What a difference two years makes! When I ran for mayor against Steve Patterson in 2019, the two of us couldn’t have been farther apart on the issues. Now that I’m running for Council in 2021, I feel downright mainstream! As you’ll see from the candidate questionnaires, voter guides and forums below, 3 out of 4 of my competitors in this race agree with me on most issues– particularly the housing issues I first staked out in 2019. Like Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries versus Bernie Sanders in the 2020 primaries, my positions have moved from the margin to the center of our political discourse. And that’s sent Patterson outside of the Democratic Party in a desperate attempt to enlist the help of Trump supporters to defeat independent progressives like me!
In Bernie’s case and mine, it took a bold outsider to change the conversation and start forcing the establishment in a better direction. That shouldn’t come as any surprise. Like Frederick Douglass said, “Without struggle, there is no progress.”
Now we see new Democratic candidates Micah McCarey and Ben Ziff siding with progressive independents lris Virjee and I on tenant rights, code enforcement, rental housing quality, short-term rentals, parking regulations — and more– while status quo defender Sarah Grace is suddenly the odd one out.
But that begs the question: If Ziff and McCarey are on the same page as me about so many things, why are they on the same yard sign as Grace? Grace disagrees with them almost as much as she disagrees with me. What’s more, Grace was the only candidate to refuse to respond to a questionnaire from United Athens County Tenants — and Ziff and McCarey are largely running on their identities as tenants!
And yes, you read that right. Grace is Chair of Council’s Affordable Housing Commission in a city that’s 80% renters, and she is the only candidate –Democrat or indpendent– who failed to respond to a questionnaire about rental housing issues.
So why are Ziff and McCarey campaigning for someone who, when it comes to the issues, is very much their opponent?
In the at-large race, every voter can vote for up to 3 candidates, regardless of each candidate’s party affiliation. In the past, many individual voters have voted for a combination of Democrats and independents. So every candidate in this race is competing with other candidate, regardless of party affiliation, to be among the top 3 vote-getters elected to Council, and there are no Republicans in the mix — just Democrats and progressive independents.
In this race, policy positions should matter much more than party affiliation. We don’t advance housing justice issues by campaigning for their opponent. I wish Ziff and McCarey were on the same page with me about that, too. But they won’t even stand up for themselves to Mayor Patterson when he conspires with the Republicans who denounce Ziff and McCarey, along with Virjee and I, all in the same breath. Ah, but I digress…
All 5 candidates for Council at-large respond to 3 questions about challenges facing Athens, candidate skills, and city-university partnerships.
4 of the candidates respond to 8 questions about rental housing issues and tenant rights. (Sarah Grace, a landlord and Chair of Council’s Affordable Housing Commission, failed to participate.)
All 5 candidates respond to 4 questions about short-term rentals, backyard chickens, parking regulations, and trash fees.
On September 21 all 5 candidates participated in a candidate forum, responding to questions about tenant rights, lack of transparency in city government, short-term rentals, racial (in)equity and policing, parking regulations, the city’s $91k racial equity training course, and electric scooters.
On September 30, the 2 independent candidates participated in a candidate forum after all 3 Democratic candidates backed out and party leaders falsely accused the event organizer of excluding them. Unfortunately, there is no video of the event, but here is its news coverage, including coverage of the Dems’ uniform failure to participate.
“Dem candidates for Athens Council miss OU Student Senate voter forum, Dem Chair says absence was ‘not intentional’” Athens News, 10/5/21
“Student Senate hosts City Council at-large candidate forum” New Political, 10/4/21
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Paid for by The Committee to Elect Damon Krane