Sometimes when I talk about a greener, healthier Montgomery County that supports working families, I mention my personal and lifestyle commitments to saving energy, building solar, composting, bicycling, work place representation and other issues.
But energy and the environment are not the only issues that I have a personal connection to. There are a number of issues that have touched our family and that Montgomery County can influence.
My wife, Donna K McGee, is an artist, so I have an interest in promoting the arts, not just in schools but also art in public spaces.
Donna is also an Early Childhood Educator and worked a number of years for Head Start. So I would advocate for quality, affordable childcare for all.
We have a grandson with mental illness. He lives in Pennsylvania, so nothing I do here will help him. But our mental health care system is broken and there are far too many people who need care and treatment for mental illness and/or substance abuse yet for most Americans it is simply not available. I will be an advocate for those with or caring for mental illness.
And like far too many people with mental illness, our grandson has had his encounters with the criminal justice system. On balance, he has probably been treated better by law enforcement and the criminal justice system than he has by the mental health system. Nevertheless, the systems of bail, fines and the profiteering from basic services such a phone and snacks in prison penalizes those already being penalized. I will be an advocate for criminal justice reform.
We also have a son who took his own life. I cannot begin to describe the number of issues that cuts across, including sexual identity. But above all, we can identify with those who have lost children. I will advocate to protect children from bullying, from guns, and for suicide prevention.
We also have grandchildren and other family members with learning disabilities and have witnessed how parents struggle to get essential services for their children. I will be an advocate for children with learning disabilities and other special needs.
I have been a bicyclist for a very long time and Donna and I have taken countless bicycling vacations, including a weeklong bicycle camping trip along the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal. As a bicycle commuter I have been on the losing end of too many encounters with cars. I will be an advocate for recreational bicycling, for bicycle safety and protected bike lanes.
I have back packed along stretches of the Appalachian Trail and other trails and I appreciate the rejuvenating power of solitude with nature. I will be an advocate for accessible green spaces.
I learned to speak German as a young adult and so I appreciate the value of learning a foreign language but also the challenge, especially for a native English speaker. To learn a language, you must be willing to make mistakes. Yet for the most part language instruction in this country begins in middle school or high school, the most self-conscious period in a person’s life. I will be an advocate for language immersion programs, dual language learning and ESOL (English for speakers of Other Languages).