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Axar.az presents an article "The Poetry Of Politics" by John Samuel Tieman.
Readers of my column know of my interest in American politics. What you might not know is my long-standing interest in municipal politics. I have decided to run for City Council in my home, University City, Missouri, an inner-ring suburb of St. Louis. I live in the Second Ward.
My regular readers are also accustomed to seeing an essay. What follows is a diary. I've purposely left out the names of neighbors who are not well known public figures.
Some folks know national politics, some state politics. But what does municipal democracy look and feel like? To answer that, I will chronicle each week my bid, win or lose, for a four- year term in office. This retired teacher still likes to teach – And learn! -- civics.
23 October 2023
One thing that I am not uncertain about is this. I can do the job. I'm smart. I learn quickly. I hold a doctorate. I know the job, at least from a distance. I know the place and its politics. I can do the job. I fully realize that most of the day-to-day tasks are unremarkable, mundane, even tedious. I realize also that I have a lot to learn – an awful lot to learn. I can see spending the first year mostly listening. I have competence, not answers to all things.
26 October 2023
I come from a family of Republicans. I also come from a long line of politicians, a mayor, a governor, a state senator, a sheriff, a postmaster, aldermen, a U. S. Representative, others. My grandfather was a four-term alderman in St. Louis. He ran for mayor and got whooped. None of this qualifies me for office. It does explain why my interest in politics is something akin to genetic.
It also explains the roots of my attitude toward the norms of civil discourse. My grandfather, Sam Wimer, told me of a party he threw during Prohibition. He fondly recalled that Barney Dickman was his bartender. In 1932, Dickman, the Democrat, beat my grandfather, the Republican, in the race for mayor of St. Louis. They remained lifelong friends. Today, such civility seems quaint, like an artifact from another era.
By coincidence, U. City's Second Ward borders the St. Louis ward of my grandfather when he was an alderman. The Second Ward has not quite 12,000 residents.
Politics in University City is strictly nonpartisan. Storm water doesn't care about your party affiliation. Thus am I an independent.
3 November 2023
I've got a new measure of someone's personhood. Which brings me to my latest revision of the theological concept. This person has a soul. This person has sentience. This person is self-aware. But is this person a registered voter?
4 November 2023
As I write, my city is largely free of the culture wars that have plagued the rest of America. My issues are, in a sense, intimate – storm water, businesses that closed largely due to Covid, and our relationship with our neighbor, Washington University. I've been studying bike paths and pedestrian safety.
8 November 2023
Out collecting signatures today, signatures to get me on the ballot. I need 50.
I start with the easiest. My wife. Two friends. The neighbor down the street who got me into this in the first place. Then the neighbors on my block. As I walk, the tree leaves are green and yellow and red. With each step, they make that leafy underfoot crunch.
I go up to the door of my neighbor who lives catty-corner from us. She plays flute in the symphony. I worry she may be practicing. I knock. Now I want to run away. But she answers. She's nice. I begin to explain my opinion on – when she cuts me off, takes the petition from me, signs and says, “John, I'll vote for you.” So that was easy.
It's the hardest part of campaigning, just knocking on a neighbor's door. Our mayor said to me that once you get started, it gets easy. He's right. The nicest part is that this gives me an excuse to schmooze with my neighbors. I like it.
Some I think sign my petition without much thought. But normally people chat at some length. People confess their hopes and concerns. One worries about the river at the corner. Another is concerned with the elderly. People bring up issues I had never thought about, like the growth of B&Bs in the area or bike paths. One woman invited me to sit on the porch. I ended up spending an hour with her. A family invited me to join them for dinner, an offer I politely declined, because my beloved was getting home and putting on dinner. A baker's dozen invited me over for a chat.
People make well-meaning mistakes. Before signing it, I usually ask, “You're a registered voter, right?” One said yes and signed it. Then asked, “Oh, you mean in Missouri? I'm from Illinois.” One signatory is registered to vote in Peru. Another tells me he'll register “soon”. Hence I'll get 75, 25 insurance signatures. Besides, it will be 25 more neighbors to schmooze with.
10 November 2023
Thank you, global warming, for making this day in November a nice day to collect signatures.
But I forgot about the time change. The sun is setting early, at just after 5 PM. And it's Friday. My Jewish neighbors are preparing for services. I speak to an Orthodox couple. They're polite but don't want to be bothered signing a petition. I'm a little embarrassed that I forgot about Shabbos, the Sabbath. I try to make up for it by apologizing, and wishing them “Shabbat shalom.” Mezuzahs are as common as doorposts in my neighborhood, but for the next hour or so I note them.
Then the sun sets. Now I'm the tall stranger in the dark knocking on the door. And it only gets worse. You open the door – and – the horror, the horror – it's a politician!
But there is a bit of comfort. At the next corner, a young couple. She's holding a newborn. The other child is maybe four. I introduce myself ''your neighbor.'' With a big wave, the four-year-old responds, ''Hello, neighbor!''
15 November 2023
I got 75 signatures. My name will appear on the ballot.
I remember stories of how Bill Clinton would be 20 minutes late to a speech because he met the most interesting elevator operator. I've turned into a mini-Bill Clinton.
I feel like I've just made love to a whole neighbourhood.
Next Week: Part 3, Vote Tieman
2023.12.04 / 09:42