Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Movin' on up

Now we're up in the big leagues
Getting our turn at bat 

~~ Theme from "The Jeffersons"

Lordy, what a day! 

Day 33 of the federal government shitdown shutdown. Workers are going to go for a month without a paycheck and our airports, our borders, and our country are all less safe because of Individual-1's petulant temper tantrum.

Venezuela cuts diplomatic ties with the United States and orders all U.S. diplomats out within 72 hours.

Michael Cohen postpones his testimony before the House Oversight Committee due to threats to his family from Individual-1 and his TV lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Individual-1 says, "Imma do the State of the Union in the House of Representative." 

Speaker Pelosi says, "LOL No." 

My head is spinning! It's easy to become inured to the utterly chaotic news cycle because it just never stops. However, today I had a vaccination against the chaos and it came this morning. 

My very own Mayor, Pete Buttigieg (say it like 'Buddha Judge'), announced that he has formed an exploratory committee concerning a run for President of the United States. 

Translation: HE'S RUNNING! He really is!

It's been looking that way for a while, but how exciting to hear that it's happening for real! I am thrilled. 

I've been preaching about Mayor Pete for years. I've told friends all over the country to watch this guy because he's going to be President one day. After this morning's announcement, I had friends telling me, "I thought of you when I heard!" I've been on Cloud Nine all day!

So what is it about Mayor Pete that I (and so many of my fellow citizens) love? There are many, but I'll give you three. 

I was impressed from the very first moment I met him. Ken and I were at the local Firefighter's Blues Festival and it was when Pete was first running for Mayor. I had read some articles about him in our local paper, the South Bend Tribune, and I'd liked what he had to say. Ken and I were sitting there in our lounge chairs drinking our beers and I saw Pete working his way through the crowd and shaking hands. I elbowed Ken and said, "Hey, that's Pete Buttigieg! Wanna say hi?" We stood and waited for him to make his way over and we shook hands and chatted a bit. He is not a large man but despite his slight frame, he has a real presence. He was open and friendly and there was just something about him that left us both saying, "Wow." That was when I started thinking that this guy was meant for big things. 

The second thing is what he has done as Mayor of South Bend. I was born here and grew up here (same for Pete) and many of my family members worked for Studebaker. My grandpa, several uncles, and my Aunt June, who did payroll and was one of the last few employees after the plant shut down. The factory buildings cleared out and Aunt June helped various desks go to local schools. We had a huge old Studebaker desk for many years and my cousins and I had all kinds of Studebaker stationery to doodle on. (If we had only known how much that stuff would be worth one day!)

But I digress. After Studebaker shut down, it devastated our town. People lost their pensions (in fact, it was due to the Studebaker plant closing that government protections were put in place to ensure that workers would have guaranteed pensions), people started moving away, and the suicide rate shot up. The malaise continued for decades. When I was in high school, there were a couple of malls built in the area and it siphoned off all of the commerce from downtown. It's not an exaggeration to say that our downtown was a ghost town. Everything was closed and shuttered, all the stores and restaurants closed or moved elsewhere, and no one went there. 

When Pete Buttigieg came on the scene and decided to run for Mayor, Newsweek included us in an article about America's "dying cities." Pete had plenty of ideas about how to make a difference, and when he got elected, he started implementing them. He went about working to reinvent us as more of a "tech hub," rather than a manufacturing city. People started investing time and money in our city and some highly motivated Notre Dame students saw the potential and decided to stick around and make a difference. 

To make a long story short, our downtown is bustling, there are numerous restaurants (from burger joints to some of the best restaurants in town), there is an active music scene, and we've gone from a ghost town to it can be hard to find a parking place when things are going on! It is a complete turnaround from what it was like when I was growing up and I am proud to take out of town friends downtown and show off our city! Mayor Pete was a revitalizing force behind this and helped make our city friendly to business and tourism. 

Third, in 2016, he invited his supporters to a Christmas party at a pub downtown. We attended with Shane and Matt, and it was the first time we'd gotten together since the presidential election. Needless to say, we were all pretty down. Pete and Chasten came by to say hi and thank us for coming, and I asked Pete, "How do we deal with this? This is awful." 

I don't remember his exact words, but he talked about how we need to focus on what is right and continue to speak out and be involved. He agreed that it was pretty awful but said that we all need to stick together and support each other and keep working to make things better. When he and Chasten finally walked away to talk to other groups, we all looked at each other and said, "Whoa!" Somehow he had managed to make us feel optimistic during a very dark time. We were all worried about various rights, not just for us, but for others. But with a few words, Mayor Pete left us feeling better. 

I could write about more things and probably will in the future, but this is long enough. As I've told people for years, check this guy out because he's the real deal. 

I don't know what will happen but I look forward to seeing everything play out and I especially look forward to seeing other people around the country get to hear his ideas and get to know him. If you are interested in that, please check out his website, PeteForAmerica. Click on the "Meet Pete" tab to get a brief bio. Good luck, Mayor Pete! We are with you!