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Beyond Blame-Shame Politics 

By Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.
The Truth Contributor

 Instead of always looking at the past, I put myself ahead twenty years and try to look at what I need to do now in order to get there then.
                      -  Diana Ross  


Rev. Donald L. Perryman, D.Min.

With several fresh faces equipped with party endorsements for the 2017 local elections, I get the sense that Toledo voters are sick and tired of the traditional blame-shame politics of the past.

 Instead, I surmise, the public is strongly desirous of candidates who cross racial, social and cultural lines but bring effective concrete proposals for rebuilding our city and community.

One such candidate is Sam Melden, a Toledo-born millennial with a background in the nonprofit world. Recently, I had a conversation with Melden to discuss his agenda and message.

Perryman: Iíve been told that you like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream. When it comes to coffee that you will ďdrink it in a box with a fox, on a train or on a plane.Ē What other favorites does ďSam I AmĒ Melden have that readers might not know about?

Melden: Well, two albums I had on the record player most recently were Ray Charles and Paul Simon.  Paul Simon, Graceland is a good one to dance to with the children.  They really like Graceland and then Ray Charles, I mean heís just phenomenal.

I graduated from Lake High School in 2002, which means I followed the NFL in the 90ís when the Dallas Cowboys were Americaís team and won the Super Bowls and Emmitt Smith, so I picked up the sport when they were amazing and very much a fan. 

Perryman: Okay, I ainít mad at you. Iím a Pittsburgh Steeler fan and theyíve got some history with Dallas, but I think we may have the advantage anyway. 

Melden:  I think thatís right.

Perryman: Favorite foods?

Melden:  Oh my gosh. Balance Grille is my favorite restaurant.  I know the owners over there, but then I like a lot of really good healthy local food, like an Asian grill type thing.  But pizza, Iíll take pizza from Calvinoís in West Toledo with some red wine any day. 

Perryman: Okay, great. Letís shift to the topic at hand. You are a candidate for an at-large seat for Toledo City Council. Why should Toledo voters elect Sam Melden and what differentiates you from the other candidates?

Melden:  Well, I think that itís time for Toledo to have some fresh representation and people with a new voice and a new perspective. I donít have a nostalgic view of the city, I have a present-tense and future-oriented perspective.  Iím thinking about what is this city going to be like when my kids are my age.  I donít have this sense of different parties being held downtown in 1980s and so Iím looking forward to what type of city my children and my grandchildren are going to inherit. 

And so, I think Toledoans should vote for me because Iím thinking about the future.  Iím also thinking about everyoneís kids.  Iím thinking about all the different types of families we have in our city and what types of challenges theyíre facing now and what types of opportunities they want for their kids and grandkids moving forward.  So thatís one thing that differentiates me. 

The other thing I would say is that knowing the non-profit world, I have a lot of experience in trying to figure out how to do more with less, and I think that the city government and local elected officials have to figure that out, so we need people who can balance and be financially wise, and also rally a community in a grassroots fashion, and thatís what Iíve been doing.  So those would be a few reasons.

Perryman: Letís talk about your agenda.

Melden:  Sure.  So first of all, I want to say that I think that the role of a city council member is to respond to what comes across their desk every day.  So we can have agendas, we can have ideas moving forward, but really itís about how we respond and what will be our approach to the issues that come up that we didnít even see coming. My approach is to frame that as three simple questions.  The first question is: Is this the best option? Sometimes we get stuck in this either/or, A or B type thinking but the truth is, there might be a different option out there and the role of the city council member is to really do the work looking at all these different cities in a similar position and what theyíve done and what struggles have they had. 

The second question is: Is it the best option for everyone?  Not just one group of people, not just one neighborhood, but is it the best option for everyone?  I think a lot about the common good and I think itís important that different issues that we think about, is this really going to move us forward for everyone in our city, all of the City of Toledo. 

And then the third one is, as I alluded earlier: Is this solution really lined up properly with the day and time that weíre in?  We canít be making decisions based on how this city should have been 15 or 20 years ago or what we think shouldíve happened 10 years ago.  We have to be making decisions based on what the city should look like 10 or 20 years from now.

So thatís how Iím going to approach those issues. And those issues would be certainly water, thatís obviously a really important, a crucial issue in our community and not just safe and clean, but affordable. Also, we canít take our focus off the lake.  Itís our greatest resource that we take for granted all the time, and so we have to be thinking about that.  The other thing I would say that is an important piece of my agenda is being forward thinking relative to our economic development success in our community, jobs, like real good living wage viable jobs in our community.  That goes back to the future orientation that I have on these different things, so I think that thatís a big piece of it. 

The last item would be neighborhoods.  I have a real thorough vision for how we have more engaged neighborhoods that are more about being neighbors than being watchdogs. We have certain neighborhoods who are doing well and other neighborhoods who arenít, and the role of a city council person is to connect, create better efficiencies and effectiveness in our neighborhoods, help address issues. 

Perryman: You have frequently used the terms common interest, common good and common ground. I am intrigued.

Melden:  For me, it really begins with my faith personally. Iím interested in local politics for the same reason Iím interested in non-profit work, and the same reason I was really interested in being involved in ministry and leading a church, but not in the sense of trying to dictate the way people lived in the privacy of their own home.  We have this really unhealthy relationship between faith and politics, but because I see these similarities, and the church, just like a city government structure, and elected body and neighborhood organization, the central question theyíre trying to answer is how to we share life together? How do we do that?  How do we organize ourselves along the path in sharing life together?  What are our values?  How do we organize that pursuit? And so, for me, itís really important to remember the ďweĒ and the ďtogetherĒ in that. 

So the reason Iím drawn to elected office and then running for this is because I think we need more elected officials and people leading in our city that remember that their job is to represent everyone in the community, those who voted for me, those who didnít vote at all and those who voted against me.  Once Iím in that seat, my job is to represent all of the community.  And so for me, you have to think about what we hold in common.  What is this pursuit as we organize life together?  And that plays into issues like water or like Kroger. There are ways that you can break open all of these really politicized issues and ask how is this serving the whole of our community, not just one piece?  And so thatís a guiding principle in my life and itís certainly a driving source of motivation for me as I get into office.

Itís because weíre all human beings trying to organize and pursue this life together - whether thatís called the City of Toledo, whether thatís called St. Andrews Episcopal Church where my wife and I attend, or whether thatís call the Neighborhood Association that youíre a part of.  Theyíre just different ways that weíre trying to organize life together. 

Perryman: Thank you very much, Sam.

Melden:  Okay, itís always good to talk with you.

Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at drdlperryman@centerofhopebaptist.org



Copyright © 2017 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08/16/18 14:12:35 -0700.



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