The struggle is real! The
intergenerational conflict that exists between baby boomers
and millennials or gen Xers is legit.
The boomers feel a lack of
respect regarding their personhood and civic contributions
on the part of younger generations. The older crowd also
feels that they are being ridiculed and portrayed as a group
that needs to be put out to pasture, far away from
productive society, where they are best left to putter
around the house with their flowers or in a rocking chair
“where they belong.”
On the other hand,
millennials, quick to point out perceived hypocrisy wherever
encountered, seem to cry out “I can’t breathe” while grabbed
by the throat and with the baton of leadership used as a
weapon to cut off their wind of opportunity instead of being
passed to them.
The truth is that we fall in
love over and over with the same outdated dysfunctional
political ideas as long as they come bearing new “names” or
labels. And we repeatedly double down on the failed
strategies of the past and are also addicted to resurrecting
the long ago-buried, moldy and mildewed personalities that
have abused us in the past.
With municipal elections
scheduled November 7, the question becomes: Is there a way
to utilize the wisdom and experience of an established
generation while simultaneously incorporating the fresh,
youthful ideas and activities of emerging generations?
To put it another way, can
old dogs learn new tricks? Or, as Kanter (2002) asks, can we
“manage new streams within the mainstream?”
The six at-large
councilpersons that we choose on November 7 hold the answer.
Who will win?
The Sure Things:
The fiscal conservative is one of two Republicans on City
Council. Ludeman, a baby boomer, has served for 22 years and
his re-election is a lock. He is also likely to be top vote
like Ludeman, is also a baby boomer and comes out of
powerful District 2. A political Independent, Spang came to
municipal government late in life and brings her core issue
of priority-based budgeting, a reprogrammed Department of
Neighborhoods and other forward thinking ideas to
Cecilia Adams, PhD brings a storied family history of community leadership to the table
and, like Spang, is a boomer who recently began to serve on
City Council. Adams’ focus is on youth and finance, which
she learned from her many years of teaching and
administrative experience working for Toledo Public Schools.
Three the Hard Way:
The fiercest battles will
take place for spots four through six. If citywide turnout
is higher in the November 7 general election, expect to see
some shuffling of the results that we saw in the primary.
A top six finisher in the primary, yet to be seen is whether
Sykes’ dustup with young activist Julian Mack will affect
his reelection. What an embarrassing mess!! Expect Sykes’
positioning to fall somewhat compared to his finish in the
primary, but probably not out of the top six. However, a
sizable turnout in the white areas could leave this senior
politician on the outside looking in.
A millennial and “fighter for the rights of all people.” The
energy Komives has spent campaigning for environmental
justice and “improving our failing infrastructure” could
bear fruit and catapult him into a top six finish. Komives
has knocked on a ton of doors. Will voters hear his message?
Another millennial who, since the beginning of his
candidacy, has maintained that Toledo needs fresh energy and
leaders who are more focused on looking forward rather than
backwards. Melden’s message of clean, safe and affordable
drinking water should resonate with all of us. Will Sam’s
great media message and hard work be enough to integrate
youth into city government? We will see.
On the Bubble:
A multicultural baby boomer, Johnson finished sixth in the
primary. Johnson, a local businessman with humble roots,
recently had a nice media piece where he was shown touring
Family House, a shelter for homeless families. His alignment
with those who face unfortunate circumstances will help to
capture a lot of the African American and minority vote.
Johnson also has strong backing from the Democratic Party.
Expect Johnson’s battle with millennials Komives and Melden
for the final spot to be extremely tight.
Another boomer, Harvey Savage brings name recognition to the
black community, in particular. Although Savage finished “in
the money” during the primary, the media has taken great
pains to distinguish the candidate from another Savage
family known for their philanthropy. This time, however,
Harvey Savage faces an uphill (but not impossible) battle to
reach the final six.
Middle-aged Kurt Young is a strong and committed candidate
who currently serves as an appointed member of city council.
Young has increased his presence and name recognition in the
African-American community. However, I’m not sure that he
has done enough to enable him to jump from position nine in
the primary to the top six in the general election.
Can we all get along?
For certain, today’s younger
candidates and electorate bring new paradigms both for
living and governing. The younger generations are arguably
more informed and not swayed by old paradigms of influence.
They also are not likely to regard symbolism over substance
and are not afraid (like many boomers) to talk about tough
issues such as race. They also feel free to challenge and
question the status quo (or systems of authority) using what
previous generations regard as “irreverence.”
Yet, in order for
intergenerational conflicts to heal, “new streams of ideals
and activities flowing alongside the established mainstream”
must occur. This true for not only people, but also for
governments and cities.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at