A year or so ago, while picking up socks off of the living room floor, and considering the innumerable tasks of being a single parent, I exclaimed to my kids, “You know what? We think what we need is more money, but what we really need is community.”
It occurred to me that I was upset about my money flow, but I was equally upset about the growing sense of isolation that comes with a lack of connectedness with the people in my apartment complex, my street and my city.
Little did I know that those words that tumbled from my mouth would soon be so prophetic for me and the community I live in.
A long-time resident of Long Beach, I was raised in a multicultural working class neighborhood in the city. We weren’t rich–Dad is a military veteran and Mom worked for the phone company–but my family owned their home and impressed upon us a strong work ethic.
The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blogger, Nate Silver, had some choice words about Politico, which had taken pot shots at his election-polling skills during the recently concluded presidential campaign. Politico wasn’t alone: The entire spectrum of right-wing punditry, led by Fox News, attacked Silver for predicting that an Obama victory was at least 80 percent certain. The Electoral College specifics of Silver’s long-prophesied Obama win turned out to be uncannily accurate.
What was remarkable to me is that you had some, like, journalist for, um, Politico, or something … who, like, tweeted … ‘All Nate’s doing is averaging polls and counting electoral votes?’ … ‘That’s the secret sauce?’ It’s like, well, yeah, and the fact that you can’t comprehend that very basic thing … that says more about you than,
Looking back on the eight weeks of the Long Beach living wage campaign, I could write about the conversations with voters, or the discovery of neighborhoods in a city I thought I knew like the back of my hand. I could go on and on about those I got to know through the canvassing work, the friendships that started and blossomed over the two months that went by so quickly.
But the real story is how we strengthened community in the city of Long Beach.
Yes, in the spring 35,000 people signed petitions supporting the workers in Long Beach’s largest hotels, helping them get one step closer to fair pay, sick leave and tip protection by placing Measure N on the ballot. And this fall not only did we get support from six city council members, we passed Measure N with the support of 63 percent of voters.
(On November 6, Long Beach became one of three cities in the country to pass minimum wage ballot measures, and the only one to guarantee paid sick leave to workers. This story is the second in a weeklong series of reflections on that important victory.)
Numbers never lie – that was our mantra at the Yes on Measure N headquarters. Canvassers for the hotel living wage law would come back talking about how a voter just wouldn’t give them the time of day, or how the 100-degree weather dragged on their hustle. And we would respond, “Well, numbers don’t lie.” This was just our way of saying, some days are good, some days are harder, but come the end of the campaign numbers will tell the true story of our hard work. And while I don’t want to oversimplify how we won,
As the 2012 elections approached I started to feel very guilty about the state of the country that my generation, which was born shortly after World War II, was about to leave to my grandchildren and their peers. The conservative agenda was promising to starve government services of all kinds – public schools, food stamps, even the post office – with the aim of privatizing institutions that have served our nation well for decades. More laws limiting women’s reproductive rights seemed on the horizon, global warming was being dismissed as a liberal hoax, and the rights of labor — well, don’t even go there. I was afraid to wake up to a Republican sweep and a future of desperation and dislocation for millions of Americans. It felt like a huge generational and personal failure.
Instead, the November 6 election was a salve to my baby boomer soul. Having cut my political teeth in the civil rights movement of the 1960s,