Reflections on the Summer Tour: Democracy in Action Text Size

Last week, I kicked off what will be a summer-long series of neighborhood meetings throughout the city. I am calling it my summer tour—because it makes me feel like I’m in a band. The purpose of these meetings is for me to keep you updated on everything that’s happening in the city, and to receive your feedback and take your questions.

So far, I have made stops at Prospect Heights, Rosary Towers, Elmwood Towers, and Holyoke Towers. At Prospect, I was accompanied by State Representative Aaron Vega, Police Chief James Neiswanger, DPW Superintendent Bill Fuqua, and development specialist Tessa Murphy-Romboletti. At Rosary Towers, I enjoyed getting to do my whole presentation in Spanish! (The residents were kind enough to correct some of my mistakes; I only made up a few words.)

Most people I’ve talked to on the summer tour are surprised and excited to discover just how much is happening here in the city—whether the millions of dollars worth of private investment in our downtown, or our innovative approach to public safety, or initiatives I’m unrolling to improve overall quality of life. I’ve also gotten to talk to some extraordinary people whose lives and stories remind me why I love this job so much. A woman at Holyoke Towers told me about her years growing up in South Holyoke during the Depression, and about the values she learned during that time – values like hard work and resilience. A woman at Elmwood Towers fondly recalled the education she received in the Holyoke Public Schools.

Already, these neighborhood meetings have increased our responsiveness to residents’ basic quality-of-life issues. At each meeting, representatives from the DPW and the Police Department take note of people’s concerns, and move swiftly to address them. Some issues, of course, take more time to resolve than others; it is much easier for us, as a practical matter, to attend to a city-owned property than a privately-owned one. But in either case, we work diligently to make sure we’re keeping our city clean and presentable. If you feel you won’t have time to come to the meetings, though, you should take advantage of See.Click.Fix., a site that allows residents to take pictures of and report their neighborhood issues, or bring your concerns directly to my office.

For me, events like these represent a vision of government, of democracy. Often, our politics can seem small—confined to abstract arguments about ideology, or bogged down by clashes of personality between those in power. If you pick up the newspaper, that’s what you’ll too often see—both on the local level and all the way up to the halls of our federal government. Where I draw inspiration, though, is from the recognition that democracy is not something that happens mainly in City Hall. Democracy is a way of life marked by a day-by-day working with others for the common good, and by an insistent belief that we all have the right to contribute, freely and equally, to our community.

Moreover, democracy requires a generous belief in each person’s capabilities as a human being. The role of government, then, is to cultivate and harness each person’s untapped potential. Part of governing in the 21st century is recognizing that many of our unused resources are human rather than material.

The nature of my job requires me to do a number of different things—some rather technical and bureaucratic, others more exciting. But my ultimate responsibility is to the people I’ve been elected to serve. Thus my job cannot consist only of official City Hall business; as a democratically elected leader, I owe it to you all to be as accessible and transparent as possible. And further, I owe it to you to let our relationship always be a two-way street, and for our dialogue to always be honest and mutual. That is how we will make our government as smart and effective as it can be. Of course, we won’t always agree. But open dialogue is what will keep our democracy vibrant and strong.

Anyway, I hope to see you around town! For a list of upcoming meetings, check out my Facebook page or the events calendar from the city website.

Posted on July 22, 2014 by