Hello readers. Today is my first day as a member of the Democratic Ward Executive Committee in Ward 18, Division 16. What is that, how did I get here, and what are my plans moving forward?
What is that?
You will never read “member of the Democratic Ward Executive Committee” on this blog again. I am what is called a Committee Person. According to the Committee of 70, a committee person is:
A committee person is his or her political party’s representative in each division. Committee people serve as a point of contact between the voters in a division and elected officials and their political party. Committee people are considered party officers – not public officials or government employees. They are also volunteers and receive no taxpayer-funded compensation.
Committee people have a core responsibility to help “get out the vote” for their political party. But you can make the job as big or as small as you want. Some committee people just choose to work on Election Day. But many committee people are in touch with their party and their neighbors all year long.
Philadelphia is made up of 66 wards. Each ward has its own leader and committee (Philadelphia, oddly has 69 of these, rather than 66. However, this does not mean anything to me, so let’s move on.) Each ward is then subdivided into something called divisions or precincts. I was elected to represent the Democratic Party in Ward 18, Division 16. There are actually two committee people for each division.
How did I get here?
Have I always been a registered Democrat? Yes. Do I love the Democratic Party? Not always. Do I blame the party for the Donald Trump? They definitely get some of the blame. I generally don’t trust people who’ve made careers in politics. It has always felt like a bunch of privileged children reducing the real life consequences of organizing to a game. It’s probably why I love everything that Armando Iannucci makes. If you’ve seen Veep, than you know that Dan Egan is deplorable and dumb. Let me tell you that he is very real. These are the many reasons I chose labor organizing as the vehicle for change and not party politics. Yet, here we are.
What made me run? A few months ago, my neighbor Scott reached out to 2 of us on the block and encouraged us to run. That ask, made me actually sit down for a second and think about running for an office. The first thing I wanted to know was, “Is my other neighbor running?” I did not want to run against her. She’d be really good, the neighborhood would be lucky to elect her, and there are enough elected people that resemble me. She declined and I decided to stop being bitter about the Democratic Party for a minute and told Scott, “Yes. I will run.”
This led me to Jon Geeting of Philadelphia 3.0. He is a political organizer that started a democratic club in my area called Riverwards Area Democrats – RAD. Their goal was to promote an open ward (I’ll explain that in the future), and get some fresh faces as the committee people. Jon told me about the process to get on the ballot:
- Get some blank petitions.
- Get the signatures of >15 registered democrats in your division on said petition.
- Ge the petitions notarized. (now you are on the ballot)
I did what he said and a few weeks later, I found out that I was on the ballot. I also was surprised to discover that there was only one other person running for committee person, so barring a serious write-in campaign it looked like a victory was on the horizon. Since I did not have a challenger I decided to do 2 things in preparation for election day.
I made my first piece of campaign literature and had it printed. This cost me $135.00. I then organized a canvass of my neighborhood. Sam, Cathy, and a few neighbors went around the division on the Saturday before the election. They knocked on doors, handed neighbors my post card and reminded them to vote. Cathy reported that one person on 2nd Steet said, “A committee person has never knocked on my door before.” Sam spoke a ton of Arabic on Mascher Street and I met some enthusiastic folks on Hancock St. It was a good time on the doors.
The next thing I did, was stand in front of the polling place after work on Election Day. Personally, I felt this to be a waste of time that day. I know better and should have just started to knock on doors in the neighborhood. It started to rain, so I spent the last hour at home texting people that I knew in the neighborhood and reminding them to vote.
At the end of the night, Sam and I refreshed the http://phillyelectionresults.com/ every couple of minutes until the results were posted. I got 63 votes and won the election.
Today I started serving my 4 year term. I think I am going to document what this experience, so other people can get some insight into what it means to be a committee person in Philadelphia.
I am interested in recruiting a block captain for every block in 18-16. I think this will be a good way to keep the neighborhood clean. I’d like to host a community meeting this summer, so that we can collectively identify some neighborhood priorities. I’ll be reading lots of Paulo Freire to prepare in the meantime. I hope to work closely with my co-committee person. His name is Michael Bradley. He is young and enthusiastic and I think that will be greatly needed in the years ahead.
I have no interest in stating what the priorities for 18-16 are or should be in the future. We can figure those out together, and we can work to solve the most immediate problems at hand.