Today, I learned that I have more to learn about sensitivity when dealing with issues of importance to transgendered people.
Each year, on April 1st, we have a little tradition of posting an April Fools article to pull the legs of our readers. It’s one of the things I usually look forward to, because those fake stories are fun to write, and we usually end up with a few people writing in to tell us they had us going for a minute, or that we fooled them for a brief time. April 1st isn’t the only time we’ve written satire, but there is usually a little bit of difference between the infrequent satire we do here, and the nonsense we run on April Fools.
Regular satire sort of starts and ends with absurdity, and unless one is extremely gullible, it’s pretty clear it’s satire from start to finish. This bit of tomfoolery by “Josh N. Yoo” about color-changing garbage cans is a good example of that.
With the April Fools jokes, the idea is to see if we can fool you for a paragraph or two, have you questioning by a couple more, and have you laughing well before the end and whatever we’re lampooning. Throughout the year, I jot down ideas and anxiously await the chance each April 1st to see who I can fool.
This past year, I went to a tour of a new Lewisville ISD facility where staff were taking visitors around and showing them the new building’s amenities, including the ample restroom and locker facilities for both men and women. A somewhat awkward part of that tour was when the group all went into the women’s locker room - a place that as a young teen, I might have loved to visit, but was just a little weird to me as a cis-gendered adult male to visit. At one point, we we were shown one of the women’s rooms there, and having my camera out to cover the tour, I snapped a photo of our now-retired and also male superintendent walking into the women’s room. I never posted that photo at the time, but sort of had in the back of my mind that it might make good fodder for some sort of April Fools day silliness.
Now, I recently have read about the plight of our transgendered brothers and sisters, who find themselves unwelcome in public restrooms by people who for reasons I can’t understand, resort to all sorts of bullying and shaming tactics on them. I guess there is an assumption there, that a human being who needs to use the toilet might be there instead as some way to satisfy some type of sexual fetish. I personally think that is preposterous, and believe that using the toilet is a personal, private human function that just doesn’t or shouldn’t lend itself to that. But taking into account people’s regressive attitudes toward transgendered individuals, it should be a no-brainer for large public buildings to provide gender-neutral bathrooms. And this is not just to accommodate the transgendered, but basically anyone who might need extra privacy, or perhaps some help using the toilet due to a disability. Throw in the fact that parents or other adult caregivers often need to deal with children who need to use the toilet, and must either bring the child into a restroom opposite to the child’s gender, or send the child in alone.
Having followed the Lewisville City Council and city elections for years, it has become clear to me that it helps the discussion to lay out some framework on what types of qualifications make a good council member. As candidates announce their campaigns, we can examine them in light of these qualifications rather than the more squishy criteria of who we like, and who is most popular.
So here's my current list of what I consider to be qualifications:
• Has high intellectual capacity, and able to look beyond the superficial and quickly understand the nuance and complexity of the issues that face government.
• Has lived in the City of Lewisville a sufficient length of time to understand the demographics, the trends, the history, and the shared values of our citizens. Definitely not less than 5 years, but preferably more than 10.
• Has an up-to-date voter registration and a good history of voting in all elections, especially local ones, which evidence a long-term concern for local issues.
• Has consistently followed City Council actions, attended meetings, workshops, budget hearings, and retreats. Given that all of the meetings are open to the public, a candidate should have actively attended meetings-- not only to stay up-to-date on the issues frequently discussed, but to show a dedication and availability that will be required once they get on Council.
• Has demonstrated leadership by serving on one or more of the City's boards or commissions.
• Has demonstrated commitment to the City by volunteering for, or supporting one or more of the City's non-profit or civic groups.
• Is more dedicated to the City of Lewisville than to a political party or ideology. Partisan politics have ruined Washington and Austin. They cloud judgement and make it hard to work together for pragmatic solutions.
• Is not using the office for personal achievement or gain, or as a stepping stone to higher office. Time and time again we see politicians who see municipal service as nothing more than a platform for grandstanding and demagoguery. These people waste city resources and create strife, then run for higher office, leaving others to deal with the consequences and cleanup.
• Understands the relationship between city services, property values and quality of life.
• Demonstrates compassion for mankind by charity.
• Lives to a high standard of ethics in all that they do.
• Pays their taxes. The biggest part of the City Council's role is to set the budget and corresponding tax rate each year. It is hypocrisy for a council member not to be current on their city taxes.
• Puts the health and safety of the citizens above all else.
• Capable of listening to multiple points of view, and ensuring that all concerns are heard and addressed.
• Dedicated to seeking truthful information-- not just the information that may support their particular view on something.
• Doesn't have character flaws or a severe or untreated mental illness that would interfere with or distract from accomplishing the City's business.
• The candidate should not have an axe to grind. In other words, he or she should not be running because of a strong feeling or passion about one issue, or because the council ticked you off about something. The person MUST be able to put single issues behind them and focus on all the other issues that will come before them without having their judgment clouded by holding grudges over votes on the issue they feel strongest about. (Borrowed from Ken, below)
• Has the ability to understand the differences between local, state, and federal government issues, and work within the scope and constraints imposed on local government from above. (Borrowed from BC - via Facebook)
• Must be honest and truthful, and hold truthfulness as a strong personal value. Liars have no business in a position of public trust. Honesty is paramount.
Happy New Year! As we reflect on the year that just passed, and spend time in reflection thinking about what we will make of 2015, we thought it would be nice to share some wishes for our community in 2015.
Violence happens everywhere, and Lewisville is not immune. This does not define who we are as a community, but it represents a risk to each of us who live here. We don’t really have answers to this complex problem, but finding ways to reduce the violence in our community would be our highest wish for Lewisville in 2015.
#2: Finishing the Plaza The Old Town Park Plaza / Ferguson Plaza project has been a long time in the making for Lewisville, and it’s beyond time to wrap it up and get it completed and opened to the public. Delays have been a source of frustration and loss for businesses in Old Town Lewisville. The park will be a beautiful place to relax and have a picnic lunch or let the kids play in the water on a hot summer day. It will host all types of outdoor events and festivals, and just be a pretty place to hang out. The contractor said they would have the park done by April 1st, 2015, but we hope that is not just an April Fools joke. There has been good movement on this lately, so we truly hope it's done before then.
As I sip my coffee this morning, and take a moment to reflect on what I'm thankful for this year, all the normal things come to mind. Of course, I'm thankful for supportive friends and family, a good job, good health, a roof over my head, and plenty to eat. I'm thankful to live in a place of relative calm, in a community where a lot of good people give of themselves day after day, going above and beyond to make this a better place to live. Everything I said in last year's Thanksgiving message still applies.
But sometimes it takes tragedy before you truly understand some of the things we have to be thankful for. We have all watched with some mixture of frustration, disgust, disappointment, and anger, the events unfold in Ferguson, Missouri over the past months and days.
We all understand that police have an inherently dangerous job, and that they sometimes have to use deadly force to protect themselves and the public. The controversy in Ferguson had many facets, including a terrible municipal court, a police department that wasn't very representative of the population, and some questionable decisions after the Brown shooting that served to escalate the situation. We won't even go into the other factors in the Ferguson situation, but there is plenty of blame to go around.
My point is that yesterday in Lewisville, we had a very dangerous criminal that police were pursuing, and it could have turned out much worse in so many ways. A man pulled a shotgun and tried to carjack people. He pointed the gun at Lewisville police and pulled the trigger. Our police returned fire and stopped the man from being a further danger. These things are what they train for, and what is expected of our police officers. They go to work each day knowing that the gun on their hip is more than a decoration, and that they may be called to make a split-second decision to use deadly force to protect a citizen or protect themselves.