Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy said that he got into politics because he was tired of complaining. That is a good reason to get into politics. There are so many who complain yet so few actually get involved. I’m not saying that everyone needs to seek public office, (and actually think that many times more gets accomplished by those “leading from the outside”), but we need to be engaged – we need to be part of the process; part of the solution.
The 2013 city election is a good example of people not getting involved in the process. In 2013, only a little more than 25 percent of registered voters cast ballots. In fact, several offices had almost as many blank ballots as votes for actual candidates. There are many reasons for the apathy of the electorate, with the one I hear most going something like, “they’re all the same and don’t really care about the average person.” Although I agree that there are politicians who don’t really care, I believe that there are those who do. This is especially true on the local level.
Manchester is an example of a place where change is possible on the local level, and there are people of various backgrounds who step-up to the challenge of leading the city. Manchester is not a city where one has to be politically connected to have a shot.
The filing period for those seeking public office in Manchester began on July 13th and runs through July 24th. So far, four people have filed to make their mayoral candidacies official, (Joyce Craig, Patrick Arnold, Jawed Alibaba Shaikh, and incumbent Ted Gatsas). With over a week left there is still plenty of time for others to file, both those who are “expected” to run as well as “surprise” candidates.
There are many issues facing Manchester – as is the case with many cities – and it will take a strong and focused leader who is innovative and willing to do things differently to move it forward. We need a leader who will work with the aldermen and school board on solutions to the issues that face the city. True leadership isn’t about who is right or wrong, it is about solving the problem. The truth isn’t in the extremes, it is found when people work together towards a common goal or solution. Head trips won’t move the city forward, elected officials who are willing to work with one another will.
As we all know, Manchester is facing some issues, including:
- Crime, (especially gang-related shootings as of late)
- Housing, (vacant properties and those with sub-par living conditions as well as absentee landlords who are non-responsive)
- Commercial properties that are vacant or underutilized
- Public schools, (achievement and facilities)
- Drugs, (networks as well as the growing Heroin problem)
In addition to the issues we face, the city needs more development that will bring people and more jobs. It seems that the number of new companies moving into Manchester has been minimal.
The mayor will need to do more than just tackle the city’s issues and maintain. The mayor will need to be at the forefront of innovation and supportive of new and unique ideas for the city. The mayor will also need to lead the effort to possibly update the tax structure and overhaul regulations so that entrepreneurs and their ventures locate in MHT and flourish. The mayor will need to work to help find ways to retain the students that call Manchester home while they study but move away after graduation. The mayor will need to be willing to listen and help think of ways to implement ideas such as some that I presented in a previous post.
Most importantly, the mayor will need to help the people of Manchester restore their pride in our city. People want to be proud of where they live and come from, and although government is usually not the reason for that pride, elected officials are responsible for the overall direction of a community and can determine the outcomes of important things by the policies and projects that they support, (such as business growth, crime rates, public schools, etc.). When people have pride they tend to get more involved in a community. This would in part decrease apathy and increase the voter turnout.
Finally, the mayor will need to be passionate about the city and not be simply using the office as a stepping-stone for their future, (been there, done that).
The mayor will have a lot to do – and two-year terms often make it difficult to complete some projects – but with the right passion and plan the mayor should be able to get some things accomplished and also at least start additional projects. People are looking for progress, and as long as they see that Manchester is moving forward, the mayor will likely be allowed to serve for more than one term.
I commend all those who have stepped-up and are willing to serve as Manchester’s mayor. I also commend those who will be running for mayor as well as all of the elected positions in the city. I would also like to gently remind them that it isn’t about party loyalty or platforms; it is about the people and the city.
Just a note. When I write “the mayor,” it does not refer to Mayor Gatsas; it simply means whoever wins the election in November and assumes, (or retains), the office in January. Manchester Forward is not endorsing a mayoral candidate and I have not personally decided. These are my views of what the mayor of Manchester needs to be.
Click for more from the For the Love of Manchester archives.
About the author: Brian Chicoine is a New Hampshire native who moved to Manchester from Raymond in 1980 at the age of 8. He attended Gossler Park Elementary, Parkside and Southside Junior High, and West High, from which he graduated in 1990. After attending Notre Dame College in Manchester, Brian completed his undergraduate degree at Rhode Island College in Providence. Brian and his wife Jackie then came to Manchester in 2004 and were involved in various outreach organizations. Their two boys were born in Manchester during this time. After his position was eliminated in 2009, Brian and his family returned to Rhode Island. They have been living in Providence since 2010. Brian and his family love Manchester and are planning on returning within the next few months. Brian is currently working at helping the city move forward by connecting with other stakeholders and becoming involved with like-minded groups. Brian is also laying the foundation for an organization that will help strengthen the city and help it move forward.
Brian holds a Bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College and a Master of Public Administration degree from Grand Canyon University. Brian currently works at Boston Children’s Hospital. He is also founder of a Facebook Group, Manchester Forward. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.