Op-ed by: Council member Edward Pollard

Throughout my time seeking and eventually being elected to public office, I have used the tagline, “Together We Will.” I purposely chose the word “will” instead of “can.” “Can” indicates the ability to, but there is no definite. “Will” indicates future tense of certainty. Moreover, when I speak of “together,” I’m not speaking of a particular party, race, community, faith, or ideology; together truly encompasses everyone. I try not to be placed in a box, which, as a politician can be tough because everyone tends to want to use labels to identify who I am. But instead of governing in the direction of left or right, I prefer to govern down a path moving forward, together.

It’s frustrating to see our political system become so divided, so partisan. On a foundational level, we all want the same things, such as: safe neighborhoods, employment opportunities, access to healthcare and fresh food, quality schools, drivable streets, strong infrastructure, convenient public transit, a clean environment, and affordable housing. Where we differ is how to achieve it all. Instead of being willing to begin communication by displaying mutual respect for counter viewpoints, we insult one another and govern with a “me vs. you” or “them vs. us” mentality. Many elected officials vote down the party line and rarely try to advance anything with the spirit of bipartisanship. This stalls progress, breeds division, and the American people are ultimately the ones to suffer due to stagnation and political gridlock.

When those chosen to lead do so with a rhetoric of divisiveness, it trickles down and affects us all. We then begin choosing sides and placing ourselves in boxes and begin voting based on labels instead of character, integrity, and issues. There is no room for compromise, conversation, communication or common ground. Inherently, the two-party system creates an automatic divide, where one party seems to be going further to the left and the other further to the right. But if we had leadership that fostered unity, we would see a shift.

I am someone who refuses to be labeled right or left, but someone who boldly, proudly, and confidently stands tall in the middle. It’s always been seen as political suicide to stand in the middle but with each side going further into their own corners, we need leadership who brings people together rather than fans the flames of separation. That’s why on Houston City Council I am an unpredictable vote, a true centrist.

I take each issue on a case-by-case basis and remain open minded to listen to all points of view, then base my decision off the depth of perspectives and information given. Sometimes I’ll have a more conservative stance, other times it will be more liberal, but it will never be predisposed. No one person or party has all the answers, so it baffles me why we act as if they do.

A quick Google search shows that according to several surveys, over 40 percent of people actually consider themselves as Independent. Contrary to what the national media on both sides of the aisle tries to convey, most people are in the middle. I call it “the sane middle.” Inherently, we all should have a wide range of various perspectives on various topics; that’s what makes each of us unique.

“United we stand, divided we fall” may be cliche, but it’s definitely true. We can make America great by engaging each other with an appreciation for what makes us different. Let’s become familiar with the unfamiliar, understanding that on a foundational level, we all want the same things. The only way for us to shake hands and show class and decency is by coming towards the middle. I’ll take the first step by standing in the gap as a bridge builder, knowing that there is more that unites us than divides us. Each one of us has been created to be uniquely independent, so let’s start acting like it. To be certain our tomorrows will be better than our todays, it will take all of us working collectively, and Together We Will.