Service to the MHT
President John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.”
Having spent most of my life volunteering and being involved in my community, I find it fitting to return to my hometown of Manchester to help guide it as we continue into the future. While we move forward, we need to remember and honor the past so that we never forget what was involved in building and keeping our great city going. We need to remember where we came from.
As I have mentioned in previous pieces, Manchester has a history of destroying its past or neglecting things to the point that they need to be torn down. Manchester has made its mistakes, but they have also done some great things, such as restoring the millyard. The millyard district is a great example of honoring the past while building for the future with its modern businesses housed inside 19th century mill buildings.
Like many American cities, Manchester has seen vacant buildings, crime, and unemployment. The city has a sub-par citywide transit system and the regional system relies on busses, most of which have their closest stop at a station situated in North Londonderry, which is about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Manchester, (not helpful to those who do not drive). There are vacant and under-utilized buildings that could be used for the benefit of residents and visitors. Surface parking lots are in abundance, taking away from the beauty that the city offers and taking valuable space that could be better utilized.
The river-front is underutilized, with a major point of access that is near downtown currently being used as a surface parking lot with occasional festivals. Underutilized and unrealized potential are terms I use to describe aspects of Manchester. The public schools are seen as sub-par and the school board seems to constantly clash with the board of mayor and aldermen. This non-cooperation and gridlock often results in lack of sensible policy that harms students and often restricts our teachers’ ability to teach.
The biggest tragedy, which I see as the biggest issue and obstacle to Manchester moving forward is that the people have lost their civic pride. Who could blame them? Many people see a growing number of problematic issues in the city while its government is seemingly absent or non-responsive and rarely takes into consideration the thoughts and opinions of the residents when making decisions. They also see a government that by in large is only accessible by the connected and the chosen. This belief may have grown out of the witnessed lack of national leadership and the constant battles within Congress as well as the divide between them and the White House. But this is local and should not be like the Federal level. We can do better.
Part of the Solution
As mentioned in my previous piece, “Lost your civic pride? Celebrate #MHT,” we all have a role. Government alone is not the solution, it needs our help – our participation. Government can pave the way for ideas to become reality. And while some good ideas come from people within the government, their primary role is to pave the way.
I contemplated this for a while. I thought about how Manchester is a really nice place to live and has a lot going for it but needs a little “push” to help it move forward. Manchester does have urban problems as cities do, but they are able to be solved with cooperation. Then the vision for a people-led organization that advocates for a better MHT became Manchester Forward.
The mission of Manchester Forward is to “celebrate our city and to advocate for an even more vibrant, people-focused, and economically stable community that honors its past and embraces its identity as it builds for the future.”
We want to see people once again have hope and civic pride, to be proud that Manchester is their home. We don’t want Manchester to just be a place where one lives, but to be a community that they can be proud of. We want to see a Manchester government that is responsive to the needs of the citizens. We want a Manchester that considers all factors when designing projects and be mindful of our history and heritage.
Our plan is to return to the city in the upcoming months and grow Manchester Forward into a nonprofit organization. We are currently in the process of establishing connections prior to our move. It is these connections along with relationships with other stakeholders that will make the difference that will make Manchester Forward successful.
Connect with Us
You can like our page on Facebook, (https://www.facebook.com/ManchForward603), and follow us on Twitter @ManchForward603. Also feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know your thoughts and if you have any ideas!
We also plan on hosting some events when we settle in Manchester … any input would be appreciated. It is with your help that we will help Manchester move forward!
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 email@example.com.