Editor, Times-Union:
I am privileged to be a candidate for the District 22 State Representative seat. Thank you for this forum to be able to express some thoughts as we approach the upcoming holiday season.
District 22 encompasses most of Kosciusko County and the southern part of Elkhart County up to the middle of New Paris. In our district we are blessed with many manufacturing facilities, farms, and a variety of small businesses which employ a good number of people. Sadly, however, we have a substantial number of poor and working poor who are in need of assistance from local charitable organizations, not only around the holidays, but all year round. Some of these good folks, especially single mothers with small children, the elderly and disabled, young people, and fathers who are out of work (or who work two jobs or three jobs barely above minimum wage) are too ashamed and understandably too proud to seek charity. They trudge along quietly, hoping for a better day. We are encouraged to think of these people in need around the holidays and give of our abundance. This concern for the hurting around the holidays is both a good and, perhaps, shallow thing at the same time.
One of my favorite singer/songwriters is Jackson Browne. Many years ago he wrote a song about Christmas and he called it “The Rebel Jesus.” The third stanza of his haunting song goes as follows:
We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes we give to our relation
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why there are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus
Of course, we need to be generous around the holidays and all year round. But as I dialogue with all of the residents of our district I commit to grappling with why we have so many people struggling to stay above the water line. The middle class and the working class, the people who have worked so hard over the decades to make this country great, are taking it on the chin every day. I believe that one of our chief tasks in the legislature is to encourage and support the private business sector in a way that allows the average folks, who make up the majority of our district, to support themselves and their families. Part of this work involves not just patching up the financial hardships of those around us but taking a good hard look at the causes of such disparity. As U.S. Senator Donnelley said in his op-ed in the Times-Union on Wednesday, October 30, 2013, “…we need to refocus our efforts on …helping to create more good jobs.” The creation of new jobs is also implicitly linked to helping make higher education affordable to middle class young people. As it stands now, only the very rich and the very poor can afford to send their kids to college. Kids from middle class families end up with a mountain of debt and $8.50 per hour jobs after graduation. This is unacceptable for our district and I commit to doing everything I can to turn this around.
Right now I am conducting a listening tour. That means I am employing the ear-to-mouth ratio and listening twice as much as I speak. If you have something to say post it my Facebook, email me at dkolbe@dkolbelaw.com, or call me at 574-267-5353. I look forward to talking with you and, hopefully, serving all the people of our district.
David C. Kolbe
Warsaw, via e-mail