As mentioned here the other day, several people felt I was either being petty or focusing on small, inconsequential things when I promised that when I am Mayor, I will take down the Christmas decorations from Courthouse Square long before the first day of spring — which is when Mayor Franklin had them put away. My rebuttal was that the small things matter because that is how we often judge people and places.
The big “WARREN” sign on East Market Street near Elm is another example. I’ve written about it before because it’s looked like this for several years, and there is no reason for it to be this way. We have sign ordinances in Warren, which were recently strengthened. What is the point of having laws if we aren’t going to enforce them?
10,000 cars per day pass by this sign. It’s hard for locals to look at it, but imagine what out-of-towners think. I guarantee that when I am Mayor this sign will either be fixed or gone in short order, because appearances do matter. Our image to others matters. Our self-image matters.
One day that missing “E” will stand for “Excellence.”
One of the fun things about running for public office is that it is a team sport. It is hard to imagine trying to do this as a solo act. Today I’d like to introduce you to someone known to some of you, my campaign manager, Adam Keck. Adam has a lot of roots in Warren; he just bought a house in the central city, he is working on the business plan for the Keck & Sons Brewing Company, which will one day (soon we hope) operate a brewery and tap room in Warren; he is a volunteer for the Rock’n Art Fest and other Dave Grohl Alley events, and a gardener in the Porter Street Community Garden.
On top of all that, he works for a living as Director of Information Technology at Compco Industries. Some of you may remember Adam from his days as an organizer here for the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative (MVOC), where he is now a member of the Board. He was also an organizer for the 2008 Obama for America campaign. And it wasn’t that long ago that he was getting his degree from Brown University. He has accomplished a lot for a young guy and I’m not sure which of his many skills — organizer, technologist or beer maker — will be most appreciated by everyone on the Dennis Blank for Mayor campaign.
One thing that takes some getting used to when running for office is the need to talk about oneself a lot more than one is used to doing. A lot more. Not to mention posting a lot more photos of oneself, as well.
I made my speech announcing my candidacy for Mayor at the Mocha House on March 11th. This speech is now widely known as ‘The Mocha House Address’ (at least among my immediate family members). We were fortunate to have the gang from Clear Choice Creative in attendance with equipment, so you can see it here. It is less than six minutes long, including at least one interruption for applause. If you saw it live, watch it again; maybe you will see yourself.
If I had it to do over again I would have lost some weight first.
We published the post promising, if elected, to take down the Christmas decorations on Courthouse Square in a timely fashion, last Thursday; the decorations (well, most of them) came down on Friday. We’ll leave it at that; no use beating a dead horse.
The public reaction was unprecedented. The post received higher readership than anything we’ve ever published; there have been more than 50 Facebook comments. Nearly all of them were supportive of the need to get the Christmas decorations down before the first day of spring, but there were a few who disagreed. “Don’t you have anything bigger to worry about?” pretty much sums up the contrarian view. And of course, those people are correct; Warren has much bigger problems facing it than the timely removal of the wreaths from the lamp posts.
But that doesn’t mean we should ignore the small stuff until every big problem is solved. That policy would lead to year-round Christmas decorations (or none at all) and 1000 unmowed vacant lots throughout the city. We spoke to a downtown Warren business owner over the weekend who said:
“Many of us have called the city and complained about this (the decorations) and it got us nowhere. The problem with the current administration is that they just don’t understand that sometimes it’s the small things that matter most. If you visit a restaurant and the silverware is dirty, people wonder what the kitchen must look like.”
But by far my favorite comment came from a reader quoting Shel Silverstein (thanks Carissa):
No one’s hangin’ stockin’s up,
No one’s bakin’ pie,
No one’s lookin’ up to see
A new star in the sky.
No one’s talkin’ brotherhood,
No one’s givin’ gifts,
And no loves a Christmas tree
On March the twenty-fifth.
They only missed it by 5 days.
I took the photos on this page this morning, March 19th, on Courthouse Square. My first political promise is this: if elected, I promise that all city-owned Christmas decorations will be taken down by the official end of the holiday season — which everyone knows is Super Bowl Sunday. They will be down if I have to take them down myself while standing on a ladder mounted on the bed of my buddy Lyle’s F-150.
It’s easy to have a laugh at this, but just imagine that you are an executive for a company who is visiting a few cities, scouting locations for a new facility of some sort. It’s common practice for companies to do this on the sly so that the red carpet isn’t rolled out for them and they get a true look at each community. Imagine you are that person; what would your impression be of the people running the city of Warren? The situation wouldn’t be quite as amusing as a sign of our operating efficiencies or our pride in the image of our community.
Maybe it’s time for a change in City Hall as well as in seasonal decorations.