Letter: Vote Your Conscience

After following through on commitments made more than eight years ago to the Beacon community to serve our neighbors through organizing, coaching, mentoring and building relationships in efforts to grow kinder together, I’m blessed to know many of our neighbors. I know that we are the reason why Beacon is one of the most brilliant gems in New York State. Like climate change, it is a fact that quality of life means something different for every person questioning whether theirs needs to be improved.

However, this doesn’t register with our local Democratic leadership, their committee or candidates. Similar to the Democratic National Committee, they focus on messaging, which leads to pandering and a lack of results, rather than connecting and forming relationships with those they claim to be fighting for.

Since President Trump’s inauguration, more people have been active in politics and government than I have witnessed throughout my tenure on the Beacon City Council. I’ve always believed participation in government is a civic responsibility. The ugliness of politics has shown me to be wary of the people claiming to be helping “our people.”

Gentrification is a euphemism for colonization. Our local Democratic leadership, committee and candidates have demonstrated that they are not committed to serving all of the residents of our city, only those who fall in line with their politics. They believe that speaking about our history is a form of litigating the past. Like many politicians on both sides of the aisle, they give lip service to the efforts it takes to build relationships with the generations of people living in the marginalized communities.

This is not something that happens over an election cycle or through campaign literature and messaging. These politicians speak of mass incarceration, school-to-prison pipelines, public education and transportation in a city and county they know very little about. They have failed to educate themselves by getting to know, work with or communicate with residents en-trenched in these issues.

Listening to the Democratic candidates for the Dutchess County Legislature at a forum speak about public transit and our county’s jail expansion was underwhelming. Not only do they not ride public transportation, they don’t and haven’t attempted to relate with formerly incarcerated residents or any of us at higher risk of becoming an epidemic statistic.

Further, the local Democratic leadership, committee and candidates aren’t actually concerned about the affordability of housing in Beacon. They are not working toward assimilating and building an inclusive community. Instead these “advocates, allies and activists” are dividing Beacon so they can be the stakeholders who reimagine and develop our city.

Actions speak louder than words. With the shared 24 years’ experience that Women’s Equality and Working Families Party candidates George Mansfield and Lee Kyriakou have, especially with their focuses on zoning and planning, why are we only now fixing the problems? Why hasn’t their hindsight been our foresight? We deserve thoughtful planning, honest organizing and real participation by our elected officials and community leaders. We deserve better.

Presidents come, and they go. I’ve yet to see one that has solved the problems in our marginalized communities. The Democratic leadership, committee and candidates for elected office hope you will vote for their hand-selected candidates. But regardless of party enrollment, don’t let your anger with the president or politics keep you from seeing the truth: too many local Democratic candidates don’t know our city or the issues that face our residents. Vote independent of party politics and vote your conscience on Nov. 7.

Ali T. Muhammad, Beacon

Editor’s note: Muhammad represents Ward 4 on the Beacon City Council. He ran in the Democratic primary for an at-large seat but was defeated; his nominating petition to appear on the ballot as an independent was invalidated.


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