It came out of the blue. I used Stephanie Miner’s attendance at a Council meeting to give her an invite to SUN’s December meeting. The mayor-elect accepted our invite, but she also asked me to be on her transition team. I was honored, so I said yes–even before I knew my employers wouldn’t object. (Thankfully, our By-laws only outlaw elective office, not temporary advisory board positions.) Only later, in a phone call, did I find out I was going to chair a sub-committee. Too late to back out now!
So, I’ve written a lot on this blog about how organizers should work through others, how politics should take a back seat to activism–all the things a good organizer believes in his/her bones. So why the transition team?
Through my work at SUN, I’ve developed a definite opinion on the city’s housing policies and what needs to be done to improve the housing in low-income communities. We’re drowning in a sea of vacant houses and the needs of low income families are generally not being heard over the din of landlords and other investor/developers.
Yes, the best way to deal with this is by creating a powerful organization of low income people to fight for our rights. Well, I’ve helped to do that and we’ve won some battles. But organizing is also about seizing opportunities and thinking about new ways to cut an issue. For housing activists, the election of Stephanie is a watershed event. We have a mayor who actually understands and cares about our issue, as well as having the intellect to help advance the cause. But there are many other battles out there to be fought as well–each with their own set of impassioned advocates. We need to get housing set as a priority.
Or maybe I’m just impatient. I’m under no illusion that any unique individual skills put me in this position. I’m at this particular intersection of organizing and politics because SUN has employed me to fight the good fight for 16 years and someone in power finally stopped and asked for our opinion–even asked us to help frame the questions and craft potential responses.
I’m an instrument of my community group and we’d be fools to turn our back on this opportunity. I’m sitting at the table because of the hard work of many folks in our community to create a better life and improve the housing in their neighborhoods. I can’t let them down.