Saturday, March 03, 2007

"While I Breathe, I Hope"

“I know the price of success: dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.”

- Frank Lloyd Wright

Breaking through the name recognition barrier in a small city is a challenge. Since I began the stretch run to the City Commission primary I’ve heard the words, Phil who?” more than once. It’s also challenging to fight uphill against the political and social inertia that seems to have descended over this town like the potato blight fell upon my forbearers in Ireland during the nineteenth century.

Even with that, though, I’m hopeful. The incumbents are in my sights. There is some momentum going my way. The message is taking hold, because it’s true and on target. The increase in support is very gratifying!

Unlike most of the other candidates I’m not a native Emporian. My wife Nancy and I came here almost eight years ago as a matter of CHOICE! We could have decided to retire in Florida or even New Mexico. But, beginning with a dream in early 1999, we set our sails toward the Flint Hills and haven’t looked back. We love this city and we love its people. We CHOSE to be here!

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the youngest son of William and Susie Dillon’s three children. I’m a first generation American. My mother was an immigrant from the Canadian Maritimes, having grown up in the little fishing/whaling village of McIvers, Newfoundland in the early part of the twentieth century. My dad died when I was very young and my mother, who had only a third grade education and little in the way of support, had a nervous breakdown soon after his death. She was hospitalized for a good long while and my brother, sister, and I were at times helped by kind strangers and a few relatives. But, for the most part we were wards of the state, living on welfare. If folks wonder why I think the issue of slumlords and the issue of poverty are important to me I can say from first hand knowledge that I know the sting of poverty and I know the sting of benign neglect. I know what it’s like to live on society’s economic margins and I know what it’s like to live with the expectation that my role in life was to be the recipient of someone else’s goodness rather than becoming a productive member of society on my own.

One of the things my brother, sister, and I are most proud of is that we never gave up. Despite her third grade education, my mother never gave up either. She overcame and taught us the value of hard work and the necessity of education. The result of her labor is that we Dillons can justifiably proclaim that Susie Dillon’s children have succeeded. We’ve earned undergraduate and post-graduate degrees and our children have pursued the American dream even further. One day I believe someone from our family may well be the President of the United States or discover the cure for Alzheimer’s.

My family crest (see introduction) is emblazoned with the Latin proverb “Dum spiro spero.” Translated, it means, “While I breathe, I hope.” That says as much about me as anything. I’m a man of hope and it’s grounded in reality. I don’t believe anyone get from point A to B in this life without starting the journey on real terms. In fact, I believe that denying reality is the surest way to failure. My opponents in this campaign have consistently expressed the idea that everything in Emporia is just fine. I say that it’s denying reality and that this city will never become what we want it to be as long as this denial prevails.

A couple of days ago I sent a letter to the Gazette, expressing what I believe is the most hopeful message in this campaign. You see, I believe in the goodness of the people of this city. I believe they want change. I believe they want Emporia to flourish and thrive. I believe we can succed if we decide to change the current reality.

The letter to the Gazette follows. I say it's a message of hope and I’d appreciate any feedback about what I've said, especially from Emporians.

In the forums leading up to the primary some candidates expressed the idea that things in Emporia are okay, that I’m needlessly focusing on negatives. Let me respond.

I don’t think it’s okay that over 5,000 of my fellow Emporians are living in poverty. I don’t think it’s okay that our median household incomes are about the lowest in Kansas. I don’t think it’s okay that businesses are leaving Emporia and downtown development lags. I don’t think it’s okay that we’re caught in a low wage spiral with no end in sight. I don’t think it’s okay that, on a mill levy basis, our taxes are higher than Massachusetts’. I don’t think it’s okay that slum lords profit at the expense of Emporians living on the economic margins. I don’t think it’s okay that 21st century opportunities and jobs paying 21st century wages are passing us by. I don’t think it’s okay that less than 10% of Emporia’s Hispanics and Latinos vote.

In a day or so we’ll all be getting our 2007 valuations. They’re going up and so will our tax bills. I don’t think that’s okay either!

I love this city. I want it to be all that it can be. But I know that won’t happen by denying the current reality.

We need to change that current reality. We can turn things around and Emporia can be the vibrant city we all want. That’s what my campaign is all about! That’s what Phil Dillon is all about!

1 comment:

Josh said...

thanks phil, I like what you have goin here