Cross posted from Not My Mother’s Blog:
Written in response to the Worcester City Council meeting held last night – read the Worcester city live blog at Worceteria for a quick overview of the night and why this letter was written. It has been sent to every member of the Worcester City Council. For the record, Kate Toomey emailed me back immediately and then spoke to me on the phone for twenty minutes about my concerns.
I recently moved back to Worcester with my new husband, excited to jump into the civic life of a city that I spent my first 22 years in, before moving to Lowell and Boston to help start small social entrepreneurships and support the development of city youth. Now 26 and armed with nearly 8 years small business management experience, a Masters degree and a doctorate on the way, I am excited to support growth of youth in THIS city, to give them the same opportunities that allowed me to complete two degrees, help build three successful youth programs and publish my first book.
I grew up in Main South in a time when many communities like ours were considered the problem, and not a source of solutions. During the early to mid 1990s I grew up around things that no one should ever have to see. In second grade, a classmate died in a housefire later ruled an arson. When I was 10 a 2-year-old neighbor was shot and killed. We played in a vacant lot filled with crack pipes, hidden weapons, and the remnants of buildings that once stood there. But when my mother organized kids in the neighborhood to help clean up the lot, and plant a garden, our City Councilor, Janice Nadeau, had the DPW out the next day to cart away discarded furniture and trash. The kids in the neighborhood planted gardens, and maintained that property, an abandoned lot, the community was involved and engaged. And out of that engagement grew a network of neighbors that held community meetings, helped each other in need, met with city officials, carpooled to parks, pools and beaches, and felt the sense of community that I believe made me who I am today.
I don’t know how young people growing up in this city today could feel the same. We were taught to be civically engaged because if we were, our elected officials would be able to partner with us to make our city great. This City Council seems to thrive on a lack of civic participation. Attending tonight’s City Council meeting I was shocked, appalled and ashamed that you are our elected officials. I’m not surprised when I overhear public servants excitedly predicting a low voter turnout, given how little the majority of you do to win votes that should be hard earned. I saw such disrespect, and even contempt for the public at tonight’s City Council meeting. It is no wonder that Worcester lacks the respect that the second largest city in New England should have in the region.
I watched a Mayor insist that we cannot sustain multiple neighborhood pools because the City has failed in the past to do so. She says this as though she is not the Mayor, as though she has not been a City Councilor for TWENTY years. If someone is responsible for failing the people of Worcester, is she not at least near the front of the line? Madam Mayor, you are quick to gavel silent a public that has waded through 7 community hearings, only to be displaced by a couple of well payed consultants. The respect you demand for “this body” of the City Council needs to be taken more seriously by its members. If you want the community to respect your representation, than perhaps you should learn to represent. I would like to thank Councilor Palmieri, Councilor Toomey, and especially Councilor Rushton, not for standing up for neighborhood pools, but for standing up for democratic values and due process that all of our policies deserve.
I know that you are all used to not having to do much to defend your place in the Council chambers, but I hope to appeal to your sense of duty, if you still have any, and ask you to step up to the call of your office. If you are going to sit and hear the will of the people, at least have the gumption to carry that will out to the City Manager who should, for all intents and purposes, report to you. I am ashamed at the pandering, corruption, and politicking that I witnessed this evening, and if you hope to keep your seats beyond November, perhaps you should be too. Because I pledge to do everything in my power to see that representatives that are incapable of representing will not have that awesome opportunity again.
Cara Lisa Berg Powers