Thoughts on the 2014 Elections Text Size

I love Election Days. There’s just something about seeing people holding signs and standing in line that makes me proud to live in a country like ours. And of course, Election Day means I get to spend several entertaining hours in front of my TV waiting for the results. I watch election results trickle in the way the most Americans watch the Super Bowl.


Last Tuesday, our City Clerk Brenna McGee presided over her first general election as clerk. She and her whole staff did an outstanding job—and her turnout prediction wasn’t far off the mark!


Nationwide, turnout was the lowest it has been in 70 years. Compared with the world’s other established democracies, the United States ranks very close to the bottom in voter turnout. The reasons for this are many and varied. And I think it’s a fair issue to raise, especially in a nation so committed to democratic values as ours. While I won’t advocate any particular remedies here—among which include same-day registration, mail-in voting, weekend elections—I do think this past election provides an opportunity to think about our civic life in the City of Holyoke.


In Holyoke, 41.5% of registered voters cast ballots. That’s in a statewide election year. Across the country, turnout in local elections is even lower, having dropped considerably in the past few election cycles. Again, there are structural reasons for such low turnout—structural factors that don’t exist in the other, higher-turnout democracies of the world. Short of such structural change, though, I think it falls to us to re-imagine our responsibilities as citizens, and to broaden our sense of what’s possible in politics and governing. That, I think, is a test of the strength of our city government—are we demonstrating to the people of Holyoke that we hear their voices, and are we providing the space for people to have their voices heard?


I understand people’s frustrations. I have talked to Holyokers who have real concerns about their futures—whether economically, or for their kids in the school system—but who question whether the government is really listening. That is part of why I ran for this office in the first place. And there has been nothing more heartening than to see people getting involved for the first time in their lives, and to see people get reintroduced to and reenergized by the process.


One concrete way my administration has sought to continue in that spirit has been in my board and commission appointments. Over the past three years, my administration has worked to diversify our boards and commissions, appointing a wide array of citizens from varying backgrounds to serve the city. 


After any election in this country, there is talk about the many people who didn’t turn out. Inevitably, there is talk about how to empower these people to realize their voices. But people already have the power to change things. For me, the question is about how to energize that power, and to get people realize the power they already have. Voting is the most basic form of expressing that power, but it is far from the only way. And in Holyoke, we are fortunate to have people who speak out on the issues that matter. As mayor, I am fortunate to be held accountable in this way. Moving forward, I hope we can call think about ways to energize that power, to bring more people into the process, and to enrich the quality of our democracy for everyone.   


Before closing, I would like to congratulate our governor-elect Charlie Baker on his victory.  Although I endorsed his opponent, I am confident that Governor Baker’s administration will maintain a productive relationship with the City of Holyoke. I applaud his selection of Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash to be the next Secretary of Housing and Economic Development. Jay is a fine public servant and my administration looks forward to working with him.


I would like also to congratulate State Senator Don Humason and State Representative Aaron Vega on their victories. They are both good people and dedicated public servants, and I am honored to work with them. 

Posted on November 12, 2014 by