Meeting needs through Action

11 04 2011

“I can throw a major fit when my latte aint how I like it.”

That’s a line from a country song about celebrity status. It can also be used as a shot at the ruling class.

The campaign for Panama City enters its final week now and a new establishment is rising. Endorsements are being made, inside information exchanged and heavy negotiating taking place.

Southern politics at its finest.

Like the line from that country crooner eludes to, entitlements are — at play. The latte is just the beginning. You see, there are those among us that insist ‘Life’ be served to them on silver platters. They’ll interact with you, just as long as it’s on their terms.

It’s often eluded to — although rarely proven — that City elections can be fixed. One might come to the conclusion that City grandfathers and prominent families meet way before the next election cycle to decide the winners. Then they go search for the losers.

And in the process, reality gets in the way. That’s where things don’t always go according to plan.

The Chosen One may find the chores difficult. Lose patience with the questions. Get tired of listening.

It is not easy campaigning. In fact, it is down right hard work. Nobody should be expected to take the Mayor’s office without a fight.

Yes, without a doubt, it is during the process that an electorate sees who really wants the job. Who is capable of understanding needs of a civic-minded society and willing to meet those needs through action.

Legacy is important and so too is progress. The Future starts now.



Spring Broken

31 03 2011

The throngs of students is thinning along Florida’s Gulf Coast. I have just returned from a pleasant drive through Panama City Beach. There are still some young bucks and pretty fillies roaming the resorts, but for the most part, the college crowd has returned to their respective campuses. In their wake, is what, my partner David refers to as the “spring broken.”

These are the people who flock to the Beach to cash in on the partying with no intent on furthering their higher education. They usually go the way of the homeless.

Sitting outside of McDonald’s the other day, enjoying my smoothie drink and soaking up the sunshine, I was confronted by one of the Broken. My mistake was making eye contact, which gave him the green light to proceed.

“Hey Brother, can you spare a few dollars so I can get something to eat,” said the Broken man.

It always begins with “Brother.”

During my campaign, I encountered many homeless people. Such was the state of affairs in area crippled by a disastrous oil spill and weak economy. I made it a priority to shine the light on their struggles and to visit organizations dedicated to lending a helping hand.

Sadly, I also found that not every “Broken” person wants a way out of their situation.

“My wife and I are on the street,” the man continued, although their was no sign of this ‘wife’ and he didn’t appear to be starving.

I looked at the man again in the eyes — without uttering a word.

He read my mind and moved along, mumbling to himself all the way. I felt uncompassionate at first, but knowing the street life, I realized he had the ability to find shelter and provisions for his family, if they did exist, and my two cents would have little affect. There are those who are truly in dire circumstances and this man was not one of them. Broken maybe, but still capable of pulling up his boot straps.

Balancing compassion with security has become a major theme of Panama City’s municipal election. What voters need to hear now, more than anything, is a success story. We know the causes of homelessness — mental illness, substance abuse and poverty just to name a few. And we have seen the Broken walking the streets, gathering at the Mission and sleeping on park benches.

What we, as a community, need to see now is the ones who made it out alive. The ones who pulled themselves up by their boot straps and with a little help from Uncle Sam, the Almighty or an unsung guardian angel, graduated to a productive life.

My walk through humility forever changed how I view society. It gave me a unique perspective on the plight of the less fortunate. I can voice my observations and opinions confidently because I have walked in their shoes.

To me, the bottom line to getting out of the bottom of the pit is recognizing where you are.

There is help out there. The first step is seeking it.



The Fight for Panama City

2 03 2011

Back from Tallahassee. It was a very productive and encouraging weekend. I’m starting to realize my role here.

“You have to make them play defense,” the State Committeeman from the Keys told me. “The more money they have to spend there, the less than can spend in Orlando, Tampa or Miami.”

So here I go again. Back in Panama City, inside the belly of the beast, representing the litte guy and fighting for a piece of the pie.

We’re in the midst of a Mayoral campaign now. Alvin is my candidate and to any keen observer, he is the clear choice this City so desperately needs. Alvin’s strength’s are obvious: Intelligence, Leadership, Compassion, and Understanding. These are all traits one would expect coming out of City Hall. He also epitomizes the Modern Family Man, recognizing the qualities of a diverse and changing world and embracing all walks of life.

Alvin swears us in

It will be interesting to see how this City responds. You could say it’s an IQ test.

On the other side, you have entrenched business interests. The old guard, still clinging to power. But what have they done with that power?

Job losses, low wages, increased poverty, I could go on and on. Meanwhile, neighboring cities such as Lynn Haven, Destin and Panama City Beach are growing — at the expense of Panama City.

The election is a little more than a month away. It will be a hard fight for change, however, unlike my recent crusade, this one is certainly winnable.

So today I hit the streets again. Making them play defense.

Feet First

23 02 2011

Getting prepared for my return to Tallahassee. First since the election. It will be interesting to gauge the political climate there. A newly elected Governor, unhappy State workers and a feverish Tea Party spirit lingers across the Sunshine State.

The Republicans hold their greatest majority in the State Legislature since the days of Reconstruction. The also claim the Governor’s Mansion and all of the elected cabinet positions. Simply put, the GOP’s power in Florida has never been stronger.

What’s a Dem to do?

“You need to write a book,” the Foot Doctor told me.

Ah yes, the Foot Doctor. Yet another of Panama City’s colorful characters. I met the Doc early in my run. He was a short, round man and a classic New Yorker — full of pomp, ego and stories of his service as a State Committee Man for the Dems and he dismissed me right away.

“I wouldn’t want to be running right now,” he said.

Roseanne, my dear motherly campaign manager, said to forget about him.

“He’s not going to support you,” she said.

And she was right. Although my research turned up checks the Doc had written to other Democratic candidates, he like most of the Party establishment, were going to sit my race out — and watch. For their own amusement no less.

Such is the case with a newcomer. Throw in the fact, I was running against a recent party switcher, who still had friends amongst the local Dems, it made it hard for any person of good standing to back my cause.

So when I ran across the Foot Doctor, tanning on the Beach, on a beautiful Autumn afternoon, his suggestion to me was to do what I do best — write.

He already had the title picked out for me, “How I ran against the establishment, in the Reddest of Red America, during the rise of the Tea Party, as a Democrat, with little-to-no money.” The Doc got a good chuckle at this title as he soaked up the sun in his Jersey-styled beach chair.

We chatted some about the campaign that day. Ramil, one of my housemates, had accompanied me to the Beach and for fear of boring him with politics, I made my conversation with the Doc short. Before we parted ways, the Doc asked to see Ramil’s feet.

“They look good,” he said, leaned back in his beach chair. “Strong bone structure.”

Ramil seemed slightly embarrassed. He was very modest about his appearance. We related in this way. Part of my struggle during the campaign was with the constant remarks about my figure. Not knowing for sure if people were being complementary or cruel. This is something I’m sure all politicians have to overcome.

As I embark on an important weekend in Tallahassee, I am now more confident about my stature. I have recovered well from the stress of the campaign and feel stronger than ever.

Meeting influential people is a priority this weekend. I realize, if I am to be successful in this new political career, I must expand my base of support beyond the Beach.

And I will follow the Foot Doctor’s advice. I will continue to write.

Post Election

8 11 2010

I am liberated.

It’s all over. My first attempt at public office was, if you take everything into consideration, a resounding success.

Sure, I lost by 26,000 votes. To the tune of 78 to 22 percent.

But, I remain optimistic about the future.

“You have a base,” Jimmy told me, just after I called to congratulate him on election night.

My campaign manager, a tough ol’ broad from Chicago, insisted I wait until after the 10 o’clock news to concede.

“Poke him in the eye,” she said, in between drags off a Virgina Slims, “If we can’t kick him in the balls, then we’ll poke him in the eye.”

Alvin, my trusted lawyer, advised otherwise.

“Call him now,” he said when the results from all three counties began pouring in and the tide of GOP frustration became apparant for all to see.

So, I didn’t wait for the 10 o’clock news. Much like I didn’t wait for this seat to be term-limited out.

Through it all, this campaign was about opening doors. Giving voice to a generation that had none. Providing a choice and making sure the process happened.

I’m proud of what I accomplished. And proud it is over….for now.

La Fiesta

16 09 2010

I need a creative outlet and this is it. Facebook has become too mainstream. Twitter is still developing. Here, I can be Frank. The campaign is going very good. Months ago, I was a joke. Ignored. This time last year, I was the subject of pity.
No more.
We are building relationships. Coalitions. Bridges.
What I witnessed tonight, inside a Historic Downtown Panama City tavern, was resilience.
I must remain humble, for the people I continue to fight for, are those who want a better life, are working for a better life and, God willingly, will have a better life.
Some of them do not have the privilege of voting. But it doesn’t matter to me. They are still my constituent and their voice is just as important as the big shot attorney across the street.
We’re going the distance … and there’s no looking back!

Follow Me on Twitter

28 05 2010

Gordon and I have had many meetings over the years.

I remember the first, inside a dingy coffeehouse in Downtown Panama City, where Gordon arrived — right on time — with cane in hand.

He lectured me about theater that day and he hasn’t stopped since.

“I going to teach you how to sit in a chair,” he said to me that day. His words still come to mind when I find myself slumping.

Meanwhile, the campaign is close to beginning. This is, what my consultants tell me, the calm before the storm. Tallahassee called today. They want to start organizing …. Tomorrow.

There is no turning back now.

“Keep a smile John,” Gordon always says before we go our separate ways.

Keeping a smile through November is going to be a tough act. Shouldn’t the challenger be angry? Shouldn’t he feel just a tad bit pissed off about the state of affairs in his District??

But we digress.

Anyone still reading this can follow me on Twitter @pcbjohnnymac.

It’s going to be a helluva ride.

Oh, and Gordon, I’ll see you soon.