Civil society and the Alamo Colleges Trustee run-off elections

If you read the article from the Ranger I posted earlier, you may know that I was a candidate for the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees, in 2006. You also may have noticed when reading that post that there are two run-off elections for seats on that board tomorrow, Saturday, 21 June. The seats in question are for districts 4 and 8.

I want to follow up on that old article and to tell my story of why I ran for a seat way back then. It may shed light on why someone like me would run for an elected office that is thankless, pays nothing, and does require honest, hard effort at. For me it all began, while I was working with a student at San Antonio College. Then I worked as a job coach with the North East School District, working with an adult student with disabilities. The job entailed working with those students in preparing them for life outside of the public school system. The student I was with had an interest in anime and SAC happened to have an anime club at the time. While the student was at the club meeting, I was reading the Ranger outside the door of the classroom my student was in.

There was an article in the school’s paper talking about the upcoming board elections and that no one up for election at that point had an opponent. The chairman of the board at the time took that as a sign of proud accomplishment. I took his statement more as indifference among voters and arrogance from him. The next day, I was a candidate opposing one of the other board members.

As you can imagine my frustration turned inward to my positive experiences growing up on military bases and being a student in the Department of Defense school system and how that was a positive part of me not just as a student, but as an adult later on. From my family and the other families on base, I understood how neighbors can come together to help one another and build a strong community and culture. In those schools, I learned to ask questions, to question authority, and how that was essential to civil society and was the answer to a government that can easily lose touch with the community it serves.
My experiences visiting my family in Vietnam in 1999 reinforced that too. And my struggles with mental illness and my service on the Community Action Advisory Board, where I got to see poverty, homelessness, and hunger up close and hear the stories of those who were making it our of poverty, and those that were struggling to, those experiences reminded me that if we can take care of ourselves, then perhaps we have a civil obligation to help others so they can take care of themselves too.

Early frustrations and anger at what I saw as an arrogant, out of touch, trustee, who wasn’t even my opponent… turned to a community, people centered message tied by my own up and down life experiences and the stories I not only heard and saw, but also lived.

My platform was simple, our community colleges as centers of community and culture, tying the surrounding neighbors to those colleges with the students that attend them. The colleges needed to build closer bonds with the neighborhood, primarily through the public and private schools around them. The district needed to build closer bonds with the businesses were, students could go and hang out, study, socialize, etc. The idea was to build a more holistic relationship with not just the neighborhoods, but with students, faculty, administration, businesses that could allow for more open communication, open transparency in the decisions the board of trustees and district administration makes, and create a campus life that would positively impact student’s education and future in our city.

Really, my platform was even simpler than that. As trustees, we just needed to go out and talk with our students, faculty, and neighbors. In the end, I was perhaps seen as too idealistic by the few who voted. My opponent, the incumbent won, and later resigned to move on with life before his term was over. He sighted communication problems as a key reason for resigning.

No, I have no intention of running for a seat on the Alamo College Board of Trustees anytime soon, if ever. The trustee who represents me is well qualified and seems to do a good job on the board and even if she were to not run again, I’ve moved on too.
Still there is an election tomorrow and if you are registered to vote and live in either district I encourage you to learn about our colleges board of trustees, the important role it plays in our community and the candidates that are in the run-off. I’m not asking you to vote, but to play a role in our civil society and if you choose to vote, to vote smart tomorrow.

In the Alamo College Board of Trustee, District No. 4 run-off election the candidates are Albert R. Herrera and Lorena “Lorraine” Pulido. In District No. 8 the candidates in the run-off election are Clint Kingsbery and Gary Beitzel.

Le Lowry, Board candidate in political office since age 24

When I ran for a seat on the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees, I was already serving as an elected Representative of the Poor with the City of San Antonio, and as a precinct chair with the Bexar County Democratic Party. This was my first run for office outside of those two positions. The article posted below is from San Antonio College’s student newspaper, the Ranger.

Le Lowry
Board candidate in political office since age 24
By: Amber Whittaker
Posted: 4/6/06

If 30-year-old Le Lowry is elected to the district board, his age won’t be the only characteristic to distinguish him from other trustees. Lowry is opposing incumbent Charles Conner, board chairman and District 7 representative.

Lowry is a Buddhist and a self-described “Army brat” who was raised in South Korea and Okinawa. He now lives with his family on the North Side. The teaching assistant at North East Transition School has struggled with Tourette’s syndrome and bouts of depression stemming from the disorder.

“When you make funny noises, people pick on you. I spent a lot of time on my own,” Lowry said, referring to adolescence before he was diagnosed with Tourette’s.

The disorder, which manifests itself as quick, sporadic grunts instead of the commonly recognized erratic string of words or profanity, was ignored as a quirk until he was 19.
But it is no longer an obstacle for him. “It’s been a source of strength for me,” Lowry said.
He said because of the depression, he may never know consistent happiness, “But I’m going to be damned if I’m going to let someone have a miserable life if they don’t have to.”

That political conviction was strengthened in 1999 when Lowry campaigned in Minnesota for the implementation of a fusion ballot, which would allow candidates to run as a member of multiple parties on the same ballot. Lowry has since abandoned the cause. But not his civic duty. “We have to do more than vote,” he said about young people.

In 2000, Lowry was elected as an alternate to the Community Action Advisory Board as a representative for the poor, as well as a Democratic precinct chair. In January he became a regular member of the Advisory board, which provides oversight for social programs in the city.

Lowry’s political views were influenced by his Army background, where he said his family was part of a community very different from civilian life.

In 1999 before he ran for office, his mother took him to her family home in Vietnam.
“You know that song ‘I left my heart in San Francisco’? Well, I left my heart in Saigon,” Lowry said.

While Vietnam is communist, Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, did not remind Lowry of what he imagined communism to look like. “The city was bustling with life. You don’t see serious and sad people. They are very industrious, very community-minded. Neighbors get involved with each other,” Lowry said.

Lowry has attended college here, as well as the University of Texas at San Antonio and St. Mary’s University. He said he wants the colleges of this district to be a place for the city to gather and for culture to spread to other areas. Lowry is planning informal meet and greets at several coffee shops in town, but he will be running a mostly Internet-based campaign. His Web site is http://www.lelowry.com.

While Lowry said he doesn’t earn enough money on his modest teacher’s assistant salary to spare for an ambitious campaign, he’s not deterred.

“If you can take care of yourself, you have to help other people.”

© Copyright 2007 The Ranger 

On the beginnings of Spring, Allergies, and the Church of Baseball

I went to see our San Antonio Missions play ball yesterday evening. For me it is the start of my home team’s season home opener that is truly the beginning of Spring. That and the first really bad onslaught with allergies.

Picked up a book on the history of the Texas League and got it signed by the writers. Who also encouraged me to write about my experiences as a little league coach while I was a teenager in Korea.

Won small keychains on a spinning wheel, which I gave to two kids sitting next to me during the game.

Later I won a pair of tickets to a future game on the same spinning wheel. I blamed a kid standing next to him for my good fortune and bought him a spin. He won a pair of tickets too.

Bought a fitted Missions on the road ball cap.

Talked about the great Philadelphia Phillies from the early 80s with a teen who’s family is from Philly.

If you were to ask me what religion I practice… it’s the Church of Baseball.

“I believe in the Church of Baseball. I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I learned that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn’t work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there’s no guilt in baseball…

Sometimes it seems like a bad trade, but bad trades are part of baseball. Now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God’s sake! It’s a long season, and you gotta trust it. I’ve tried them all, I really have. And the only church that truly feeds the soul day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball.” – Annie Davoy from Bull Durham

Oh, and I watched a baseball game.

 

On debate challenges and having a big pair of…

Democratic candidate for Texas Comptroller, Mike Collier, has previosly challenged Republican candidate Glenn Hegar to a debate, and never got a response.

Knowing that Glenn Hegar likes to speak at more supportive Tea Party meetings, Mike Collier did what any Texan would do in his situation and again challenged his Republican counterpart to another debate while upping the ante.

Collier said that debate can be at the Tea Party meeting of Hegar’s choosing.

A friend of mine would likely quip that Mike Collier has the biggest pair of ovaries this side of the Red River.

Both the Green Party and Libertarian Party will be choosing their candidates for Comptroller and other elected iffices at their respective state conventions this coming Saturday 12 April.

Spin, spin, spin

I rarely comment on the goings on of Westboro Baptist Church. They have a right to protest and others have a right to counter-protest and I’ll leave it at that. However I noticed the difference between how the church tried to spin a recent protest on Vine compared to a video from a counter-protester on YouTube that showed more of what occurred at the end of the protest.

As is usually the case with political spin like in the Vine, so much is used in order to be taken and out of context by selectively leaving a lot of information out. As an article from the Huffington Post notes, the church abandoned their protest 8 minutes into their planned 30 minute protest, and that the local police made no arrests and stated, “that the crowd remained ‘relatively respectful.'”

The point I am trying to make is, as a consumer of information and as a citizen, it is very important make an effort to understand both sides of the issues that are important to you and at the center of your life. It will certainly allow you to take a more complete look at the world all around you and communities and neighborhoods that we live in and are engaged with in our lives.

Breathe Politics

Some noticed I was commenting on both the President’s State of the Union Address and the Republican Party’s response on my Facebook Page. There’s a reason why I do this to some degree every year and it’s not to change minds in regards to politics but rather to engage in conversation.

I’ve learned this in debating politics in coffee shops and pubs around town; you don’t debate politics to win or to change opinions, rather you debate politics to seek knowledge and (at least for me) to encourage political action through conversation. We can vote and donate our time and money to a candidate or a cause we support, but one vote doesn’t make a difference. However when your one vote is canvassed with other like minded votes that makes a difference.

But even canvassing with other voters will not work, unless you’re unafraid to join the discussion at the coffeeshop, the pub, or the water cooler at work.

A Vision of America

The President’s State of the Union address to Congress is more than a president’s opportunity to lay out his agenda for the coming two years that Congress is in session. It is also an address that lays out a president’s vision of America. I will admit that I have purposely kept myself, somewhat, in the dark about the address itself this time. Instead, I am looking at what I want our president and Congress to accomplish through the lens of my vision of America. That vision, by the way, I am not sharing at the moment.

However, for me the biggest issue our nation faces is income inequality. I recently read a discussion on a friend’s Facebook page asking the question, “What is American Exceptionalism?” American Exceptionalism is rooted in the basis that the United States is the first modern democratic republic, centered around liberty and equality. What makes the United States exceptional is not the power we project throughout the world, but rather that our nation’s beginnings are different than other nations around during our founding and that despite that challenges and shortcoming our nation has faced and continues to face both at home and abroad, we are still here as a nation and exist as one of the oldest democratic republican nations today.

Why mention American Exceptionalism? Because is centered around liberty and equality. I would expect that President Obama will address income inequality at the heart of his State of the Union. This is an issue he has often addressed as President and has just as frequently come up short in finding solutions. It is in his first inaugural address as President that he makes mention as a key to reducing income inequality, it is rooted alongside liberty and equality and is often forgotten. That is community, as a nation we must work collectively as a nation of individuals to reduce income inequality. It is through our government that this can happen. We often talk about big government and limited government and I believe we miss the point of government when we do that. Government, whether it is based in Washington, Austin, San Antonio, or a school district, is a tool for the people. We should talk of a responsible government and that take collective and vigilant action to achieve.

I hope that President Obama talks about a responsive government that works for the people, regardless of is big or limited size. I hope he talks about issue of partisanship in Washington. I hope he talks about the Affordable Care Act, immigration, security, and other issues that are at the center of our lives. I hope he will talk about these in his State of the Union Address to Congress and reminds all of us, that despite our differences, we are in this together, we should not feel the need to go it alone, and that the world is watching America. The world is watching us because of what is suppose to make us exceptional to the rest of the world. That despite our differences, despite our shortcomings, as a nation we will come together to move our nation forward and with it move the world forward as a leader among nations.