From the Toledo Free Press:
Sean Nestor has worked in IT since he was 18 years old. He finds solutions to people’s problems for a living. But the Point Place resident hopes to begin tackling some much larger issues in the City of Toledo.
Nestor is vying for a seat on Toledo City Council this fall and thinks his IT background will come in handy at One Government Center.
“IT is very service-oriented, and people have concerns about things that are more complex than they are able to really deal with,” Nestor said. “They come to somebody who’s an expert or who is well versed in a matter and say, ‘Hey, I have this problem. How can we get this fixed?’ From what I’ve observed about city politics, that’s often the case, with city council being a very service-oriented position.”
But Nestor says there is something other than IT that makes him qualified to be a councilperson.
“I wouldn’t say that my IT experience alone makes me qualified to run for city council. I think just being a concerned citizen is what does that. City council is the most appropriate for where my concern lies,” Nestor said. “Obviously, there’s county positions; there’s school boards, but my concern is really about the city. There are so many looming crises, and these are primarily city issues.”
Nestor also ran for the District 6 city council seat in 2011 against Councilwoman Lindsay Webb. While he did not make it past the primary, Nestor said he is much better prepared for this year’s race.
“That was when I was very new to politics, and was learning as I went. I’m a lot more well-read on the intricacies of how government works. I have more well-rounded ideas of what can be done to make things better,” Nestor said.
City Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson said she has not worked with Nestor before, but candidates do not necessarily need a political background to be successful on council.
“I don’t think that any one thing precludes the other. For me, it’s whether you’re willing to do work, engage and talk to citizens, and listen to what they say,” Hicks-Hudson said. “That person has to have a drive to be a problem solver, and look at ways to help and empower residents of the city.”
Nestor said he feels more prepared after increasing his involvement with local organizations. He co-founded Third Space, a community center in Downtown Toledo, is board president of the Phoenix First Food Co-Op and works with Toledo Choose Local.
Nestor, a member of the Green Party, says he is well aware of the challenges he faces in the upcoming election.
“[Green candidates] get this reputation of being fringe candidates, and not being real or viable,” Nestor said. “It’s largely because we’re not given valid access, which is something Republicans or Democrats take for granted. There are institutional obstacles that are put in place specifically to keep third parties from being able to participate on an even level.”
One person familiar with running as a Green Party candidate in Toledo is Anita Rios, who ran for the District 4 council seat in 2011. Rios is a long-time member of the Ohio Green Party, and has worked extensively with Nestor.
“One of the challenges is getting people out of the PAC mentality and tribal mentality to support him in whatever efforts he attempts,” Rios said.
Still, Rios said she is impressed with Nestor’s campaign so far.
“He managed to bring together a good crew of people for little or no money, and that speaks highly of him, that he brought together people who have enough faith to do that for him,” Rios said.
Sticking to his Green Party roots, Nestor is running a grassroots-funded campaign, only taking donations from individuals.
“I’ve raised $7,000 so far, which is notable primarily because I’ve taken on a vow not to accept corporate donations, no PACs, no unions,” Nestor said.
Nestor believes he can run a campaign that keeps him in the running, even when fundraising differently than his competitors.
“I can say from that experience that city council races typically are in the neighborhood of $20,000, $30,000. And I’m well on my way to being competitive in that regard. That’s part of why I feel comfortable and confident with the campaign,” he said.
But Nestor says he wasn’t always this optimistic about his voice in the political arena.
“I was cynical myself for many years. I had strong convictions about certain things, but I was so frustrated with how ineffective everything seemed,” Nestor said. “For a good six or seven years, I just said, ‘It’s all screwed up.’ I got so cynical that I think I got cynical about cynicism. I started to look around and get involved with the community, and started to take seriously what it takes to run for council.”
Nestor said that cynicism carries over to the politicians themselves.
“Whatever energy they whipped up to get them elected can be then changed after the election to get people to fight for things and really rally around important issues,” he said. “I always wonder why more candidates don’t do that. It’s what I plan to do. The election doesn’t end with the campaign. It continues on.”
With his increased interest in local government, Nestor has also taken up a new hobby: poring over campaign finance reports. Over the last year, Nestor went through campaign finance reports for each council official and their runner-up, and created corresponding spreadsheets and pie charts to see where their donations came from.
“I found little slip ups here and there. … I was like, ‘How is some guy out there who is just checking into this for fun, catching things that the Board of Elections didn’t?”’ Nestor said.
That experience left Nestor hungry to bring that kind of attention to the city’s finances as well.
“There’s so much that goes on in the city government that needs to be scrutinized to that level,” he said.
Nestor also is skeptical of the use of surveillance cameras installed by the Toledo Police Department. Safety is one of Nestor’s main issues, and is one that hits close to home. His best friend, Antonio Johnson, was murdered in 2001.
“There’s always been problems with violence in this city,” Nestor said. “If there is a reduction in crime, it’s going to come from more police officers, more detectives, and that’s something we’re actually starving by the surveillance camera project.”
Also on his agenda is solving some of the city’s issues, ranging holding banks accountable in foreclosure cases and developing a unique culture for the city. One of his biggest concerns is the city’s infrastructure, which Nestor called “one of the least sexy things to talk about politically.”
But Nestor says he is ready to solve those problems.
“I’m trying to motivate other young people to give them something to look at, to really do a good job at what I’m doing,” he said.