Last night, I participated in the second of four town hall meetings set up by the city council to allow the public to bring their issues before us in a larger venue than those in which we usually meet. Several residents stood before the microphone to express their concerns. Other bloggers have focused on the overriding focus of those in attendance on the PMUA, so I need not add to that. My position has been made clear--as it seems there is no desire on the part of the authority or commissioners to reform in any way, I am for dissolution of this entity.
What I want to focus on is a looming issue having to do with willful obtuseness and demagoguery that flattens a complex discourse about moving our city forward into one focused on race and class--of course, race and class are a part of the discussion, but we need to look at these issues in an open and honest way--not in a way designed to exploit or pander for political gain.
In addition, it seems that there are those who are continuing to spread misinformation about our town, leading some residents to believe that some members of the city council are "voting" against "the children." As an educator (and former child), this troubles me. It happened again last night, as one resident came to the mic with rumors that she had been hearing about the council's involvement in a tentative Armory proposal that never came before us, about charter schools, daycare centers, and other issues. The council was able to provide her with facts to dispel the misinformation she had been given, and I would hope that she is bringing the facts back to her neighbors and friends. She did not disclose to us the source of her misinformation, but it is clear that those who would exploit our children are out there, trying to pollute the minds of residents with lies.
To see the children used by demagogues to advance their own selfish agendas is disgraceful. To see putative city council candidates do it is even more disheartening, because in my opinion, it provides a clue as to how they will govern, if elected. Last night, Tony Rucker, Jerry Green's choice for council, stood before the council and, looking directly at Cory and me, seemed to insinuate that we were afraid to visit Hannah Atkins Park, where he visited recently. What was coded in what he said was a familiar yet convoluted syllogistic trick used to suggest a lack of concern--some would call it class/race baiting. If visiting a playground and pool located over by Plainfield Avenue and W. Third Street is to be some sort of "litmus test" or metric of one's concern for the "community," I am fearful for our future: superficial photo ops and fodder for non-substantive blog posts are not sufficient substitutes for the real work of long-term community involvement.
I have attended at least two dozen community meetings and events all over this city in just three months on the council! Now, unless someone is following me (troubling in itself!), he or she has no idea where I go--I don't go to places just to be "seen" going to them. As I said in my response last night, I worked in the 4th Ward for two years, and walked to work as often as I could. I continue to enjoy my life in all parts of the city, and I have no fear of any of its neighborhoods--neither does Cory. To insinuate that we do have fear or are otherwise unconcerned about the children in our city is morally repugnant. My entire career is devoted to education, and Cory, who has lived here for 30 years--not five or six--served on the Plainfield Board of Education for many years as a volunteer, and as a volunteer soccer coach for ten years, mentoring kids all over the city. These were and remain long-term commitments. I would expect that anyone attempting to "call anyone else out" on their volunteer service to have an equally long record of volunteer service and civic commitment.
I would suggest that candidates not play "politics" and be clear in telling the residents what they think they can bring to the council table. I would hope that this campaign season will be one where the candidates will focus on the issues facing our city. The lies and personal attacks made on me last year--lies about my career, my employment record, my salary--all backfired terribly. The final one, with a veiled homophobic attack, was delivered to mailboxes the day before my election, and it came with the imprimatur of Jerry Green. Candidates understand that they are responsible for any material put out on behalf of their respective campaigns.
I am hopeful that the final two town hall meetings are filled to capacity with residents who want to work with the council to help move our city forward--I was heartened by the desire on the part of many of those in attendance last night to volunteer their expertise (financial, legal, etc.) to the city!
Two more town meetings are scheduled--please share with your friends and neighbors:
3rd Ward Meeting: Cedarbrook Elementary School on Wednesday, April 20 at 7:00 pm
4th Ward Meeting: Clinton Elementary School on Wednesday, May 11 at 7:00 pm
As your 2nd and 3rd Ward Councilor At-Large, however, I may call additional town meetings of my own to hear from those of you who are unable to attend the current round. As always, you may reach out to me via cell phone or email.