Local government considered

Daniel Gordon and Daniel Gordon

My friends often compare me to Leslie Knope, the protagonist from the (sadly concluded) show Parks and Recreation. In addition to being a city council member, I share with Leslie having waged a long, hard quest to build a park for constituents.

The parallels between the show and real life do not end there, however, and I often like to tell friends – only half-jokingly – who watch House of Cards that if they are looking for a realistic portrayal of American government, they are better off watching Parks and Recreation. The latter provides several lessons that have been on my mind recently.

On Monday, Oct. 19th, I was thinking of Leslie when other city officials joined me for the grand opening of Ridge Park, the first public park in all 175 years of First Ward history. Our district, the First Ward, lost its only recreational space after Ridge Elementary School was closed in 2013, and I fought for months to see the City purchase the site and fully develop it into a neighborhood park for families, students and other residents. At least 180 people turned out on that beautiful fall afternoon for what we were later told was the best-attended ribbon cutting ceremony in city history. In addition to all the kids running around the playground smiling and shouting, I saw expressions of hope on the faces of their parents. It was the hope that if we fight hard enough for the changes we wish to see in our community, they can – and will – happen.

Parks and Recreation made us laugh partially because Leslie was so indefatigably passionate and committed to public service, despite facing opposition over her often unobjectionably good ideas. This reflects what happens in real life. I know what Leslie experienced. I faced opposition for seeking to have Ridge Park created. I have experienced resistance after pushing for bicycle lanes, despite the fact that citizens have called for them for decades, and after calling for a city jobs and internship programs for BGSU students. I have also taken heat for standing up for the rights of people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks and people from other marginalized communities.

The truth is, even though most of us probably think of local government as small-stakes affairs, we still need people like Leslie to fight for us, because this stuff matters. And that means we need to support good public servants who seek to represent us in local government.

This Election Day, Nov. 3rd, you have the opportunity to support those people in contested races for mayor, city council and school board, so do not sit this one out. These candidates have undergone a months-long job interview to earn your trust and support. They come from a variety of life experiences, and they have different perspectives on challenges we as a community need to overcome, from housing to transportation and beyond.

Why take on such a demanding challenge as running for office? Leslie Knope said of her time engaged in public service: “We fought, scratched, and clawed to make people’s lives a tiny bit better. That’s what public service is all about: small, incremental change every day… We do it because we get the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

On Nov. 3rd, help the candidates of your choice earn the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing, and make people’s lives a tiny bit better. You can learn more about your local candidates from the non-partisan League of Women Voters at www.wcnet.org/~lwvbg, and how, where, and when to vote from the Wood County Board of Elections at www.co.wood.oh.us/boe.