The Comeback Kid

3 06 2013

The convention roared to life on a Friday night with the arrival of former President Bill Clinton. “Bubba” — as he is affectionately known — was brought in to shepherd the Obama/Biden campaign to victory in a way no other politician could. Clinton could sell the President’s plans because he could communicate in ways Obama could not. Blue collar workers, independents and conservative Democrats were willing to listen to Clinton even if he is basically sharing the same message as Obama. Those voters remembered the 1990s and while Bubba had his problems keeping sexual desires in check, the economy under the Clinton Administration was booming.

In Charlotte, Clinton did what he needed to do — rev up the base with cold hard facts in the process calling out Republican wonder boy and Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan for his underhandedly “brass” tactics. It was vintage Clinton, the crowd loving every minute and it came at just the right time. Leading up to Clinton’s speech there were manufactured controversies afloat from the proper place of God in the party platform to should the convention’s final night be staged at nearby Bank of America Stadium. The irony of Obama delivering his convention speech inside a stadium named for a bank that received the biggest government bailout seemed lost on many tone deaf DC insiders.

Meanwhile, David continued to get me into high level events and functions as we rubbed elbows with senators, congressmen, media elites and high profile candidates. Meeting Barney Frank was especially fun. Frank, the openly gay congressman from Massachusetts, is a longtime liberal warrior and widely respected for his knowledge of financial issues. At a luncheon headlined by First Lady Michelle Obama, I nudged my way to the front of the room and got our picture taken with Barney. We all three were smiling from ear to ear.

Michelle baring arms

Michelle baring arms

Like Clinton, the First Lady was a real crowd pleaser who attracted attention with her wardrobe decision to “bare arms.” Michelle Obama had made fitness and healthy eating a major part of her agenda as First Lady, giving overweight Southerners yet another reason to loathe her husband. I had met Mrs. Obama before, during the summer of 2010 as my campaign for the state house was just beginning and so too was the fallout from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Michelle Obama came to Panama City Beach to address concerns of the spill, but before she could step foot on our sugary white sand beaches, she was greeted with an ignorant redneck response that is so common in the region. Postings across social media, on internet sites and echoed through talk radio did not exactly roll out the red carpet for Michelle and ultimately forced her appearance to take place in front of a limited, small audience of community leaders and local officials. As the Democratic nominee for state rep, I made the cut and was able to get a spot along the rope line just yards from the Gulf where I thanked the First Lady for coming. I then told her, I was running for state rep, to which she replied, “Oh you must really be hurting.” To this day, that response still puzzles me. I was hurting that summer. A lot of folks were. Fast forward to the end of the summer of 2012 and the hurt remained. A nation was bitterly divided.

As the convention’s final day loomed, the DNC braintrust decided to move proceedings from the originally scheduled Bank of America Stadium indoors to Time Warner Arena. They said it was due to inclement weather, but it was also a face saving move for the President. A half empty football stadium would have been a horrible image to overcome this late in the campaign. There was also a noticeable energy gap to deal with particularly among young people who were vital to the 2008 campaign of “Yes We Can.” Bank of America had gotten their bailout, but not these kids.

What happened next I’ll never forget. David gave up his seat for me. It was a incredible act of kindness, generosity and sacrifice. The nominating process was complete and all that remained was the pageantry. I would attend the convention on his delegate pass, sit in his seat, listen to the President’s speech and absorb all the evening had to offer. For a lifelong political nerd this was the ultimate show. And the curtain was rising on a comeback.





On the Ground in Charlotte

24 05 2013

I landed in Charlotte with a headstorm of energy — and Democrats sure needed it. Dismal employment numbers and the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) had left the President’s re-election campaign in a vulnerable position. Luckily, the Republicans had nominated a Plutocrat in Mitt Romney who had failed to energize the Grand Old Party’s base. If anything got Republicans motivated to oust Obama, it was the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare verdict.

Evening hours in downtown Charlotte.

Evening hours in downtown Charlotte.

Barack Obama’s signature piece of legislation was wildly unpopular in the Southern red states. It was bad enough they had to accept his Presidency, but a reform of America’s health care system was just too much for Joe Six Pack to take. And yet here, in the heart of the old Confederacy, the Democratic Party had gathered to nominate President Obama for a second term. There were already signs of trouble on the horizon. Romney was leading in the polls in both North Carolina and Florida — states Obama had carried four years ago.

David picked me up at the airport. He rented a car in Panama City and drove up for the convention. I was surprised he had been able to become a delegate. Although the Florida delegation was one of the larger ones, most of the state’s power and influence came from the southeast counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. For someone from the Panhandle to break through all the horse trading that goes on leading up to delegation selection was truly remarkable. I just didn’t think David was quite that shrewd.

He is loyal, however, without a shadow of a doubt and I was glad to see him again. I wondered if he recognized a difference in me.

Our hotel was in downtown Charlotte, which was surrounded and guarded by the largest police and security presence I had ever witnessed. All of the cops in their urban riot gear reminded me of some scenes from the latest Batman movie. The media were everywhere as well. MSNBC had its own “village” where the cable network broadcasted several of its daily shows live to masses of adoring fans. On my first night in town, David and I managed to get close enough to the cameras to show up on Chris Matthews’ Hardball show. During the commercial break, I gave Chris a thumbs up and he smiled. It was a clear connection.

The next morning we attended the Florida delegation breakfast, listening to politician after politician speak about the importance of the upcoming campaign. There we were joined by Pat and Brenda, two ladies from Bay County, who much like David had successfully navigated the delegate selection process into a ticket to Charlotte. Brenda was a fresh new face in Panama City politics, pumping much needed vigor into the women’s club. Pat, a yellow dog Democrat if there ever was one, had been a vital financial supporter of my run for state representative and was known for speaking her mind.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews meets his fans.

MSNBC host Chris Matthews meets his fans.

In a room full of power suits and enormous egos, I came down to breakfast in a pink Lacoste polo, khaki shorts and flip flops. I was comfortable in my own skin and never felt the least bit awkward or intimidated. This was a huge jump from four years ago when I was scared to leave my room, scared to go to Wal-Mart. Just plain scared.

I cannot begin to explain how much the Canyon had worked wonders on my human spirit. All those hikes had filled me with strength and confidence, only now I had the compassion and humility to go with it. The confidence I exuded before from influential journalism jobs was, admittedly, filled with arrogance and entitlement. While I am indeed grateful and fortunate to have lived a life of great privilege for thirtysomething years, the hard times of the last four years had reshaped my world view and given me much needed perspective. I knew the Romney crowd we would be battling. I knew them intimately and I knew their weaknesses. The ground game would be where this campaign would be won.

Forward!





Leaving Los Angeles just a Shadow of Myself

6 05 2013

I almost missed the train back to Arizona. “John, what time is your train?,” Normen asked as Joel and I browsed the sales racks at the Gap store in Hollywood.

“Oh yeah, the train,” I realized, pulling out my iPhone to check the time. I had one hour till departure. “We better go.”

And we did, briskly walking through the heavy crowds of people gathered on the sidewalks outside the Chinese Theater and down Hollywood Boulevard to where we had parked the car. On the windshield, a parking ticket courtesy of the City of Los Angeles greeted us. Union Station wasn’t that far away, but the traffic was thick and it was almost five o’clock. We would never make it, I thought.

Normen gives the victory sign, as Cheng Yew and Jastine figure out the parking meter.

Normen gives the victory sign, as Cheng Yew and Jastine figure out the parking meter.

Crowds packed Hollywood Boulevard.

Crowds packed Hollywood Boulevard.

The guys were staying a few extra days in LA before driving up to San Francisco then flying across country to New York before departing back to Singapore. It would be one of those trips they would remember for the rest of their lives. I had made a similar journey to Europe as a teenager and those memories are still very much alive. I was thankful to have been a small part of their American experience.

Somehow we made it to Union Station with a few minutes to spare. Jastine and Cheng Yew accompanied me to tracks, where we said our goodbyes and had our hugs. They asked me to visit Singapore one day and promised to show me around. I said I would and thanked them for our friendship — a friendship developed over the course of living and working together for the past 10 weeks in the isolated, desert climate that is Grand Canyon. I would miss them. A lot.

The ride back to the Canyon was depressing. I was alone again — with still two months of work to go. Despite a nearly full train, I was the only one who made late dinner reservations in the dining car. The food was fair, the rolls hard as rocks, but the service was super. I enjoyed chatting with the Amtrak employees and conductors. They all were approachable and friendly, unlike those stuffy 50-something flight attendants often pushing the drink cart on a Delta plane. Most of the crew were in for the long haul to Chicago. One of the conductors asked me where I was from. “Florida,” I said and then he grinned and replied, “Interesting Governor you got there.”

Elected in 2010 during the Tea Party wave that swept me and many other Democrats out to sea, Florida Governor Rick Scott made a name for himself as an ideologue, hellbent on fighting the Obama Administration every step of the way. So when the federal government offered funds to the states to construct a high speed rail network, Scott refused the program and the money went elsewhere.

“They’re building a new connection from LA to San Francisco with your money,” the conductor gleefully said. “It’s projected to be the fastest route in America.”

“I’m sure it will be,” I replied, adding just a tinge of sardonic wit.

Florida was very much on my mind during those last months I spent working at the Canyon. I knew it would be a battleground state in the upcoming Presidential election and polls were showing Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, to be leading in the Sunshine State. My break from politics had been refreshing and reinvigorating. Nature had truly heeled a lot of old wounds and now I was ready to return to the game.

I spent the remainder of my time at Grand Canyon hanging out with my roommate Brian, who was eagerly anticipating the start of the college and pro football season. We traveled down to Flagstaff on one scorching Saturday afternoon to attend Arizona Cardinals training camp. The crowds were enormous that day and it was quite clear the people of the desert southwest were starved for a good NFL team.

Arizona Cardinals training camp in Flagstaff.

Arizona Cardinals training camp in Flagstaff.

When I wasn’t working or hanging out with Brian, I would go to the employee recreation center to lift weights, write, read the New York Times and visit with the international workers. I had gotten fairly close to a few of the Turks. One, a shaggy haired teenager named Ozgur, had become my table tennis buddy. He was quite gifted with the paddle. His English speaking skills were another story. I helped Ozgur with his English and he, in turn, taught me a few key phrases in Turkish. I would learn to say “Merhaba” and “Arkadas” with an Istanbul accent. Ozgur wanted to come to Florida with me after his work was finished. I really didn’t know what to say to this request, afraid he would not be able to understand my world back home.

I had not been entirely honest with my co-workers and friends from the Grand Canyon about circumstances involving my being there. But September was on the horizon and I would soon be stepping out of the shadows.





The Tipoff

27 07 2012

We talked a lot on the way down the trail, mostly about international affairs, politics and why Americans are so fat.

I’m not sure if Americans realize that we have become the butt of the world’s fat jokes. In many countries, McDonald’s is comically referred to as the American embassy. I told Desmond that the American obesity rate was much higher in the Southern states because of an affinity for sugar and fried foods.

“Is not the South where your least educated and poorest population resides?” he asked.

It was an innocent enough question, but for a native son of the South, it stung like a sharp prick of a cactus.

“Yep,” I said.

“And they consistently vote Republican,” he continued.

“Yep.”

“Why?,” he asked, again with an innocent, inquisitive tone.

“Desmond, if I knew the answer to that, I would not be on this hike with you today,” I said.

He smiled and we continued to chat, not realizing how quickly we were descending the trail. The sun was still rising above the Eastern Rim as we reached Skeleton Point. The views here are breathtaking. Dark orange rock formations jutting out of the earth. We were certainly no longer in the pinyon pine tree forest of the South Rim.

Some of the folks from the bus were here resting and I spotted the woman who I had sat next to. I asked her if she would take a couple photos of Desmond and I and she gladly obliged. We put our arms around each other in a brotherly fashion. It had been quite a while since I had experienced this type of male bonding. It reminded me of college. It was refreshing.

After a short break, we pressed on and it was my turn to probe Desmond about his country’s politics. I was, admittedly, igonorant as to Singapore’s culture. I did know it was a former British colony, which put me ahead of most Americans. It had become quite comical when the American tourists would remark how good the Singaporean workers spoke English, always assuming they would be producing a Chinese accent.

Desmond was quite proud of his homeland. He boasted of Singapore’s high GDP level, zero homeless population and alluring tax policies. He is, after all, a business student.

Most of the Americans — or Ang Mohs — as they are referred to by locals, come to Singapore not for pleasure, but rather for business.

“We encourage free market capitalism,” Desmond said.

But if there is one aspect of his homeland that Desmond would like to see changed, it is the media. The press, he said, is run by the government and never questions authority.

In other words, it’s like MSNBC today and Fox News circa 2004.

Meanwhile, we continued to descend at a healthy pace, stopping for a quick rest at the junction to Tonto Trail just before what is called “The Tipoff.” It is at this point where hikers get their first glimpse of the Colorado River — looking down into the massive gorge that resembles a scene out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

At the Tonto Trail junction we encountered the mule train coming up from Phantom Ranch, carrying mail and supplies. I marveled at the stamina and strength of these beasts of burden. It was starting to get hot and they had one steep climb awaiting. Amazing that they do this everyday.

We took a few pictures as the wranglers tied them up to a man-made steel rail in the middle of nowhere.

“Don’t get too close,” one of the wranglers shouted at Desmond. “They kick.”

The Tonto Trail Junction is a flat area surrounded by nothing but knee-high scrubs and prickly pear cactus for miles. The trail runs horizontal between rim and river and at this junction, with the South Kaibab, there is a rail to tie up the mules and a small outhouse for human waste. Desmond used the facilities, while I used the shade that it provided. I wasn’t the only one who sought escape from the sun. Sitting next to the outhouse was a tall middle-aged man who had been hiking the Tonto Trail from the east.

“I’m headed to the Bright Angel,” he said. “What about you?”

“The river,” I replied.

“Well, you’re close,” he said.

I plopped down next to the man and started swiggin’ water and eating peanuts and raisins. Desmond, having finished his business in the outhouse, joined us and the three of us chatted while fending off hungry squirrels. The man was from New York and an experienced hiker.

“I come here once a year,” he said. “Never gets old.”

It was definitely a different picture than New York. As I looked around, I felt so small. Just a blip inside a vast desert canyon. Far, far away from civilization.

“Shall we?,” Desmond asked.

He was ready to continue, knowing the rewarding part of our adventure was close.

“Good luck,” said the New Yorker as we parted ways. This was one part of the hiking culture that I had come to appreciate. Nearly everyone acknowledges each other on the trails and checks to see how you are doing, especially at rest stops, and always offers tips, provisions and well wishes.

I would likely never see that man again, but for a few brief moments we shared in each other’s extreme outdoors experience. Conversely, Desmond and I were just getting to know each other as the most strenuous stretch of our adventure loomed.

The rising sun set to test our stamina.





Putting politics on hold

9 11 2011

Florida’s Democrats gathered inside Walt Disney World last weekend to plot a course for the 2012 elections. Twenty-one of us from Bay County were in attendance, including former mayors and state representatives.

‘Former’ being the key word.

It’s no secret the Republican Party has taken a dominating hold of the Sunshine State. The midterm elections gave the GOP a sweep of cabinet positions, the Governor’s Mansion and a ‘super’ majority in both the House and Senate. Simply put, these are tough times to be a Democrat in Florida.

And yet there is no place to go but up.

I was excited just to be getting out of town and to be surrounded by true believers. David and I shared a ride with Don and Fran, two wonderfully honest and caring men, whose conversation made the seven hour drive to Orlando go by effortlessly.

Don handled the driving and Fran, with his effervescent personality, was quick with the quips. As a gay interracial couple living in the Florida Panhandle, nobody had to tell these two about adversity.

We arrived at the convention just as Vice President Joe Biden was addressing the delegates who were fortunate enough to afford the $175 ticket for Friday night’s opening dinner. We would have to wait for the second hand reviews Saturday morning.

Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bill Nelson and Jill Biden at the 2011 FDP Convention

Being my first convention the entire weekend seemed a tad overwhelming with more issues at play than glad handing politicians and overzealous activists. David was not in good health and frankly I was amazed he decided to make the trip.

The man who nursed me back to health — who has supported me through the toughest period of my life and stood by me when everyone else scattered, was now suffering and in pain.

His condition was never far from my mind and faced with this, I felt helpless in room after room full of power.

Earlier in the week, I had tried to talk David out of making the trip. He was battling a case of the shingles and it was not pretty. My vanity would have never allowed me to attend this convention in his condition, but David, as I have so fondly come to learn, is nothing like me. He’s an Aries and much like the domesticated symbol of the Democratic Party, he’s stubborn.

Much of the focus during the weekend centered around getting out the vote efforts in various communities. Outside the general assembly, there were a host of caucus meetings and parties designed to bring people together around one central theme. We tried to make as many as we could, but there would be no late night hotel room hopping.

On the drive home, David’s condition began to worsen. Don, ever the sympathetic driver, must have pulled off on the side of the road 20 times so David could run into the bushes in an attempt to relieve himself from the pain. His plight put a lot of the weekend in perspective for me.

Politics has consumed too much of my life. In seeking to make a better community, I have neglected my own household. No more.

As I prepare to go down a new road in my life and open a chapter of caregiving, it is time to put things aside that are out of my control. Politics can wait. My partner’s health and well being is of the utmost importance.

Your thoughts and prayers are much appreciated.





Writing for Courage

29 09 2011

Thursday morning listening to Adam Levine’s “Moves like Jagger” and writing cover letters to editors. And it goes like this:

Physically I have never been stronger. Wisdom, from years of surrounding myself with mature friends, is starting to pay off. My social network has opened doors that were no doubt locked a few years ago.

A recent trip to Philadelphia opened my eyes to the current climate of the media business. Newspapers continue to cut staff and lay off journalists, while the blogosphere gradually grows and builds influence.

David, my stalwart companion, has been preaching this tune for some time now.

“You have to free yourself from that ‘working for a paycheck’ mentality,” he continues to say.

Meanwhile, David continues to carry the load for the two of us financially and while this has always bothered my manly, independent pride, it has also allowed me to regroup, rebuild and demonstrate that I am, indeed, capable of producing again.

On the political scene, I’m still attending meetings and staying active in the community. My presence as a voice on the Left is very much needed in Panama City, if nothing else to contrast the chorus of angry rhetoric from the Right.

In that respect, I have established my niche here. My Twitter profile says it all: “I’m a Kennedy-esque Liberal living in the belly of the GOP beast. Send food and help, please.”

It’s amusing to most and by using not-so-subtle humor, I have found a way to reach people as my following on Twitter continues to rise.

“You need to be writing more,” David says.

And, of course, he is right. Writing is what I was born to do. The block, however, is hard to overcome sometimes.

I never want to offend anyone. My inner Libra is all about balance and in the current political climate, writing to not offend can be a difficult chore.

And then I am reminded of that oh so familiar line, ‘You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

What I stand for is Compassion, Honesty, Caring, Community, Family and Faith. Easy subjects to get behind, sure. But to articulate those views one must first have Courage.

And with that, I’m off to see the Wizard. Let’s hope he’s read my cover letter.

 

 





Campaign Memories

20 06 2011

Last night, during a visit to a local bar & grill on the beach, I was asked again if I intended to run for public office.

It’s flattering, I guess. Particularly when it comes from a registered voter. And a government employee, no less.

I told the fellow, that I had no immediate plans of challenging our vaunted State Representative again.

“You have to chip away,” he said.

I appreciated the young man’s encouragement and over a few brews we shared our thoughts on the local political scene. I shared with him, some of the bizarre scenarios I encountered during my run — from the rousing ovation by the Muslim community to boos at a gay bar.

The 2010 campaign was a hard one for all Democrats, but for a political novice in Northwest Florida, it was downright impossible.

I had very little resources and no help from the state party. Still, I stuck to my values and provided an option that 10,000 people bought into.

My presence at the Bay Islamic Society’s annual Ramadan dinner was a fine illustration of the campaign’s message. We were intent on reaching out to everyone in the District to show the value of diversity. How I would be received, however, was in doubt.

The media was still ignoring me at this point. I arrived at the dinner to find a large and welcoming community and when one of the Muslim leaders asked that I address the crowd, I was completely caught off guard.

No speech in hand, I took to the podium and told the crowd that I was their Democratic nominee for the State House of Representatives. Coming into the event, there was an air of bitterness in the campaign rhetoric. The Republican primary for U.S. Congress had been recently decided and, in the closing weeks,  one of the candidates decided to slam Islam at a debate in a cheap attempt to curry favor with religious conservatives.

It didn’t help that this same man shared the first two letters of my last name. He was a “Mic” as the slang goes.

I knew I had to quell tensions in the community, tensions that had also been stoked by one of the local right-wing talk radio clowns.

So, without much preparation, I spoke from the heart that night.

“We are a nation of immigrants,” I said. “And we have to stop hurting each other.”

It was a short and sweet message and I thanked the audience for inviting me to the dinner. The applause I received that night was humbling. As I look back now, it was amazing.

A group of people who have every reason to doubt your intentions and judge your lifestyle showed me compassion and kindness that evening.

After the dinner, a woman approached me, her head covered in traditional Islam clothing. “You said what was on everyone’s mind,” she told me. “Thank you for speaking, Mr. McDonald.”

It was definitely one of the high points of the campaign. One to remember. Our goal all along was to make a difference — and on that night, we did just that.





The Agony of Defeat

21 04 2011

Well, another campaign is in the books. Defeated again.

I had high hopes this time around. We had a quality candidate, adequate resources and energized volunteers. In the end, we just didn’t have enough absentee ballots.

So Panama City has a new Mayor and there is much work to be done. If the Old Guard is to claim victory here then it is incumbent upon those ‘powers that be’ to follow through with the campaign rhetoric and lift this City out of despair.

Panama City needs jobs. Skilled jobs in high tech industry that provide a living wage. We are in danger of losing a generation of talent because of lack of opportunity. This must be addressed.

It is interesting to watch the evolution of a community. Many themes from my campaign were carried on. Issues such as poverty relating to the homeless, revitalization of Downtown and environmental procedures were debated. Hopefully, solutions are on the way.

For all the anti-government rhetoric that seems to dominate any debate in Panama City, the fact still remains that the government is the No. 1 employer here. If the private sector is the job creator, as we are led to believe, it would be nice to see some tangible evidence.

Perhaps this is sour grapes speaking. I have been unemployed going on three years now and this journey has taught me many lessons. I now know how to produce more with less. I understand value in relation to price and, most importantly, I believe in shared sacrifice.

So now the task is to fight off bitterness and the sting of another election loss. There is temptation to fold and look for opportunities elsewhere in a climate more conducive to my thinking.

I tried that before, in New York, and it didn’t work out too well.

Deep down inside, I hold faith in these losing battles as preparation for greater things to come. Perhaps, God is testing me and City leaders are watching to see if I will break.

I won’t.

I’ll find that happy place one day and, trust me, you will know it.





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.

 





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.