News(The New Tri-State Defender endeavors to inform readers about the plans, thoughts and actions of those elected – and/or seeking to be elected – to serve the community. School-board Commissioner Tomeka Hart has entered the Ninth Congressional District race and recently declared her intention to pick up the pace.)
|District 9, said Tomeka Hart, needs an upgrade to “great” leadership. (Photo by Brian Ramoly)|
Nevermind the dearth of buttons and signs up to this point. She’s running, and no, she never wavered. In fact, she said, it was strategy to wait until after the municipal elections (Oct. 6) to switch to a higher gear.
“We didn’t want a lot of distraction and I found that out to be true. I did go to several events, where it may have been some candidate forum, and people who heard her I was running (for Congress) thought I was on the October ballot. And I would say, no, it’s not until next year. We kind of figured that would be the case.”
First year priorities
Hart, the president and CEO of the Memphis Urban League, noted her long association with education and workforce development and the issue of poverty. In Congress, her early focus would include locking in on the policies and practices needed to really address the poverty issues in Memphis, she said.
Good education policy and practice and good workforce policy and practice, are related and must be understood as such, she said.
What does she want people to know about her and education?
That she has been pro active in education reform on the state, local and national level. As a policy leader in education, her focus has been about what the system needs to do, she said.
“My role with the Urban League has been around what does the community need to do. So we partner with local partners around education reform,” said Hart. That means mobilizing and organizing parents and nonprofit organizations and educating them about what is happening in the reform.
“It’s really making sure the community understands it and buys into it. That they understand what it means and that they are empowered through these reforms and that they know they really can control what is happening in their own communities.”
From a congressional perspective, number one is the reauthorization of the so-called no child left behind education act, said Hart.
The schools merger
The TSD asked Hart for her assessment of the position she took relative to the merger (of school systems) and how her stance might play out in the race.
“I think that regardless of people’s perspective, whether they agreed or not, many do see that at least I was part of a proactive movement, transformative leadership, a real change agent,” said Hart.
“And they saw all of the hard work that it took to push forward an agenda that I completely believed in and thought that we needed to do for the sake of every child in the County.”
That’s the same kind of movement she would bring to Congressional leadership, Hart said.
“I think, positively, there are some people who still have questions and as they ask, I am able to explain why I thought then, and see now, that that was the move that we needed to make.”
Hart said she believes it is possible as a member of Congress to help develop more of the talents and artistic gifts of people in Memphis’ impoverished communities. Among the keys is helping people understand legislation and the associated best practices. And effectively doing that is about connections and relationships, she said.
The Ninth District, said Hart, must have a representative who understands the need for national leadership that is finely tuned to what “needs to happen in your local community and aligning that with what is already happening in your local community and on the state level. That is the best formula for success.”
So is she saying that is not being done now? Or, that she could do it better?
“I definitely can do it better,” said Hart.
“Another version of that question,” said Hart, is, ‘What is wrong with our current leadership?’”
Some people have told her that “it is not bad” to have the incumbent Steve Cohen as the District 9 representative.
“My position is that ‘it is not bad’ should no longer be good enough. At this point, we need great,” said Hart.
“Voting on bills, that’s just a portion of it. Where is the pro active, the push, the fight to say that we are going to really align around a vision?”