A better, brighter, bolder future

Categories:  News & Politics    Opinion
Wednesday, February 1st, 2017 at 12:00 PM
A better, brighter, bolder future by Almi Clerkin
Maitham Basha-Agha

I have had the pleasure of leading the Erie Playhouse, our award-winning community theatre, through major transitions these past 10-plus years, with a dedicated staff and board. It’s been an enormous privilege to steer one of our city’s largest and most respected arts organizations through its 100th season and into its second century.

When I announced my intention to run for mayor, I surprised a few people. After all, I have never run for office. But many people – especially those who know me best – were not surprised. They know that I’m passionate about Erie, where I have lived for more than 50 years. To them, and to me, running for mayor makes sense.

But just being passionate about Erie does not mean you will be a great mayor. It takes tenacity, administrative experience, and a get-things-done attitude. Just as I felt called to public service in the nonprofit sector, I feel called to serve in a new way: as your next mayor. I have both the passion and the experience being mayor demands.

Yet, for me, being mayor won’t be a job, or a line on my resume. It’s not a step toward some bigger, more ambitious political goal; it’s a vocation. It cannot be done by sitting behind a desk. Erie’s next mayor must be engaged and energetic, must provide inspiring and creative leadership, and must have a strong vision that includes building coalitions and partnerships to move Erie forward.

I am not a politician, and frankly, I never planned to be one. Growing up in my family, serving others was what we did. If you can hold out a hand to a neighbor or a stranger, to make their day a little better, their load a little lighter, you did it. Those are the values that were strengthened in me by my parents, Alex and Jean Clemente, and at St. Peter’s, Villa, and Gannon.

My dad used to say to my brothers Sal and Paul and me, “Plan the work, work the plan.” For decades, we’ve listened to career politicians promise change, commission studies, and develop plans. But the direction that is needed hasn’t come to Erie yet. Erie’s done a lot of planning. It is time to turn those plans into action.

The Erie Refocused Comprehensive Plan lays a detailed roadmap to move Erie forward. You can find all 106 pages online at almiforerie.com. Combine that with elements from Emerge 2040: A Focused Partnership for the Erie Region’s Future, and the Erie Downtown Partnership Master Plan, as well as detailed neighborhood plans, and a 21st century Erie begins to takes shape.

We can create opportunity by cultivating innovation and entrepreneurship. Let us build on the strengths of our existing businesses, colleges and universities, and the nonprofit sector. Erie is a great place to start a business. We will promote and strengthen our economy and expand the tax base by supporting employers, large and small. That means working to connect people with resources – something I’ve done my entire career.

And we can build better neighborhoods. A strong neighborhood needs strong partners. Let’s empower community organizations and associations so that our neighborhoods have the resources they need to address poverty, drug addiction, struggling schools, unemployment, and neighborhood beautification.

We can restore hope in our community. Every resident on every block in every neighborhood of our city deserves to live in a safe, livable, and healthy environment. We will protect our citizens and those who pledge to keep us safe. No parent should lose a child to violence. Every life has value. Children should be free to be children, and no dream for the future is too big or too bold. I am running for their future.

We can champion Erie throughout the region and state. I will visit Harrisburg and other prominent cities at least 50 times in my first term to promote our city, assets, natural resources, and our greatest resource: our people. I’ll also look to other cities that have rebounded from tough times to see what might work in Erie. Our state leaders will know and respect our hometown and understand its importance to the entire northwestern Pennsylvania region.

I believe that Erie’s best days are yet to come. These past few weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed and excited by people who stop me on the street, total strangers who say “Hey aren’t you that lady from TV? The one running for mayor? Thank you for running and thank you for being positive.”

I can’t help but be optimistic about Erie’s future. We will face challenges and opportunities head on, together.

I can’t help but be optimistic about Erie’s future. We will face challenges and opportunities head on, together.

I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. Now is not the time to give up – it’s the time to stand up. We are at a critical juncture, and the stakes could not be higher. We owe it to our children, neighbors, and future generations to make our city stronger than ever before.

As your mayor, I will put my heart and soul into being your leader, your advocate, your voice, and your champion. Let us rise to this challenge together. Let us move Erie forward, together. Let us fight for a better, brighter, and bolder future, together.

For more on Almi Clerkin’s mayoral candidacy, visit www.almiforerie.com, email info@almiforerie.com, and follow @AlmiForErie on Twitter.

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