Update – Happy Mutant defeated in wave of library millage back lash

June 18, 2012

Hi All,

If you don’t know or haven’t guessed I lost the election for  a seat on the Troy (Michigan) City Council.  I now know why people suggest writing your “concession speech” before the election is over.  Losing an election is depressing enough as it is and writing / talking about losing (even 6 months afterwards) is hard.  Writing about it right after wards was a bit too hard for me apparently.  I had also put into the election as much as I possibly could and so I was mentally and physically exhausted afterwards.

Running for office is the toughest personal endeavor I have ever undertaken.  As a rehash my city has 80,00 people, 56,000 who were registered.  About 14,700 people voted in the election.  There were 3 spots on the Council up for election.  The winners of those spots were Doug Tietz (not a candidate I supported) , Dave Henderson (not a candidate I supported), and a candidate I did support, Jim Campbell.  The winner of the mayoral election was a local Tea Party activist named Janice Daniels.

When I saw that Mayor Daniels had won, I knew this election results was shaped by a backlash from the library millage.  From the beginning I would have thought my election prospects dim in an election which the electorate chose her over a well qualified person at the time already on the City Council named Robin Beltramini.  This showed the nature of the anti-incumbency mood, which likely hurt me a little bit, as I was distributing Robin’s literature along with mine.

Due to “statements Daniels made about homosexuality before and after she took office, perceived disregard of the city charter and City Council protocol, and her vote against the city’s transit center”, mayor Daniels will likely face a recall this November.”

This past election was close.  If I had earned 1,500 more votes, or 3,6% of the total I would have won.  On its own it’s not bad, especially if you consider the other 2 candidates who had not appeared on a city wide ballot before combined got less votes than I did.

It is even better when you consider I was also hit the hardest in the negative campaign ads by the local right wing extremists.  The politicized a personal family tragedy.  When they hit me, quite a few supporters were clearly uncomfortable with my marijuana reform activism.  My opponents still think medical marijuana is a bad idea and most of them think that prison is a good way to deal with users of marijuana.  They think my work to reform marijuana laws makes me unsuitable for office.

I believe not only that  jail is a bad way to deal with with people who use marijuana but that we can better protect our young people and society from the undeniable negative effects that marijuana has on some people by legalizing Marijuana and regulating it.  Reasonable people can disagree on what the best policy is, but most it seems clear to me from the book called the New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander that Marijuana Laws are essentially a tool by social conservatives to use fear for political advantage.  It has been terribly successful historically, as it plays on the darkest elements of humanity.  While  my opponents claims this means I have questionable family values, I believe it is actually a testament to my family values and my commitment to my principles that I fight a battle I believe is right despite the unjust political wrath of social conservatives.

The reality is that Marijuana laws were not at the center of this campaign, but these right wing extremists tried and are still trying to impugn my character based on my advocacy against the failed Drug War.  I tended to shy away from my advocacy for Marijuana reform during the campaign, something I now regret.  At the time I was trying to keep together a fragile unofficial electoral slate of 2 Republicans, and 2 Democrats working in a non partisan fashion for the good of the city.  In the end my opponents failed to capitalize on the issue.  Indeed I it may have even helped me a bit, it is hard to say for sure.

I learned so very much from the process, and there were a lot of moral victories along the way.  Clearly one of my favorite moments was being Boing Boined-ed.  The happy mutant community was so very generous.  I want to thank you all for the moral and financial support.  You all should have received a hand written thank you note by now, if you donated to my campaign.  If not I politely ask that you send me an email at neil{at}voteneil[dot]org, so I can thank you appropriately.  It was really important for me to properly appreciate those who my efforts possible.

While the short term result was not what we had hoped for, I am optimistic about our ability to use this experience to enable our long term success in all sorts of endeavors.  If any happy mutants would like some campaign advice feel free to shoot me an email.

While I was outspent, I believe my single biggest reason for losing was not enough time knocking on doors.  I believe if I would have done that for 100 hours, instead of the 65 or 70, I would have made it.  In addition to the 1500 or so doors I knocked on, I also called about 2000 people in the last week of the election in an effort to get out the vote.

The reality of the situation was that because my primary concern was  winning the second library millage election, until about 100 days before hand I had a very shortened time frame to campaign.  I was also working full time, helping raise 3 kids, coaching my 8 year old’s soccer team.  I essentially devoted every weekend from 11 am to 6 pm for 4 months to knocking on doors.  At times it can be a very unpleasant task, with people slamming their door in your face simply for running for an elected office.

Just after that though, you can meet an amazing public school teacher who completely gets what you are trying to do, and why you are trying to do it.  I was so humbled when she offered $20 in support of my campaign, knowing she had recently taken a pay cut, but she recognized the importance of standing up for what you believe in and wanted to put her money where her mouth was, since I was standing up for what I believed in.

The best thing about running for office, despite the odds being against me was that I was an example to my kids that you need to stand up for what you believe in.  You may not win, but you will never win if you don’t try.  So I encourage you all to get more involved in the political process.  There are all sorts of courageous examples across the democratic and non democratic worlds.  You can make a difference, especially if you are in it for the long haul.  You will be amazed at what you can get done if you sit through a few un-enteraining meetings for the sake of humanity.  Thanks again for all your support!

the punishment of leadership

November 3, 2011

This is from a famous Cadillac Ad from 1915.


In every field of human endeavour, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward and the punishment are always the same. The reward is widespread recognition; the punishment, fierce denial and detraction. When a man’s work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be mediocre, he will be left severely alone – if he achieves a masterpiece, it will set a million tongues a-wagging. Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a commonplace painting. Whatsoever you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive to surpass or to slander you unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done, those who are disappointed or envious, continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountback, long after the big would had acclaimed him its greatest artistic genius. Multitudes flocked to Bayreuth to worship at the musical shrine of Wagner, while the little group of those whom he had dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could never build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the river banks to see his boat steam by. The leader is assailed because he is a leader, and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy – but only confirms once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as human passions – envy, fear, greed, ambition, and the desire to surpass. And it all avails nothing. If the leader truly leads, he remains – the leader. Master-poet, master-painter, master-workman, each in his turn is assailed, and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial. That which deserves to live – lives.


That about sums up my thoughts for the day.

Troy Police Officers Association endorsesment

September 23, 2011

I got word that I have the endorsement of the Troy Police Officers Association. I am honored that they would find me worthy of their endorsement. Few people put more on the line for our cities well being than these hard working men and women. Thank you for your service and thank you for your support.

Why I fight for Medical Marijuana, because it affected my family

September 23, 2011

My aunt Beatrice died just over 5 years ago.  When she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer it was already in stage 4 meaning it had metastasized and spread throughout her body.  The doctor was upfront that her treatment was about extending her life not curing her.  Seven months after her diagnosis she was dead from cancer anorexia.

This means that she more or less starved to death.  I wouldn’t wish that fate on my worst enemy.  The experience of watching someone you love not only waste away before your eyes, but refuse to eat no matter what delicious favorite food was offered is almost unbearable.

She was given a prescription called Megace to enhance her appetite.  Its failure to enhance her appetite was obvious.  When I asked the doctor about alternatives, and specifically the prescription medication Marinol, which is a synthetic version of one of the active ingredients in Marijuana *, he said in his professional opinion, if we were not afraid to “get it off the streets” then marijuana or Cannabis to use its scientific name, worked as a better medicine.

The reason why, was simple to anyone who cared to observe it objectively:

  1. The effect came on very quickly if you vaporize it or smoke it.
  2. It is much easier to control the dosage of a medicinal herb than a pill.  Marijuana was most effective for my aunt when she smoked it.  It was very easy to control the dosage.  She could take a little bit, and if she needed more medicine she could take a bit more.  The effect came within a few minutes.  Marinol, in pill form, cannot offer the same control.  It takes hours to start working, and you cannot take a little bit at a time.
  3. It worked better in relieving her symptoms and stimulating her appetite then Megace ever did.  This was the most important part.  Other medicines were ineffective and inferior.
This also matched the anecdotal experience my mother had working as a nurse in a woman’s oncology ward at Hutzel Hospital for many years.

This left me in a terrible dilemma, that I put to you.  Would you rather watch your loved one suffer unnecessarily and strictly follow the law?  Or would you instead break the law and procure the illegal medicine that would help ease the suffering of a dying family member who helped raise you?  In the end I decided that I would rather break man’s law, and follow my conscience.

I didn’t take this decision lightly.  I am a father of three children and I put my ability to provide for them at risk if I got caught.  If it wasn’t wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your family, than it didn’t seem to be wrong to break the law so that your family could eat bread or anything else for that matter.

So I followed the doctors advice and got some marijuana “off the streets”, and I rest easy at night with that choice.  While my aunt’s life was beyond saving, her quality of life was dramatically improved by medical marijuana.

One month before she died, and right before hospice was involved she was checked into the hospital.  As was the custom, I got a delicious meal from one of her favorite restaurants and before we started eating, I wheeled her out for as she called it, her “appetite enhancer”.

It was a beautiful summer night, and we sat quietly enjoying a peaceful moment or two as she medicated.  What had been very tranquil soon became hostile.  Two security guards approached and asked what we were doing.  Perhaps naively, I thought that if I simply explained that we were following her doctors orders they wouldn’t bother us.  They told me to stop what she was doing and I had to wheel her inside.  I begged them to call her oncologist and confirm that this was indeed his recommendation.

They would have none of it.  Then they told me the worst sort of lie, that she was too sick to be outside, when sadly she was too close to death to be inside a hospital.  It was very clear that my aunt was becoming very concerned for my well being.  She told me to listen to them, and reminded me they were just doing their jobs.  This made me more upset not less.

Could it be true that this security guard’s job was to prevent a patient from following her doctor’s advice?  Objectively, she was right, they were to use the infamous phrase, “just following orders”.  This meant that the security guard could overrule the doctor despite his decade of training and 30+ years practicing medicine.  It boggled my mind.

After my aunt passed it became clear to me that I couldn’t stand by while other families went through similar circumstances.  It is why I worked hard to help pass proposal 1 in 2008 in Michigan that legalized medical marijuana.  Now, families don’ t have to chose between following their doctor’s orders and violating this State’s law.

The battle didn’t end there.  Some politicians continue to inject themselves into the doctor-patient relationship.  They claim they can judge who is sick and who is not.  They do it for political gain.

I felt that it was important to clarify the law which is why I drafted, the Beatrice Solomon Patient and Caregivers Protection Resolution.  It sought to clarify the rights of patients and caregivers while still allowing local governments to regulate Medical Marijuana using zoning ordinances.  It was adopted as part of the Michigan Democratic 2011 Party’s Platform.

I have also tried to work with law enforcement officials to provide the perspective of someone who has seen the benefits of medical marijuana.  We shouldn’t place more onerous restrictions on this medicine than we do for narcotics.

Patients are struggling just to stay alive, and their care givers are doing everything in their power to make it possible.  Politicians shouldn’t make their lives harder by passing onerous restrictions.  They definitely shouldn’t use language that doesn’t differentiate between legitimate users and abuse that no one condones.

When they do, it is the obligation of those who know the truth first hand to speak up and protect those who are too weak to protect themselves or no longer alive to tell their story.  It is why I am very proud of my work to reform marijuana laws.

p.s. I generally prefer the scientific name Cannabis for the genus of plant that it refers to, but that term is unfortunately not recognized by many people

p.p.s. In case you are wondering I am against the criminalization of any marijuana usage because the only thing worse for kids than drugs is prison.

p.p.s.  Looks like the California Medical Assocation agrees with me: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2011/10/16/california-medical-association-wants-marijuana-legalized/

Thursday was a good day, could tomorrow be better?

September 23, 2011

Thursday was a great day!  I have another $1,000 in hand which puts me just a little bit under half way there.  I also got 2 terrific endorsements, which I will highlight in separate posts.

Tomorrow could be better, especially with your help.  Tomorrow starting at 8 a.m. I will be launching a money bomb, or 24 hour internet fund raiser.  Frankly this worked so well the last time around I am a bit hesitant to try it again.  I don’t really have the luxury of not trying.

Next week my first big mailer goes out.  It will cost around $3,500.  Technically this is more money than I have in hand now, but that is a minor detail.  I am confident that if we work together we can not only pay for that mailer, but we can give me a little breathing room to keep knocking on doors.

Stay tuned, more info coming soon!

Fundraising update

September 22, 2011

Thank you all so much everyone who has donated so far.  The 3 day total of cash in hand is $1,300 so far.    That is really great.  I also have commitments for another $1,100.  This combined puts us just under half way to go.  This may come down tot the wire, but I can see the momentum starting to build.

I also received the endorsement of the Troy Fire Staff Officers Association.  I was told that they agreed unanimously to provide their endorsement.

Thank you very much, TFSOA, I will work as hard as possible to do you proud.

A brief post

September 20, 2011

Today was a good day.  I got word of a great endorsement, but I will not say yet who until I have their letter in my hand.  This endorsement will likely be the most important one of the campaign.

Day 2 of the 5k in 5 days is just beginning.  Day 1 got off to a bit of a slow start, but I believe the ball is starting to gain some momentum, so I am eager for the next couple of days.

Can you lend me some help funding my campaign?  I cannot do it alone.  Please help here.

So very tired, but got to remember my reader

September 19, 2011

Didn’t want to goto bed without at least one post to the blog for the day.  Got in another 3 hours of canvassing today which is was good, but I can do better.

I had a very good conversation with a principal at a Troy Public Elementary School while I knocking on doors.  We talked about how the city’s hands are tied in its ability to help its schools out thanks to Proposal A.  In my mind just another in a long list of failed tax reforms.

Proposal A has not only failed to deliver parity in outcomes in kids in different communities, but it has also failed in its promise to not hurt communities with traditionally strong academics.  These districts use to get what was called Double J funding, as they pay a lot more into the system per person than other districts.

That has been eliminated, and we as a city are forbidden from giving our school districts more money if we choose from.  Am I the only one outraged by this usurping of our choice?  From my talk today I believe there is at least one more.  How about you?

Another day another post

September 18, 2011

Another day of hitting the bricks, another day of good questions.  Hear are some questions I got today while canvassing and the answers I found out so far:

Q. Do churches or businesses pay when they get extra police help?

In the case of temporary traffic assistance the Troy Police Department will help direct traffic to relive the congestion.

Some churches and large retail operations pay for dedicated patrols for specific events.

Q. How big is the budget of the City of Troy?

The total City budget is $133.7 million.  It is a decrease of $7.4 million or 5.2% from the previous year. A substantial portion of the decrease is attributable to the reduction of employees through attrition and lay-offs, which were necessitated by the reduction of taxable value and state shared revenue. source

Keep up the good questions, people!







Another day another 2.5 hours of door knocking

September 17, 2011

Well it was a productive day on the street meeting the people of Troy.  If you don’t like canvasing then you will unlikely have much luck in politics, unless you are rich or famous; ideally both.

As Michael Franti said, “the more I see the less I know”, which is another way of saying that you only learn how much you still have to learn by learning more.  The best way to learn more as far as I can tell is talking to voters.  I won’t offer conclusions now, because there are as you would expect a variety of opinions.

It is good to have the chance to listen and try to understand what are common themes.  More on that in the not too distant future.