Inner View: Pittsburgh’s Michael Lamb’s Life of Service Continues


Inner View: Michael Lamb,
Candidate for Allegheny County, PA. County Executive

By John O’Brien, Jr.


Alleghany Co. (Pittsburgh) voters converted to a County Executive over a three-commissioner form of government more than twenty years ago. Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) did the same, ten years later.  Michael Lamb, born into a region immersed in Irish culture, music, dance and community, exemplifies the instilled values of integrity, hard work, and service to others, so intrinsic to the Irish in America. We work hard, we play hard. We live and love with intensity throughout the way too short and too often painful life we are gifted with, and most of all, we strive to leave the world a better place than we found it. Michael Lamb embodies all these traits, values, and more. This interview highlights the making of a man of service, and why his service will make our world a better place to live, work and play.

Michael’s Inner View:
My family has always been very active in the Pittsburgh Irish community. My grandfather on my mother’s side came here from Galway at the age of fourteen. Within a week of being in Pittsburgh, he landed a job as an apprentice to a blacksmith. He spent the rest of his life as a blacksmith, working on the railroad, traveled all the way out west.

He married. His wife, like a lot of people at the time, got TB, consumption they called it back then. The doctor said the best thing for her would be a drier climate. So, they moved out west. She passed away out there, leaving him with three kids. One of them passed away.

He then came back to Pittsburgh and married my grandmother. He came back with two kids, but one died in the pandemic, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

I was mindful of who was the oldest in that family, but my mom was the youngest in her family. They had another six kids after that. We lived in the same neighborhood where my grandmother and my grandfather were.

Irish Underground Railroad
My grandmother was a big part of our lives, we were there at the house almost every day. They were the house that a lot of people came to when they came to this country. People around here would call my grandmother’s house part of the Irish Underground Railroad; there were always a lot of people there.

My mother and her sisters would recount that there was always someone in the house that they didn’t know, who was a part of their family; in some cases, more than one. They always had an open-door policy.

I think that is what really helped bind together the Pittsburgh Irish community; you weren’t necessarily related to these people, but, in a way, you were, because they were a part of your family and that just extended, not just to our family, but to a number of the families here in Pittsburgh who were who were involved in the Irish community.

Michael & Jill Lamb

To this day, a lot of the people that I see when I go to an Irish dance or a community event or Irish football game, I know. They were part of that community that came over here, and all lived together. So, it continues through the generations.

Pittsburgh is a town that [has many great Irishman], the head of Heinz for years was Tony O’Reilly, big Irish guy, big rugby player, famous Irishman. When he was here in Pittsburgh, he used to comment that he loved Pittsburgh because it was big enough to have big city amenities but small enough to be gossipy.

Wedding Parties
It is interesting, my mother, my mother’s parents, and my dad’s mother are all from Galway. My grandmother, my dad’s mom, is from east Galway, my mom’s parents are from Connemara. To connect again – it is one of the great stories: I went back to Ireland [and learned that] when my parents got married, my relatives on my mom’s side and my relatives on my dad’s side got together in Ireland and had a big party to celebrate the wedding!

I didn’t even know they knew each other. They had that connection, and the connection was through us here. It was great, unbelievable.

I think some of the things that get instilled in you in an Irish Catholic environment, there is definitely a commitment to service. I always used to tease my mom about this. I used to say, you’re my mother, but what can I do (like how can I help)?

She’d get almost angry, and say, look around you. Look around you! There are so many things that you could do to help.

I remember we were home for the summer. We were lounging around the house, doing nothing. She told us to get up and go over to church and pull weeds in the lawn over at church. I mean my brother and I looked at her like she was crazy. But that was the way she was. There was always something to do and there was always service that needed to be provided.

Probably the person that instilled that the most here is my Aunt Patsy. [She] passed away actually a year ago yesterday, at the age of 101 years old, a life of absolute service to others. She worked as a public servant; she worked in state public welfare.

She helped people through their problems, getting them the public assistance that they needed. In her private life, whether it was through her church or through her neighborhood, she was always serving.

She didn’t just serve people; she took time to think about how she could serve. She really thought about other people, in a way like, maybe they would need this, or that. She would hold on to things: maybe this so and so could use this or do that.

I told this story at her funeral: she and my other aunt, they were sisters, they lived in my grandmother’s house together. They always worked this plush toy booth at the parish festival, where you pick a ticket, and you win a plush toy. She would always play the game because she wanted to win the toys, not because she wanted the toys, but when a kid would come along who was fussy or lonely, she liked to have a toy to give that kid. That’s the kind of things that she would do. She lived to serve; she really planned it.

Lean on Me
I think that is so instilled in my family. That’s true for my mom, her sisters, my dad, and his family. There was always a commitment to the broader community, I think, in part, because of the way they grew up, thrown into the depression. You really learn to lean on each other in your neighborhood.

We grew up on a little dead-end street, at both ends. We all knew each other, we all cared for each other; it was just, it was an idyllic place to grow up. That sense of community was just instilled in us, not just from our Irish heritage, but also from the neighborhood that we grew up in.

In many ways it was also a tough neighborhood. Especially during the 70s. There was a major issue around the drug culture; there were major issues around addiction and drug abuse. We bumped up against it every day, even in a nice neighborhood like that.

Social Safety Net
It happened, and it really helped form a lot of my opinions around the social safety net, social services, and the strengthening of that social safety net. Being able to bring to bear the social services that this community needs, especially now with the opioid crisis; the problems that we have around criminal justice, and the way that some criminal defendants are being treated; maybe where they should be diverted to, a non-criminal justice result, more of a treatment-based result, offered insight.

It really did help form my opinion on how those things should work. Allegheny County, we are the city of Pittsburgh, but we are also 130 other municipalities that surround the city. It is a very fragmented system of government. It is difficult and frankly, it holds us back in a number of ways.

We have some towns and particularly some of those towns along our rivers, that were the center of our industrial might, back in the day, places like Duquesne, Homestead – places where the industries are much smaller than they used to be. There are still industries continuing to pollute our air. That caused those problems.

Need for Social Services
They are communities that are in some sense of desperation, some sense of chaos, and it’s playing out with our young people. It’s exacerbated by their availability to guns. We are seeing violence; and we are seeing this real need for social services; real need for conflict resolution; real need for opioid abatement programs. These kinds of things are just desperately needed in these communities.

Yet you have other communities in Allegheny County that are just doing phenomenally well. So that disparity is something that that we as a community need to come to grips with. That is what’s in the news a lot lately, as the issues around downtown Pittsburgh post-pandemic, and the increase in homelessness and mental health related issues around town are at the forefront.

There are people who say, well lock these people up. We know that doesn’t do any good. We know that that is just going to result in an exacerbation of an already bad situation. We are really working with how to do better social service around these mental health issues that are out there, and even some of the criminal justice issues that are out there.

The main industry has been manufacturing, steel, glass, electric, coal, both the fabrication and manufacture of steel, but also the making of the coke that run the ovens of steel. Those industries are still here. They’re not as prevalent as they used to be. We have a fairly large steel mill on the Monongahela River that crosses from Clairton to Braddock and into West Mifflin that does steel fabrication, steel manufacture, and coke baking. That is a very high pollution generating industry.

On the other river we have the specialty steel. We have Allegheny Teledyne, which is a specialty steelmaker, titanium, and other alloys. They are big operations that are not as big a polluter as the coke works is, but these are challenging industries for us.

They do provide a lot of good jobs, good family sustaining jobs, so it is a balance between our environment and the industry. It is a real struggle here in Allegheny County.

What happened in this community in the 70s and 80s, with the downturn in steel, is still impacting this community today. You lose J&L Steel and US Steel, significantly downsized LTV Steel. Other than US Steel, they are no longer in existence.  You had Westinghouse, which was a major employer here, they went down.

So, between Westinghouse, US Steel … Pittsburgh Plate Glass, all that basic manufacturing, went away in the 80s. We had to reinvent ourselves here.

We reinvented ourselves as a center for education, research, healthcare, technology. Because of the legacy of those earlier industries, the fact that we had the connection to the Carnegies, to the Melons, and to the Scaifes, and a lot of the families that were the great industry tycoons of the industrial era, they left the legacy of philanthropy behind.

That legacy of philanthropy allowed us to really grow our healthcare systems, our hospital systems, our education.  Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, all these schools have benefited from that philanthropic work and legacy.

Frick Legacy
The Frick legacy is huge for us. All that philanthropy that’s out there really drove a lot of that great change in Pittsburgh.

So, while we look back on it sometimes with frustration at those tycoons, they did leave a legacy here that really helped Pittsburgh get through that tough time of the 1980s.

Downtown has a school called Point Park University. It is a great school. They have about 3,500 students.

It has become a major school for the entertainment industry. From their Dance Conservatory there are more dancers on Broadway right now from Point Park University than any other school in the country.

They have the Conservatory, they have programs around the business of entertainment, programs around journalism. It is a growing school, but they are one of the schools that we who have kids are concerned about when we see stories about violence or the troubles around homelessness in downtown Pittsburgh.

Downtown Pittsburgh
It becomes a challenge for a place like that, because you know no one wants to send their kid to an unsafe place. While I think many of these stories are overblown, there is a need for us to put more attention into what’s going on downtown, because it’s not only our employment center, but also our cultural center, it’s a big part of our educational center, so the safety of downtown is a very important part of Pittsburgh.

I think every downtown is struggling right now to figure out what the future is going to hold. Most of our major employers are still on some form of work from home, whether it’s two days a week or three days a week or more. So, the daily commuting situation has changed dramatically. The lunchtime crowd for restaurants is down significantly.

So those merchants are trying to find a way to make it in this new model.
That is something that I think leadership, both public and civic, need to pay a lot of attention to. We are. I attended a big town hall with the downtown community about what we’re going to do to address a lot of these concerns around aggressive panhandling and homelessness.

The youth come into town every day. Our public transit system is a spoke system, everything comes to downtown. So, if you go to high school in one neighborhood and live in another neighborhood, you probably have to come through town to get home and transfer on a bus.

What we are seeing is a lot of kids who do linger; we want them to, we want them in downtown. We want that vibrancy; we want them to be involved in downtown Pittsburgh.

But it also leads to problems; high school aged kids can make some dumb decisions every once in a while, so we need to be able to address some of that. Again, a part of the big concern that we have around downtown, is addressing some of that; guidance, not swinging the baton, but swinging some guidance along the way.

Organizations here that include the Carnegie Library, which now has extended hours; they want you to come into the downtown library, they want you to know there’s an organization called Youth Places that really helps create space for kids. So, we are working with them to do some work in downtown.

I came into the city controller’s office with a couple of goals. One was to bring, and we accomplished bringing, unprecedented levels of transparency, open government accountability; access to city records and city finance [to everyone].  We’ve done that, we created a number of tools that do that. We created Open Book Pittsburgh, which is a searchable database of our contracts, along with the searchable database of our political contributions. We can see pay to play and monitor that.

Fiscal Focus Pittsburgh
We created Fiscal Focus Pittsburgh, which is a visualization tool of the city’s budget, where you can track spending in real time. You can do trend analysis year by year over budget and dig down into the sub-object level of our budget.

Engaging our citizens in the issues of public finance was something we really wanted to set as a goal. We’ve accomplished that. I wanted our office to be the place when people have a question about Pittsburgh, they go to the city controller’s office.

These are the kind of tools that I want to bring to county government. County government I still see as an organization that appears a little bit in the shadows. It is government that is picking up your garbage, or policing your street, or cleaning your neighborhood.

Usually the government, as we talked about before, is around the area of social services, but we want to work in a new way. We think about it in different terms. We do want to bring that transparency to it, but we also want to bring in a new relationship with our municipal partners. We think we can bring value added service to our constituents and our citizens through a better relationship with those partners.

When I started in the controller’s office, I took a meeting at the University of Pittsburgh and began a conversation that led to the creation of an organization called Connect. It is called the Congress of Neighboring Communities. It’s Pittsburgh and all the suburban communities that touch Pittsburgh.

For the first time now, they’re working together collaboratively on an agenda for the urban core of this region. That experience, along with some other things that I’ve done, have really taught me that that that this relationship of municipalities working together, recognizing their autonomy, but trying to make their boundaries less relevant when it comes to service delivery, is something that I want to bring to the county, and really have a focus on assisting our municipalities in bringing their functions to their constituents and their citizens.

I have a very simple philosophy on this: local government needs to keep people safe and healthy; it needs to keep neighborhoods clean and affordable; it needs to do that in a way that’s fiscally responsible; and it needs to always act with fairness and equity.

I think we can help our municipalities do those things better.  I want to create an office of municipal assistance that will be working every day with the 130 municipalities that we deal with on a lot of these issues, everything from public safety to economic development, and working with them in ways that can bring a broader perspective and probably more resources to help them deal with the issues that they’re dealing with. One of the things I think we could do there is an invisible infrastructure bank, where we can bundle projects across municipalities and get better rates for people and for our municipal leaders on the projects that they’re trying to get accomplished.

I think a lot of those kind of ideas are what I am talking about in this campaign; what kind of things that I want to bring to the county if I’m successful in this election. I can tell you we’re talking to people around this county, people are responding well to that message.

Historically, there has been a little bit of a concern about things like turf wars, so to speak. You are not going to come in and tell me what to do. So that’s why I think the first step is to say this: we recognize your autonomy. We just want to make sure that service delivery is not affected by your boundaries.

Three Rivers Wet Weather
I serve on the board of an organization called Three Rivers Wet Weather, which is tasked with dealing with these storm water issues that we faced very dramatically here in Pittsburgh with combined sewer overflows into our streams and rivers, and how are we going to reduce all that water that is being poured into our source system. We are under a consent decree right now with eighty-three communities in our Allegheny County sanitary system.

We are working with those municipalities to comply with this consent decree. Part of that is a regionalization of our source system.

It has been a difficult conversation, but the more people learn and the more people they know, they realize the benefit that can be realized by this. We’ve been able to sign off on memorandums with every one of those communities to participate in this regionalization of our source.

County Executive Role
It’s the kind of thing that goes unnoticed because it’s underground; you don’t see it. But it has been a phenomenal program. It’s again, the kind of thing in which Allegheny County is the only entity that can facilitate these kinds of conversations.

So that’s why I see it as such a key role for the next County Executive. You have to be aggressive; it’s going to take some hits; but you’ve got to be willing to do that for long term good.

We have a lot of people in these communities who recognize that. They ‘re willing partners, and they want to get the best service as well. We even have a couple of communities here who really are no longer a going concern, if they were a business, they’d be bankrupt.

In Pennsylvania, counties aren’t permitted to go bankrupt, but they’re also not permitted to incorporate, so we have a bill in Harrisburg right now that we think is going to get traction this year; we did flip the house this year.

It is a bill that would allow municipalities to disincorporate, if they have a plan, whether that plan means allowing a neighboring community to do your policing and street maintenance or whether the county would step in and play that role.

That bill is going to get traction this year. That is going to enable us to really help some communities that don’t have the resources to help themselves.

You were involved a few years back in converting Pennsylvania from a county commissioners system of government to a County Executive. Why do you think that is the best government for Pittsburgh?
You know, I led that effort to create the position that I am now running for. It was important because, at the time … Allegheny County is an urban and suburban community. It’s 1.3 million people, again across all these different municipalities.

The county commissioner system failed us in a lot of ways, having both the legislative and executive functions in one, sort of three-headed monster. It allowed for a lot of lack of transparency.

You could never really understand where issues were because, when the commissioners didn’t want to deal with anything, it just never made its way onto an agenda. Now we have a County Council that any citizen with enough signatures can put any item on the agenda they want.  

Up or down, someone has to deal with that agenda, so it really increased the transparency of the way our government operated. It also created, in the position of County Executive, a sort of conductor, so to speak, for economic development. There is someone, there is a leader, with one voice on these issues of growth, job creation and economic development, which I think is critically important for us, given the fractional system of government that we already had.

I think that this experiment, now more than twenty years in the making, has proven a benefit over the old system. We went on with the next level of that reform, and the consolidation of the row offices, which I led and advocated for, even though it eliminated the job that I was in at the time [was the right thing for Alleghany County].

Basically, the clerk of courts had several court clerk positions here, including the clerk of courts; the prothonotary, which is basically the clerk of courts for the civil records; and the register of wills, which is the clerk of courts for the wills and the orphans division of the court. They were all three separate elected officials. They weren’t policy offices; they were ministerial offices. It didn’t make sense for them to be elected.

I led the effort to first consolidate those offices. Now those offices are the Department of Court Records. It is just a department within county government. That change as well, has been a positive for Allegheny County.

I made the decision not to run for controller before I made the decision to run for county executive. As I mentioned to you before, I had some goals when I took that office, and we achieved a lot of those goals. Most of the things that I set out to do we have done.

I do think that there is a, as good as you can be in your job. I do think there is the potential for staleness to set in. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I could see that potentially happening. I thought it was a good time.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do next. I am a lawyer and still have council in a law firm. The law firm that I work in has some really interesting work that I would be very happy doing. But with the current county exec being term limited, I started thinking about it over the spring and summer of this year, and then decided to go ahead and do it. I had already made the decision not to run for reelection in the controller’s office at that point.  

Goals for the First Year
There are many goals in the first year: establishing this new relationship with our municipalities is key; bring forth some new ideas to deal with some crises that we currently have in our Human Services, in our social service network, including the fact that we don’t have enough caseworkers, that we don’t pay them enough, that their caseloads are staggering. Working with our Community College to produce candidates that help us do that kind of work is something that we’re going to focus on very early, to get the casework that we need [a reasonable case load for each person].

The capacity around Human Services right now is only going to grow, not only because of the post COVID situation and the poverty and mental health issues that we’re seeing, but there is a new conversation going on, not just here in Pittsburgh, but across the country, around criminal justice and how you divert those that need treatment out of the criminal justice system to a more treatment-based system.

I don’t know that our social safety net has the capacity to handle it right now. We have a district attorney’s election this year, so between myself and whoever wins that election, we need to have a real conversation about how we have true diversionary programs here in Allegheny County.

It’s not just diversionary courts. We have some diversionary courts that deal with these special instances, but we’re talking about a model that actually takes these people out of the criminal justice system, and really deals with their treatment needs in a meaningful way.

So those are things that we’re going to be focusing on. You don’t drive around this town for very long and not recognize the infrastructure deficit that we have here, and the infrastructure needs that we have here, both in roads and bridges, but also in water and sewer, in retaining walls because of landslides, and all these other infrastructure needs that we have.

So, certainly that is going to be a big part of our focus as well. I think success is, at the end of our first term, if we have a model of government here where our 130 municipalities are, with the help of the county, working in a way to deliver value added services to their citizens around issues like fire protection and police protection and economic development.

If we could standardize data across municipalities when it comes to building codes, permits, occupancy, those kinds of things, so that we can actually track what we’re doing across municipalities; that would be amazing. It’s the kind of thing that no one really talks about, but the fact that, in some municipalities, they collect data around a deck that you add on to your house, where in other places it might be the square footage of some construction; it is not edified. Standardizing that data so we can really look at each other, each missed values, who is doing what, how it’s happening, having that kind of information available to use [for analysis, and data-driven decisions].

Economic Development
When I think about what this idea of economic development is, when I think of success, I think of this a lot differently than other people do. What people define as economic development, to me looks like nothing more than subsidizing land speculation, where people are just going out and helping developers build buildings.

I think of it differently. I think economic development is investing in our community, investing in our people, helping them get the skill sets they need for the jobs, helping our communities be a place where businesses want to be located. I think of it in terms of that kind of investment.

A lot of times, people say, well we need to bring these people in, and we need to get this business here. I actually think if we invest in ourselves, we create the kind of community where businesses and people want to be.

So, when I get to the end of my first term, that is the goal. We are going to be that community we’ve created, where people want to be, where people, where businesses want to locate, and we will be a community that is growing. We will be a community that is much more diverse than we are now, because we need to become a community that is much more welcoming to international immigrants than we are right now.

Changing Mindsets
We talked about this earlier, my grandparents came here, a lot of people came here. 100 years ago, Pittsburgh was a center for international immigration. Somehow, we have become a place [where] a lot of people fear immigration. We have got to change that; we have to change that. That would be a big thing for me to be able to change, that mindset, and make people realize that.

People say, well you can’t bring people if you don’t have jobs – I disagree with that; bringing people here creates its own economic vitality. There is an entrepreneurial spirit that comes with it; there is the fact of having people here regardless of their economic status is a positive to your local economy. We have to begin realizing that.

If you look at any town across this country, it is growing by the degree to which it attracts international immigration. In a town like ours, where deaths outweigh births, we need that growth.

We have changed some of the towns that I mentioned earlier. If we don’t have a focus on bringing new people into this community, we’re going to die. So that is really a vote that, when we talk about growth, that’s the focus, being able to bring people here. A lot of that has to be through international immigration; that has fueled every growth in the United States.

I know Pittsburgh is a great place for this: the familiar makes you comfortable, but it’s the diversity that makes you strong. Having diversity here in this community is going to be key to who we are moving forward.

It is the style of leadership; it is who you choose as a leader. I really try to build bridges and not fences. I am someone in the political world that is not part of a given faction. I am not somebody that’s seen as an overly partisan Democrat. I am a certainly a left-leaning Democrat, there’s no doubt about that, but my own history, including my work around reform here in Allegheny County, has always been a very bipartisan type of an effort.

I was up against my own party on that fight to reform Allegheny County and worked with the Republican Party. I was up against many people in my own party on that, I’ve always been seen as someone who can walk among the various factions out there.

I think that is critical to the leadership that goes to the municipalities as well. I have worked within a lot of these municipalities on a number of issues over the years. I am someone that people see as approaching things with the kind of candor that’s needed. I try to be direct without being offensive, I think that’s an important part of how you lead in an environment like this. I think I bring that tool to this race.

I am someone that does a lot of outreach. Like I said, I like to build bridges and I don’t build fences.

Do you view transparency as a form of ethics?
I do. I see transparency, first off, as a tool of ethics, being transparent, being open, and not just in records. Having that available when you see a situation, when there is something that affects both of us, is important.

We have had this major environmental event occur in East Palestine, Ohio, this train derailment that is pouring countless amounts of toxins into the air. People are questioning why are we doing that? What was the reason?

That is an opportunity for transparency. That is when leaders must get up and say, here’s what’s going on; here’s what we’re doing, here’s why we’re doing it; this is why? While this is not a great answer, this is the best answer we have right now.   

The truth is, I don’t know if it is the best answer right now, because I don’t know that they have been as forthcoming about that derailment and the chemicals involved in that derailment, the burn off of those chemicals. I think that is an opportunity for transparency.

It is an ethical obligation to be transparent, and I don’t know that they’ve met the task there, right now. I think that it is important that leaders step up, get the best information, get it to the people, and not rush to judgment. When you have answers, you’ve got to be open with people, and let them know what’s going on.

I do see that as not just transparency, but an ethical obligation. You have to find a way to say, we want to prevent this from happening again. Part of what we learned about this thing in East Palestine is that you shouldn’t have that many train cars with that toxic material on one train. Maybe the decision they made is the best decision, but I don’t know that they’ve done enough to communicate that to the community or broader public.

Choosing a Career
When I chose this career [at Penn State], I chose a career in public service because I really believe that I could help government work better for the people it serves. That is pretty much what I’ve done throughout my career. I am happy about the accomplishments that we have been able to achieve. I am looking forward to applying that skill and the credentials that I have to this job.

I think about this constantly; I think about public service, I think about our budgets and our communities, and the potential that we have here, whether it is with respect to our airport, or with respect to our transit, or our water source system. I am constantly thinking about this and I am hoping to bring solutions to problems and challenges that we have here.
I am looking forward to doing this job. I am excited about doing this job.

The fact is, I am excited about running the campaign. I am out every night talking to voters. We have already begun our voter outreach and I’m having fun.

These opportunities that come along, where I look back at some of the decisions that have been made, where we have done good things, and improve some things; when we had the chance to do something actually transformative, those are the opportunities that I look at [as having that impact].

I think of the county executive as that conductor of economic development. I think about the ability to understand the details, but also the ability to take the step back and say, OK, what else fits in to what we’re doing? If we are going to do clustered, affordable housing here, how is it connected to transit? How is it connected to the infrastructure that the people living there are going to need?
Are there going to be recreational opportunities? Are there opportunities for jobs? Having that broader perspective is something that I bring to this race that no one else does. It is something that I talk a lot about a lot on the [campaign] trail. You keep hearing these themes from people.

What are the top two topics people expressed to you that they wish would change?
There are always those issues that are in the back of people’s minds: there is always a concern about crime. I think everyone has a different idea of what that means. I think there are some people who are in fear; they live in neighborhoods where this is a problem. To them, what they are looking for is a police presence that helps with that.

In other areas, it’s the issue of over policing, where there are issues around criminal justice that aren’t being properly dealt with, that we haven’t really fleshed out, what I would call our Go to Response, is, are we bringing the social service networks to bear early enough in situations to avoid what becomes a criminal situation? I think issues around that are what I hear a lot about on the trail.

But I will tell you, I still think that what people, Democrats particularly, that I talked to, is that they are concerned about the state of our democracy. County government runs elections, and I think that while we do it pretty well here, we are going to make sure that we continue to do it well, that our mail and ballot issues are dealt with, that we have clear guidelines on who can vote and who and where there are issues around access to the ballot.  

A lot of people are worried about the state of our democracy. So, when we get these frivolous challenges to election results, we need a system that can show why they are frivolous, and why people need to have confidence in that system.

While it’s probably our smallest department in county government, it is likely the most important. There are people out there that I talked to a lot who have genuine concerns about the state of our democracy, and that our that our voting system is secure, accurate and fair.

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