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Editorial & Opinion

Jonathan Jacobs: It is time for Cynthia Mendes



For the people of Rhode Island Senate District 18, Cynthia Mendes listens to us. She offers a fresh perspective in a time when the old way of doing “the business of politics” is proven ineffective, especially in a crisis. I believe in politics.

I live down the street from Senator Billy Conley. I grew up in this neighborhood and when my wife and I decided to buy a home, we purchased just a half mile from where I was raised. Our house is a small cape cod with a narrow lot and a single bathroom for the four of us. We bought it in 2014. I have voted for Senator Conley in three consecutive election cycles because I saw him as the best choice. I do not regret my votes for Senator Conley. But I am not casting my ballot for him this year because someone better has come along. I’m voting for Cynthia Mendes because she listens.

I met Cynthia in November, 2019, at a gathering organized by a neighbor. She briefly explained her core values of service, community, and sharing opportunity; and, basing her decision to run because of a lifetime of watching working people consistently overlooked by a government refusing to address priorities of fair wages and affordable health care. However, it became apparent in that living room in November that Cynthia was not there to grandstand or pontificate about issues she felt would strike us as impressive. Rather, she sat and listened to us, recognizing that the issues we believed were important, were the issues about which she should learn. Education. Healthcare. The environment. Fair pay.  

Nine months later, Rhode Island, the United States, and the entire world look very different. But rather than overshadowing our concerns from November the global coronavirus pandemic only highlights the urgency for more resilience in the systems so that they secure everyone. Nine months later, as our community struggles to balance the fears and losses resulting from COVID-19 with the need for us to continue sustaining a functional society, a senator who listens to the people he/she/they represent is an essential service. And, nine months later, as the Primary election day approaches, I believe that Cynthia Mendes is a better candidate to represent us in the General assembly than Billy Conley.

In six years of residency in district 18, walking through our neighborhood with my children and dog, running past his impressive waterfront home at the end of a cul de sac, or riding my bike to deliver garden vegetables to my parents just a half-mile away, I have never once had the opportunity to have a conversation with him. In fact, I have never seen him. My work has, over the years, taken me to the State House and onto the senate floor. I have introduced myself to Senator Conley three or four times. The reason I had to introduce myself three or four times is because he never recognized me. The senator, I suspect, meets so many people and has so much on his mind that he cannot be expected to recall everyone he meets. I wonder, however, if he remembers the nine Lifespan employees who contributed a total of $1,000 to his campaign on May 17, 2019 alone. Perhaps he recognizes the twelve registered lobbyists and consultants representing interests ranging from pharmaceutical corporations, to construction, to petrochemical businesses, to health insurance providers, and more, who contributed thousands to his campaign over the past eighteen months. They may not be his constituents, but I suspect they have his ear. And, notwithstanding what his large, glossy, full-color flyers (courtesy of the aforementioned campaign contributions) say, his voting record indicates that he listens to them. 

For the people of Rhode Island Senate District 18, Cynthia Mendes listens to us. She offers a fresh perspective in a time when the old way of doing “the business of politics” is proven ineffective, especially in a crisis. I believe in politics. To me, politics is the way a society solves its problems without resorting to violence. I also do not believe that most politicians seek elected office in order to serve their own interests. It’s easy to believe that. But, I have no evidence that it’s true. Yet, even the most altruistic individuals who enter into elected civil service, after enough years of immersion, begin to show signs of being co-opted by monied interests and their own human nature. It is for this reason that we hold regular elections. And, as time passes and the world inevitably changes, these elections are a means by which we the people can invite new faces with fresh perspectives, who better reflect the people to whom they are accountable, and for whom they must provide representation and leadership with integrity. 

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It is time for a fresh perspective in Rhode Island Senate District 18. It is time for someone who listens to her constituents. It is time for Cynthia Mendes.