COMMENTARY: Just over 12 weeks ago, I spent the evening sitting on the back porch at the home of a colleague, surrounded by close friends and family, discussing whether or not I should run for city council. Not an easy decision to make. Especially for me, a working-class woman of color, a single mother of two grown children.
As part of my decision-making process, I thought back to other important decisions in my life, from committing my life to social work, to advocating for and being a voice for the most vulnerable, to pursuing a career in public service. All this hard work and dedication in the last 25 years eventually led me to becoming an active community member and then on to participate in the 2014 ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage.
I thought about the process, especially about what it took to collect over 6,000 signatures from registered voters. I thought about the thousands of people who asked to put the minimum-wage question on the ballot because what they really wanted was for their own stories to be heard.
Sadly for all, an even bigger lesson learned was when city council circumvented the democratic process, keeping the initiative off the ballot. The message could not have been louder or clearer: Your stories don’t count.
Everyone talks about how low voter turnout weakens our democracy. One really needs to look no further than last year’s failure to let the voters decide the minimum-wage question as a perfect example of why voters have lost faith in their government.
The untold stories
I chose to run for Las Cruces City Council District 1 to honor the untold stories of our citizens. As I walk the numerous unique neighborhoods, I seek out those most likely to cast their vote — as they have done in the past — as well as those that have previously sat out elections because they feel left out.
Some will ask, why bother? The answer is that we have shortchanged our constituents in this community by placing a higher value on those who participate than those who have not. It’s time to give everyone a reason to participate and restore their faith in the democratic process.
That is what I have committed to. It is what led me to my decision to run.
Last week as I rushed out my front door, a woman came up and asked to speak with me. She said she felt compelled to stop by to meet me in person since I had attempted twice to meet with her at her home but had not connected. After a short conversation, the woman told me she would not only be casting her vote for me in the election, but she would be telling her neighbors, family and friends to do the same.
I am offering constituents in District 1 an opportunity to engage in their municipal election on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Although I ask that you to consider my candidacy for city council, more importantly, I urge you to cast your ballot.
The future of Las Cruces is counting on you.
Gandara is a candidate for the open District 1 seat on the Las Cruces City Council.