It was almost noon when I realized I looked out of place.
I knew where I was and what I was supposed to be doing. I was in the SLC 112 precinct knocking on doors. My messenger bag was filled with door hangers, bottles of water, sunscreen, and the all-important signature clipboard. I’m wearing my damn-near geriatric walking shoes (thank you Saucony), Gen X-issued cargo shorts, sky blue golf shirt, and floppy sunhat.
It wasn’t until I saw my reflection in a car window that I realized I looked like a postman. Or, at least, someone dressed as a postman for a Halloween party. Oh well. If a big sweaty, goofball isn’t electable, then I’ve lost this race a long time ago.
SLC 112 is in the northwest quadrant of District 7. Heading southwest from 700 East and 1700 South, I started knocking on doors, sliding door hangers over handles, or dropping them in mailboxes. It feels good to have your feet on the ground and exploring this wonderful precinct. The houses are cool, each with a lot of character. You get to check out their front lawns
Knocking on doors is tough. Actually, that’s not true. It’s quite easy to knock on a door. The tough part is what do you do if they answer it? Lots of people aren’t home. Some folks choose not to answer the door to a stranger. I totally get it. We just got done with a pandemic and the last thing you want to do is to chat with the sweat-soaked son of John Candy. It’s going to take time to quickly engage with strangers, but time is at a premium. The election is November 2 and that will be here in the blink of an eye.
What gives me confidence walking up the stairs and onto a stranger’s porch to ring a doorbell or knock on the door are my door hangers. These 4” by 12” suckers are like an invitation to knock away with confidence. I’m here to introduce myself, talk about my vision for the city, and to get a signature for my petition to get on the ballot.
If I’m lucky enough to get somebody to answer the door, I jump right into my schtick, “Hi, my name is Ben Raskin and I’m running for Salt Lake City Council.”
This is the moment of truth. Are they going to engage? Are they going to tell me to kick rocks? Are they going to rack a shotgun and yell at me to git? Maybe all three?
By and large, people are wonderful. There is always some trepidation when we first start talking but folks are genuinely curious about what’s happening in the community. The number one question I get is why I’m running—or more specifically, why would I ever want to run for office in the first place?!? And to a person, they’re actually patient waiting for an answer.
I explain how I’ve lived in Sugar House for over 15 years and why I care about our neighborhood. I tell them why I’m concerned about the rampant construction and how an increase in population density can impact traffic, access to public services, and the quality of life for the residents. I share why I love Fairmont Park, Parley’s Trail, and the cool, eclectic businesses in our town. And I talk about how water issues of the future are here today and how we need to make sure District 7 is safe from crime.
The best part of knocking on doors and meeting future constituents is learning their concerns and fears. You really get to know what they care about. For example, Piedra on 700 East wants to know what we can do to fix the unsightly 700 East thoroughfare? Scott on 1700 East wants more funding for police because his son is a cop and he’s concerned about this safety. Alex on Lake Street thinks streetlights in the alleys could help with car burglaries.
And this is just the tip of the spear. People are concerned about being able to water their lawns. Or, if they choose to let it go brown is the city going to ticket them for weed abatement? There are questions about repairing damages sidewalks and if the neighborhood is going to deteriorate into a series of ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Unit).
I can answer some questions. Others, I write down with a promise to get back to them. And a lot of the time, I tell them to download the Salt Lake City App for more information (download it from iTunes or Google Play). Most of the time, I just listen—without interrupting—and learn what they care about. I figure the more I get to know about the district, the better off I’ll be when I win.
The election is still over 125 days away but there isn’t a moment to lose. If you want to experience the thrill of hanging door hangers, meeting the citizens or District 7, or want to hang out as we canvass the neighborhood, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The exercise is great, and you’ll learn too why I’m running to represent this community.