In the interest of transparency I don't live in Ogden so I can't vote for Luis Lopez in the upcoming election. I pastor a church (that he does not attend so there's no bias there) and as a pastor I can't tell you how to vote, but as an American citizen I am entitled to an opinion. And I have one.
I met Luis at a meeting a few months ago and he seemed like a nice guy. I attended the Ogden Hispanic Festival last week and saw Luis playing tug-of-war with a puppy. He likes dogs, so that's another point in his favor. And by the way, the puppy was an adult dog from the K-9 unit of the Ogden Police Department, and Luis was the rope. He volunteered to be the "perp" for a demonstration. I like that about him too. But none of those things really qualify someone for public office. They're bonus points.
So I sat down with Luis to discuss why I should (if I could) vote for him. And I walked away impressed. There's a lot of stuff on his interwebs page (http://luislopezforcitycouncil.org) but I wanted to approach things from a different direction. You see I don't think that the 'city' can solve some of the problems facing Ogden (or Anytown USA)by itself. No ordinances or codes are going to force people to get along. The city can't pass a law that ensures that fatherless children get 'fathered'.
The City Council or the Mayor's office can propose, suggest, endorse, advocate programs to ensure that at risk kids have opportunities to succeed, but the solution involves more than a handful of elected officials could ever hope to manage. And Luis has some great ideas for bringing members of the community together to explore ways to help without hurting.
Diversity matters. Diversity is here. And Luis and I agree that diversity should be embraced. There is such richness to be found in other cultures, not to mention all the food experiences that we miss when we live with a 'we versus them' mentality. (Read the gospels: a lot of Jesus' activities included food--it draws people together.) Lopez wants to reach across the lines that divide us so that we do live as one community.
I was especially impressed with his commitment to family -- his own and families in the community. He is passionate about helping and serving people in the community. Education is important. Providing opportunities and letting people know that they matter and that someone cares are high on his list of priorities.
And I asked about a touchy subject: can the city and local churches work together for the good of OUR community, how can we partner? And his answer was that we need to be in conversation about issues, we need to work together, we need to avail ourselves of each others strengths. And of course when you bring up religion, it opens the door for a totally different discussion. How do you balance one groups right to display their religious conviction with another group's right to disagree and be offended? I was impressed, not because of his answer, but because he didn't have an answer. No one size fits all solution, rather he has a willingness to listen to others, and a support for people to worship in the various ways that people do.
We also talked about immigration and refugees. This is something else for which there are no easy answers. I would like to see refugees resettled to Ogden. For that to happen there has to be housing, job opportunities and reliable transportation. My blunt question was would you not only support resettling refugees here, but would you actively pursue making it happen. The answer was not the one I hoped for, but one that I respected: 'in principle it sounds good, but I need to know a lot more about it before committing.'
I left our meeting impressed, and more than that, I left feeling like we have formed a friendship. If I could vote for Luis Lopez, I would. If pastors could tell their flocks how to vote, you guessed it, I would. I can't do either of those things, but as a member of the Ogden community I can encourage you to vote, and if you are a registered voter in Ogden City, when you go to the polls, I encourage you to put your 'X' next to the name Luis Lopez for council member at large.