Saturday, October 17, 2009

I had some free moments so I decided to write my thoughts on my leaving the Chelsea City Council in December. Be warned it is self serving, I am leaving the City Council but am still a politician ;)

I've spent my whole life in Chelsea living among long term neighbors, family members and newer residents. The first 26 years of my life in Chelsea seemed to culminate in my election to the Chelsea City Council (District 3). I remember going to school in the basement of the old Mary C Burke school (which is now a condo development, I was on the planning board when it was finalized and have responded to issues the current residents have to the best of my ability.) I remember playing in the old Merritt Park (now the New Mary C Burke school which is across from the site where a developer wanted to build a diesel power plant but we {local environmentalists and community activists/members} managed to stop it) and watching the councilor at the time lead an election rally when I was young, I would later go to school with his son and become his city councilor. As kids we checked out the old Forbes lithograph site (condos under construction,Aerosmith filmed a video there and a hosts a windmill whose base was moved across the site without resident input, because input was not required at the time, which prompted my sponsoring of a new comprehensive windmill ordinance.) Bradlees made way for Home Depot and features sidewalks that 18 year old Matt insisted be added to the site at a community meeting, 23 year old Matt approved while on the planning board and 26 year old insisted be kept free of snow so the local elderly residents can get to the local market and young children can get to school. My tenure occurred during the end of the boom years. I found it incredible to have been involved in the community visioning , in some cases approving plans as a member of the planning board and then dealing with the constituent problems that arise from massive redevelopment in a small area. It is rather ironic that now as the dust has settled, Webster has been repaved, Jefferson has received funding to be fixed, I step down. I enjoyed the busy years and fixing the problems that would arise, I do wonder what it would be like without all of those pending issues.

The highlights of the past few years have been:
* My election by my peers as the Vice President of the Council
* My appointment to the City Manager Evaluation Committee
* Being the main sponsor on a resolution calling for the retention of the resident discount program on the Tobin Bridge
* Signing onto resolutions trying to combat foreclosure in the city
* Working with the police department to curb drag racing with a massive reduction occurring during my tenure
* Working with city officials to reduce the number of trucks on residential roads and monitoring trucks through regular outreach to local citizens
* The repaving of Webster Ave
* The imminent reconstruction of Jefferson Ave
* The redesign of a pocket park taking the concerns of residents into account and brokering a compromise concerning the location of the basketball court
*My attendance at a vast array of cultural and community events, including my outreach to the public in publicizing them before and after the fact
* My advocacy of making more use of our preexisting sub committees in order to help increase transparency in local government
* Participating in Student Government Day in City Hall, getting a ticket while doing so and promptly paying for it at the City Clerks office!

In an unofficial capacity:

*My appearence on WFNX competing against Sam Yoon in "My Song is Better The Your Song"
* My oped piece on citizen involvement in the local community in the Chelsea Record
* Sitting on a panel for the Young Democrats of Massachusetts on running for office
* My subsequent appointment to the Executive Board of said group a few months later
* My defense of Chelsea against slander from a politician from another town
* Meeting the Latimer Society Girls Science Club in Cambridge on one of their trips
* Organizing a trip of the Boy Scout Troop to City Hall to meet with the City Manager and tour our emergency management center

It has been quite a ride in more ways then one. Most of my vacation time went towards attending events or meeting with constituents. I had a policy where I would make house calls and read every single piece of paper that went past my desk. I showed up to all meetings and attended the meetings of subcommittees I did not belong to to stay abreast of what was going on. I would routinely send out emails at midnight on a Saturday and be surprised to find our City Manager responding at 1am giving me enough time to respond by 1:15 am. It has also come with some fatigue, I began feeling like I could not give it my all for another term. I work an hour away and am looking to take on other projects in the next two years. Doing a sub par job was not ever an option and I felt that leaving midterm would be insulting to my colleagues and constituents.

I have liberal tendencies but have always been an advocate of governing in a smart, responsible, logical, ethical manner. Before making any major decisions I spoke with local residents and specifically looked for viewpoints contrary to what I believed. Ultimately I always voted the way I felt was best for city and my constituents. Generally I voted in line with people I traditionally considered my allies in the city but on a few occasions I went a different way but would always be up front and honest as to why I was voting the way I was. It is my hope that whoever fills my spot maintains the same level of good governance.

One of my philosophies that I carry with me is "Just because something is legal that does not make it right." I always have had zero tolerance for people that create injustice and hide behind legal manipulations.

People keep asking me what is next and I am not sure yet. As a rule former City Councilors and employees must wait a year before being appointed to any standing boards or commissions. I also may not have a Boy Scout troop to volunteer with as our numbers have dipped very low due to the closure of the elementary school that acted as a feeder for the troop. Most of my plans revolve around later 2010 so I may have a rare lull in life during the early half of 2010. Having been elected, appointed or running for something since I was 11 it will be odd to be so still. In Scouts it was Assistant Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, Junior Assistant Scout Master, Assistant Scout Master, Merit Badge counselor. In school I was on Student Council and pulled an upset over the class Valedictorian to become the school treasurer my senior year. In college it was Treasurer of the Political Science Academy followed by President and later founding member and Deputy Executive of the Salem State Democrats (I was nominated to be President but was in my last half year of my Senior year and wanted someone who would be around the next year.) Leaving school I joined the Chelsea Planning Board and then was elected to City Council. I have to go through the process of dislodging myself from my position without the benefit of having lost a race or "retiring", all of these signs and stickers and business cards will be recycled. My Facebook Group which inexplicably doubled in size since I announced I was not running again needs retooling. Contacting residents I have built relationships with to tell them who their new councilor is. Telling one of my constituents, she was my crossing guard when I was 4, for the 10th time I will not be her councilor come January etc.

I still have a few more meetings with a few resolutions I plan on passing before I leave.

Stay tuned...

No comments: