For “Talking to Trailblazers,” we spoke with Trailblazers PAC supporter Dianne Trickey-Rokenbrod. Dianne is a Hornell resident who actively participates in her local government. She has been supporting Trailblazers almost since our very beginning! Here’s what Dianne has to say about being a Trailblazer.
Q: Why would you encourage others to support Trailblazers PAC and our candidates?
A: I particularly was attracted to the fact that it was not party specific. I happen to be registered Republican, and that’s been the case since I was in my college days many years ago. I’ve never changed that for a couple of reasons, but I think that to just vote party line is irresponsible. We need to know who we’re voting for and we need to support candidates we agree with, regardless of party affiliation. At the same time, I like the fact that Trailblazers is looking at local involvement and going from the local school boards on up. They are specifically committed to attracting candidates that are beholden to their constituents and specifically not beholden to large money donors, which I think is a huge portion of what’s wrong with our system right now. I feel it needs to be addressed and resulted in the outcome of the last national election
Q: Are you involved with politics at the local level in other ways?
A: I regularly attend my local Indivisible meetings. I’m attending local candidate debates to try and see who’s there.
Q: In your own words what is the value of local government?
A: I think local government is more about issues and how people feel about issues as opposed to parties. I think, for instance, people that are on school boards, a lot of people don’t even know what party affiliation they may be. When the Hornell mayor decided not to run after all those years and there were new candidates that were running, I think people were more interested in, “well how do you feel about this local bridge being out for so long” and “how do you feel about negotiating our local police contract” as opposed to party affiliation. I think that’s what we need, and that’s how we can build bridges. When I hear these things about how much agreement there is about getting sensible gun laws, of all party affiliations and people that have guns and don’t have guns, there’s broad agreement. Yet when we look at the dialogue on social media or on the radio or local television, you would never realize that there is that kind of agreement across party lines. It looks like it’s just, “I can’t talk to you because you belong to that party.” But it works on a local basis, and we need to grow that from there so it’ll work on a regional and a state and then a national basis.
Q: The decisions of local government impact us daily. How has your local government had a personal impact on you?
A: Just from the local decisions that are made. I brought bridges up because the bridge that’s down the street from me still has sidewalks blocked off because it needs to be repaired, and it’s been that way for years. Kids are walking in the street to get around this. The construction, that just never seems to get finished, blocks my view when I go to turn the corner, and I worry about getting side swiped or hitting someone. Even things like how often the recycling is picked up, or the fact that they only recycle plastics number one and number two and they don’t recycle other plastics. I’m a strong believer in recycling, and I feel like I’m thwarted in not being able to do as much as I want. I’m trying to push our local officials to look at these contracts, and say “why can’t we do this?” It affects us in little ways. Our local Indivisible group has even gone so far as…when we go to our local Wegmans they have Fox News on, which is very divisive. We talk to the manager, and we write letters. We’re not saying you have to put some left wing channel on, but put a food channel on, a sports channel. To have Fox News playing, we feel, is negative for our community, and that divides us so we can’t work with each other. Those are all just very local, very grassroots kinds of things. I found out there are lots of empty positions in our county legislature. I never knew that before. That means we’re not being adequately represented There are spaces there, but nobody knew about them. So what are our local party chairs doing about that to get the word out and let people know, “hey you should run for this and you should fill this, because people aren’t being represented.”
Q: What does honest government mean to you?
A: Honest government means to me that you understand your representative’s position on multiple issues —and not that they cannot change their mind, because why would we have dialogue if we didn’t want to allow people to listen to the other side and occasionally change their minds— but they need to be open about what they believe in and how they are voting on issues. I do not feel that we have that on a federal and sometimes on a state level. I believe that we have candidates that are being overly influenced by big money donors and big corporate donors, so I don’t know how they are going to vote. That’s not what it’s supposed to be all about, and that’s why I really love the Front Porch Politics. It really resonates with me that it’s not just backroom politics, not just big money politics. It needs to be little guy, little people, little donations, every man kind of politics. That really resonates with me.
Q: If you were making an argument for why a neighbor should get to the polls in every election, what would you tell them?
A: [Voting] is what we have to pay and have to do for democracy. That’s our dues. That’s the dues we should pay for our democracy. If we do not at least do that then we don’t deserve to have a better government than this.
Q: What suggestions do you have for people who are looking to get involved in local politics, but don’t know how?
A: To start going to open meetings of your local governing structures, which might be school board meetings. It might be your local legislative meetings, or when the mayor holds meetings. Go to those meetings because you’ll hear things that affect your everyday life that you’ll realize you’ve got an opinion about and you want your voice to be heard. You’ll start seeing how that happens and how it works.
Q: Why is it important to invest in local government as a voter?
A: If you believe, as I do, that one of the biggest problems with our governmental system right now is the heavy-handed influence of large donors and corporate donors, the opposite of that is small donors. That means me. That means us. I don’t think you can have it both ways. You can’t expect someone else to pay for it but not have too much influence from their voice. As far as I’m concerned I’d love to see us consider a model where you say “there’s gonna be a cap, every candidate at this level gets this much money.” Maybe it comes from taxes, and they get so much money, and that’s it. They can do whatever they want with it, and that’s all the money they have. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, that’s how much money you have to get your voice out there. That would be a much better system than what we have right now. But right now he who pays gets heard, and I think collectively the small voices have got to put our money where our mouths are. Sometimes that means we make a decision about where we’re going to shop, who we’re going to buy from or not buy from. Sometimes it means the candidate that were going to invest in. I think those are all ways to put our money where our mouth is.
Q: Is there anything else, you’d like our online community/readers to know?
A: I would just say to not judge a candidate by one label. You really need to talk with them, listen to what they have to say, go to their website and read where they stand on different issues. I think we’ve got to get over this attitude of voting for people simply because they have a label. We have a responsibility to do our homework, to figure out if we’re going to vote for a judge, for instance. How do they feel about things? They could be my local judge. They could be deciding some relative’s fate. They could have an opinion about immigration issues that, believe it or not, affects us right here in our local region, even though a lot of people wouldn’t think that it does. I guess that would be my point, to really do a little bit of homework and don’t vote or judge simply because of a label.