. “You could wear white,” he suggested. “Like a suffragette!” I filled in the blank.

Last year’s political turmoil connected me to the history of the women’s movement in a new way, and I’ve been considering what that movement means to me, what it meant to my grandmother. She was born before the women’s right to vote was ratified. I wonder how much seeing those women struggling for equality informed her sense of self, her sense of potential, her ferocity.

I never considered running for office before this, and taking this step feels bold—and choosing to run, now, feels like I’m part of something bigger. I am part of a wave of women who’ve decided to run for office throughout the country. My ability to run and contribute through public service today is connected to those women who marched in white over a century ago. I want to demonstrate my gratitude to them, on this, my first real foray into political life as a candidate. So, I will wear white.

Of course, the only white dress I own is my wedding dress. I ended up at the mall looking for something with some symbolic relevance—predictably, everything was wrong.

Eventually, I ended up in a department store with a salesperson named Joan who asked what I was looking for, and if it was a special occasion.

“I’m running for city council. We have a parade on Tuesday. I need a white dress—like a suffragette,” I blurted out. Joan, who evidently takes quirky in stride, didn’t miss a beat, linked arms and started gathering dresses.

Later, when I’d finally selected one and was checking out, Joan handed over the receipt, looked me in the eye, and thanked me for running for office.

I was taken aback. I’d known Joan all of twenty minutes. “We need more women in government,” she said. “I don’t care what party you’re in. I’m glad you’re running.” I thanked her, and again felt that sense of humbling gratitude sink into my bones.

As much as this particular white dress is about my grandmother and the women who came before her, and the women who've been quietly helping organize my campaign, it’s also about my daughter and my son—because I want them each to grow up expecting women to run for office and win.

Tomorrow, I’ll be in the parade, and I’ll be wearing a white dress. It’s just a dress, but for me, it’s also history, and hope.

 

If you’d like to help by volunteering for my campaign, please let me know.

 

Above image owned by Julie Jordan Smith, used with Creative Commons license.