Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Am Not In… But Also Not Out

By Guled Kassim.

I want to take this opportunity to update my friends and neighbors of my decision regarding the 2010 election year. Thanks to many of you and my family for encouraging me to run for an at-large seat on the Montgomery County Council as well as the publicity from the popular blog “Maryland Politics Watch,” I’ve had the benefit of speaking with many people all around the county regarding the critical issue we are facing as a community and the importance of the 2010 election. It goes without saying that my heart has been in public service ever since my early childhood experiences after immigrating to the United States. I’ve always tried to find ways to be of service to others.

I truly feel that we need to take the “sexy” element of campaigning and political positioning out of the critical issues that must be addressed in this County. We are fortunate to have plenty of talented and yet busy politicians, but we sincerely need busy and thoughtful leaders that are able to break through the cloud of political positioning in order to find solutions.

Still, some “progressives” forget that debating yesterday’s arguments may garner success on Election Day, but masking old arguments is far from progressive leadership. Whether it is dealing with the needed infrastructure and/or development pitted against keeping our county green, yesterday’s arguments have only caused stalemates. We can attain a balanced and efficient use of land that respects our environment and maximizes capacity of space so long as we don’t caricature each other.

Our top-notch school system has been recognized across the country. However, to an extent, you get what you pay for. I am a beneficiary of Montgomery county public schools, having immigrated here not speaking any English and can remember being told to read Shakespeare in seventh grade ESOL! However parents today are concerned about issue like the pervasive performance gap in minority students, overcrowding in our classrooms and the high dropout rate amongst minority students that haven’t been resolved as minority students steadily lag behind. There has to be demonstrated evidence of leadership that takes this to heart because the working mothers and fathers need to rely on the schools to teach their children and position them to be the leaders of tomorrow. Parents with failing students are dismayed and will not fall for the old argument of “Resources vs. management” because they simply want their children to succeed in school.

As for the youth, we will fail our children if we don't discuss the connection between the reduction of after school programs and the rise of teenage gang related crimes. Our kids need a safe, secure and modern 21st century learning environment. They also need afterschool programs that teach important skills outside of the classroom, such as teamwork, community service and extended focus on schoolwork. These skill sets allow our society to grow and, more importantly, give our youth a push in the right direction. Small steps such as the county government partnering with local businesses to increase internships opportunities for our high school students can mean the world to a student that is on the brink, because she may very well be that leader of tomorrow.

Our law enforcement personnel are working hard as residents feel less safe in their neighborhoods and homes. With everything from strong-arm robbery, burglary & home invasions and assaults to even some instances murder, we must collectively work hard to make sure the high school and middle school students understand that they have positive options once they get out into the real world. All of these issues connect to each other as nothing happens in a vacuum.

A better-educated and informed young adult is a better-equipped employee. As we are looking to get our county and region’s economy back on the positive again, we need to recognize the value of investing real energy in our youth. We cannot sit hoping that the federal government’s rising currents will sweep us into greener pastures. Small businesses countywide are hurting and ideas such as partnering with the SBA for specialized incentive programs for our county’s small businesses can help. We must begin to think anew to find solutions that are outside of the “political” box.

It is critically important for our elected leaders to retain the integrity of the offices they hold and replenish the faith of the public. As the taxpayers are paying ever-closer attention to how their tax dollars are being spent, they want to see results and not just political positioning. For our Legislators in Annapolis, we want you to “bring home the bacon!” For our County leaders, we need you to manage our resources, as revenue streams are tight.

I have often read and heard and wondered about candidates who state that they aren’t running for office for personal reasons. I have come to realize since my 2006 campaign that running for office is in itself a very personal decision. I commend anyone who throws his/her hat in the ring. While I remain passionate about these and many other issues within the community, I’ve decided to step aside as a candidate for Montgomery County Council for 2010. Thanks to the many folks who have lent me their time and ear in these past several months. Because of you, I am much more informed and committed.

This being an election year, I will focus my energy and time into assisting candidates whose goals are in line with mine as well as focusing on trying to find ways to increase voter turnout in voter-depressed areas. The future is now and as voters we shouldn’t settle for what sounds good, rather we should seek out clear indications of true leadership that is focused on real progress. The 2010 election cycle will be a seminal year for our growing and diverse community.

By the way if our paths cross, please feel free to pull my ear and tell me what great ideas you have for our community. I am willing to listen and learn.

Thanks for taking the time to read.


Guled Kassim
Derwood, Maryland