I’m a Californian. But, for over two years, I’ve resided in D.C. This city has widened my opportunities, and provided me a sense of community. Yet, during this time, I’ve lived and thrived within its borders while retaining my vote in California. Last month, realizing the fallacy in doing so, I finally let go. I am now a proud, registered Washington voter.
My excitement over this evoked a lackluster response—“Why bother? It’s not like your vote really counts anyway.”
However, it does count. Voting locally is important because it is the foundation for a sense of community pride and the
growing importance of local innovation.
During the October shutdown of the federal government, Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak pushed back to criticism of D.C. that it’s simply a cesspool of corrupt politicians. She described “Our Town,” the true community here composed of the many who keep this city vibrant and running, from sanitation workers to coffee shop owners.
During October, I also participated in a learning circle on gentrification with the Housing for All Campaign. This community dialogue echoed research I had previously read on the topic, revealing that a large piece of the discontent resulting from gentrification stems from the feeling of losing one’s sense of community. New residents owe it to long-term residents to be involved in the process of community growth. Yet, cities become inundated with new residents who keep their ties elsewhere and don’t connect with their new neighborhood unless they want to change something that doesn’t meet their preexisting expectations of how a community should be. They reap the benefits of a historic, happening city, but if this is done without being cognizant to the needs of an existing community fabric, then it becomes detrimental to securing a strong foundation of community pride.
This strong foundation is essential because innovation at the community level has the potential to make a big impact on critical social issues, such as homelessness — the one I moved to D.C. to end.
At first glance, ending homelessness may seem an insurmountable task. However, when distilled down to the local level, some cities, including Phoenix and Salt Lake City, which have already ended chronic Veteran homelessness, are well on their way. D.C. also committed to this challenge last January, launching The Way Home, a campaign to end chronic homelessness in D.C. The campaign uses community-level, proven best practices, such as Housing First, in order to give a home to our most vulnerable populations.
With real change evidenced as occurring locally, voting locally then only grows in significance. Ending homelessness in D.C. is important to me, and if I want to be able to voice that, I need to be able to vote for a mayor who feels the same.
This is, in fact, Our Town, so let’s commit to it. Let’s show we are a voting people who care about the future of this community for both those who have been here all their lives and those just arriving. On April 1, let’s vote locally.