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Labels and the Homecoming Parade

While walking in the UI Homecoming Parade Friday night (which was such a cool experience) I was greeting attendees and handing out flyers. As I passed by, a gentleman asked me “What are you?” I answered back with a smile “I’m running for City Council in Iowa City!”

“No,” he answered back, “WHAT are you, a communist or…what?” Then I understood the original question. He wanted one word or phrase that encapsulated who I was. After thinking for second, I said “I’m Jason”, handed him a flyer, and moved on. If I must define myself with one word, that’s it.

I like to think I’m a hard person to label, and I imagine most people feel the same way, including candidates for office. A thousand words would not be enough to do so.

I’m not naïve. I know our politics and discussions of issues have increasingly been reduced to labels and bumper sticker solutions. Or worse, cherry picking one aspect of who you are and making that the label that encapsulates you. I’m running, in part, to make my small contribution to changing that approach. I’ve done so by being more transparent about who I am and what I’ve done than any local candidate I can remember. I’ve published numerous detailed statements about issues, including on contentious ones, and been clear about how I would vote and where I’ve disagreed with votes of others.

While this has invited attack, sometimes quite personal and vulgar, I believe it is right and what leaders should do. I will continue this approach as a member of the city council. Maybe my campaign has been a bit of an experiment to test whether voters welcome that approach.

Whatever the outcome of the election on November 2nd, I’m proud of the campaign I’ve run. All I can do is be as forthcoming and transparent as I can about what I believe, who I am, what I’ve accomplished, what my positions are, and my plans and goals for Iowa City. I have done that and will continue to for the next two weeks. The voters will decide how to judge those things and what they will base their vote on. If that’s one word, so be it. I look forward to seeing the results.

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