2017 Year in Review

My experience of last year mostly lent itself to sorting into two categories: political, and other.

Whereas in 2017, “other” was probably more like an appendix than a proper category.

There were reasons, about which I have written here among other places, but it also was just kind of something that happened. I started 2017 with a loose arrangement to provide graphic design for Tristan Rader’s campaign for Lakewood City Council, e.g.; by the beginning of summer I had effectively become designer, writer, director of communications, secretary and assistant campaign manager. Without ever having planned or even explicitly decided to do any of that.

My own year of 2017 might best be captured by a chain of relatively minor events from October. On October 26, I made a very fast trip to Columbus, to testify in favor of congressional redistricting reform at a statehouse hearing. (I was named though not quoted in a cleveland.com article.)

Me outside of Ohio's capitol

Mr. Kuhns goes to Columbus

I got back home a couple hours before the start of the Lakewood Democratic Club’s monthly meeting, and decided I would use the time to make something for the club’s “Pumpkinpalooza” in which I suspected very few other people would participate. I had not even picked out a recipe yet, let alone tried it before, so making it to the meeting with pumpkin cookies was a bit of an adventure.

They turned out reasonably well, but I basically “won” one of the two Pumpkinpalooza prizes by default; only one other person brought something. The prizes were pumpkins.

Within a few days, I decorated my pumpkin for a second, unrelated Lakewood Pumpkinpalooza. This was a fundraiser for the high school’s Help to Others (H2O) club; people donate no-carve decorated pumpkins which are then raffled off. The Tristan Rader campaign planned to donate one, and had someone lined up to decorate, and then that plan fell through…

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Pumpkin

…and I just would not have it. I took my prize pumpkin, came up with a design, bought some appropriate paint, and decorated a pumpkin for the campaign all on my own, the night before Pumpkinpalooza (2).

It wasn’t remotely important, but by that point in the year various campaign plans had fallen through and I was tired of it. But more than that, I think it just demonstrates the near fanatical energy which a few of us poured into this campaign. It was not an “oh well, forget about it then” campaign.

In many ways, for me it was actually a whole year of “I guess I will step up myself, then.”

I remember back at the start of 2017, how new a lot of things were, even after two “warmup” years of local activism in Lakewood. Calling a congressional office really made me anxious in January, e.g.

By June, there were times when I would get voice mail then actually hang up, and call again until I got a live person on the phone.

I volunteered at the Women’s March in Cleveland, although that too was last-minute and I might easily have missed the whole thing. Instead it was inspiring, and unforgettable, but I also came home desperately wanting some solitude for a while.

That was not the year I ended up having, though. I made calls, and more calls, and went to marches and protests and took the microphone a time or two. I testified, not only in Columbus but at an EPA hearing in West Virginia; those trips plus the Climate March in Washington DC were pretty much my travel for the year, besides two visits to Iowa.

me at Climate March

The largely nonreported Climate March

I canvassed for the Rader campaign. I also knocked on doors and canvassed for two petition drives. The people’s referendum on the Q Arena scam briefly succeeded, then Greater Cleveland Congregations betrayed everyone else involved in response to a shameful intimidation campaign from the region’s establishment. We’re still working on the Fair Districts measure for redistricting reform, but I have averaged close to one full petition book (60 signatures) collected per month since the campaign began. I feel like I’m doing my bit.

Yet there’s more to do.

Me & friends outside the Celebrezze Federal Building

One of who-knows-how-many visits to Senator Rob Portman’s office

As I wrote earlier this year, America seems to be amidst an ongoing emergency. I have a 50,000+ word, very abridged file of ways things have been screwed up this year, but I clearly remember the moment in early May when a friend messaged me “uh oh, Trump just fired Comey. Shit just got real.”

Several months later a system of democracy and laws still functions, I think, despite damage. But many of us remain quite naturally concerned. Even without formally illegitimate abuse of power, there is so much bad stuff to resist. While preparing as best as possible to vote out those responsible. And remaining involved even on a local level, however tempting it gets to say “oh well, forget it” and let that slide.

On a formal basis, I have ended up becoming a very active co-chair of communications for the Lakewood Democratic Club. I’m research director for a SwingLeft district team. I’m a technical adviser for the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus.

Again, though, mostly I didn’t seek out these roles or any of the informal roles with campaigns and causes from Rader for Council to Westshore Fair Districts to Action Together Lakewood to Postcards to Voters etc., etc. I applied for the Dem Club’s communications committee, but otherwise the needs just present themselves…

So it has been a busy, very political year.

From early summer through the election, nearly everything went to the wall besides the campaign and activism, work and basic biological necessities. Reading took a big hit. Over the past several weeks, I have been able to do some reading again, and get more sleep. Yet that’s about it in terms of a relaxed schedule.

As a result, there’s relatively little else to tell about 2017. Some time, it feels so long ago, I did a couple of radio interviews about Hancher vs. Hilton. That was fun, as was the nice little presentation I gave at my hometown’s public library; attendance was respectable and many people weren’t even members of my family. I made a kind of occasional hobby of Lakewood’s Little Free Libraries, writing an article this spring about the first 9 that I found, and posting updates as I have found three more since then.

Socially, I got to know even more great people… but pretty much entirely through activism. Also I splurged this year because who knows, and purchased a Sherlock Holmes costume… but the only two times I wore it were at a Rader campaign event, and a political demonstration.

Me dressed as Sherlock Holmes, next to Tristan Rader

Checked off one “bucket list” item, all the same I guess

Of course there are still bills to be paid. For the most part political activism has been a volunteer activity, and while my books finally posted a healthy profit this year, the relative numbers are still rather small. The year was generally good in freelancing, though next year is a big question mark. One big client is out. But as many as four state representative candidates may be clients, and perhaps more campaign work will follow.

So, 2017…?

It’s interesting to look back at the past few years in review, as comparison. That for 2014, in particular, is rather grim. Since then, a kind of anxious urgency has taken hold, and while 2017 featured far less in the way of fun activities there is no equivalent sense of despair. I suppose that for now at least, it’s still true that “I’m massively overworking, everything’s happening at once, the world is on fire and it’s giving me life.” We’ll see how that goes.

Also, this is the first time in quite a while that the year-in-review coincides with a Cyclone football bowl game victory, and that has brought a smile.

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