FIRST & 42 Forum: Meet Don Cooney
To help members of our community make informed choices in the upcoming election on November 2, 2021, we’ve asked candidates running for important local seats to participate in our Candidates Forum to help you get to know them better. Today meet Don Cooney.
Driven by the belief that âeveryone does better when everyone else does betterâ, Don Cooney is running for the post of commissioner in the town of Kalamazoo. Don would bring 22 years of service to the Town Commission to this role, along with his 44-year commitment to the community. âI have chosen to live here for 44 years because wonderful people live there. The city is rich in natural beauty, culture, educational opportunities, political activism, diversity and economic opportunities, âsaid Don. To address the challenges of inequality, poverty and security in the town of Kalamazoo as municipal commissioner, Don identified the need to âunify the wisdom and expertise of our employees, practitioners and researchers to identify best practices, critical milestones and accountability. âRead more about Don’s passion to become Kalamazoo Town Commissioner below.
THE DISTRICT POSITION REPRESENTS
WHAT ARE THE MAIN ISSUES / PRINCIPATIONS THAT MOTIVATE YOU?
Inequality and poverty, especially among people of color. Recent studies show that nearly 40 percent of families with at least one working adult are struggling to meet basic needs. About 40 percent of black children live below the poverty line. These are emergency statistics.
SHARE YOUR PAST EXPERIENCES OR SET OF SKILLS THAT FIT YOU PERFECTLY FOR THIS RLE.
I bring the experience of 22 years of previous service to the City Commission. I have been active in communities and have worked for justice for over 50 years. I have a doctorate. in social work and social research. I teach courses in social policy, social change and community development.
WHY DO YOU BELIEVE THE KALAMAZOO AREA IS THE BEST PLACE TO LIVE AND WORK?
I have chosen to live here for 44 years because wonderful people live there. The city is rich in natural beauty, culture, educational opportunities, political activism, diversity and economic opportunities. He has the potential to be a role model for justice.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR OUR COMMUNITY?
Inequality, poverty and security. These are inextricably linked. We are rich in resources, but we lack a collective response. We need to unify the wisdom and expertise of our staff, practitioners and researchers to identify best practices, critical milestones and accountability.
HOW DO YOU SEE TO SUPPORT THE GROWTH OF THE ECONOMY IF ELECTED?
Everyone is doing better when everyone is doing better. [We can achieve this by] with a focus on providing support and opportunities for all to succeed, ending intergenerational poverty, helping our children achieve the Promise or another career, and training skilled workers.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF YOUR ELECTION ON THE REGION’S WORKFORCE AND THE COMPANIES THAT CALL SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN HOME?
Our economy will prosper when our people prosper. I will use my experience, education, research and connections to help end intergenerational poverty and provide people with the support and skills to enrich the local economy and theirs.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE MEASURES AT THE LOCAL LEVEL?
History has created a situation where the median net worth of white families is around $ 140,000; Black families, $ 11,000; and Hispanic families, $ 14,000. [I believe this is] ashamed and demand redress. Low-income and black-colored families have suffered environmental oppression and must be addressed.
PROVIDE AN EXAMPLE OF WHEN YOU PERSONALLY USED HONESTY AND INTEGRITY TO SOLVE A VITAL PROBLEM.
I am associate director of the Lewis Walker Institute for Race and Ethnic Relations at Western Michigan University. We are working with all kinds of people to end racism. As Commissioner, I have worked with many different people to create Kalamazoo communities in schools and Kalamazoo shared prosperity.
HOW CAN THE CHOSEN CREATE A PLACE WHERE WORKING TOGETHER TOWARDS SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS IS THE PRIORITY?
The vast majority of people want a fully human life for all. It’s a great place to start. Meet [and] listening to all sectors of the community is essential. Where there are differences of opinion, [elected officials should] try to understand the values ââthat each wants to protect and seek common ground.
HOW DO YOU INTEND TO CONNECT WITH THE CONSTITUENTS TO RECEIVE THEIR CONTRIBUTION?
I have worked to develop strong relationships with people all over this community. I volunteer with Mothers of Hope, Shared Prosperity Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Communities in Schools, and Meals on Wheels. I go to as many community events and meetings as possible.