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  • Writer's pictureReginald Henderson

The Year of the Cicada

Just like cicadas, political yard signs have swarmed our community’s every street corner, neighborhood, and main road. The Brood X group of cicadas are expected to appear by the billions this summer after 17 years of life underground, and political candidates seem to be following suit. Out of almost nowhere, our communities have been painted with the branded images of candidates running for office.

Everywhere I turn, “so and so for Mayor, so and so for Dayton, so and so for Commission.” I understand helping folks remember your name but cluttering our green spaces with it is an eyesore. I shouldn’t have to see your name 15 times on Harvard between Salem and Broadway or as I pass every open lot on Cornell. There are 10 candidates so the number of yards signs can easily rack up to 50 in a given area. Our neighborhoods already have enough problems with trash in the street, now we have trash in out yards too.

I say trash, not to criticize any particular campaign, but this is a hot mess. Its heavy on the promotion and low on participation. A yard sign doesn’t inspire anyone to vote. It doesn’t encourage unity or solidarity. It doesn’t improve the aesthetic of our spaces. If it does anything, it distracts me. You throw these signs out desperately to get a loose grip of the Black vote, but it’s working backwards. We know you’re running for office, you don’t have to throw it in our face.

The way you flood our streets with yard signs is symbolic of the same thought process we experience from current elected officials. Oversaturation of things we don’t need. When there is an obvious need for better food and housing, the mayor and commission gave us Issue 9 with more police, preschool, and park improvements. When there is an obvious need for healthcare, they allowed a hospital to vacate and add more abandoned land on the West side. When there is obvious segregation between East and West Dayton, they spent over $.5 million to protect a racist, hate group. We don’t need nor want more of the same.

We are better served by people who dare to be different, who take a practical approach to acquiring leadership. You earn it. Anyone can jump out there solo or even a pair to put their name on the ballot. It doesn’t make you special, it makes you responsible. You are trying to convince voters not of your superior candidacy, but your ability to positively impact lives. If you aren’t already doing that in publicly visible ways, why would anyone believe you’ll be any different from the current government? Why should anyone give you a chance, if you never took a chance on them?

Now, I could understand the sign war if the numbers of yards signs were an indicator of who’d win, but that, thankfully, isn’t the case. Let me put you on game. If you want a sign in a park or vacant area, pick up the trash, cut the grass, ask close neighbors how abandoned houses impact their lives. If you want us to know you care, beautify the area with some residents before you put a sign out, talk to us about getting basketball rims back, find out about pressing issues on our streets. If you want visibility, build relationships that would inspire someone to vouch for you when you’re not around. A t-shirt or button could go a long way. We want leaders who address and remedy even the smallest problems in our communities. Yard signs do neither.

Besides, yard signs are meaningless without the backing of the people. It’s the weight of the people that keep yard sign intact on windy mornings and stormy nights. It’s the coordination of the people that elect you to office. It’s the organization of the people that will secure your leverage as a politician. Understand that if anyone wants to combat the Montgomery County Democratic Party for influence in local politics, you’ll fail without a strong network of invested individuals and groups.

To clarify, if you want to galvanize people to act, get active on service. Review, or pay a young professional to review, the Campaign Finance Handbook to explore innovative ways to utilize campaign funds. Be creative with how you promote yourself in physical spaces. Re-imagine your efforts to build your brand. West Dayton lacks an elected leader. Be someone West Dayton can be proud to count on. There is NO MORE space for candidates who beat around the bush, play it safe, and/or depend on yard signs. Take a stand with us or take a “L” with your yard signs.

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