In a previous article I mentioned restoring pride in Manchester. I have since been asked how this would happen because – as those who asked stated – there really isn’t much to be proud of. The growing heroin crisis in addition to what many see as an overall increase in illegal drug activity in the city was mentioned.
People also spoke of the rising number of stabbings in the city, the declining state of the public schools, and the poor infrastructure – particularly road conditions. A few comments were also made about the bond downgrades as well as what is seen as a city that is not business friendly. Everyone that I spoke to said that city government is unresponsive and doesn’t seem to care. They said that the only concern of our elected officials in general is power and either getting re-elected or seeking higher office.
The simple response to these statements would be to ask the people if they vote; if they are involved in the process that gives us the opportunity to pick the people who will guide our city. I truly believe that one of the greatest impacts that we can make is to be involved in the process by voting. But I also recognize that sometimes we cast votes without really paying much attention to whom or what we are voting for. Sometimes the uniformed vote wins. I also realize that a simple response like this can seem smug and annoy those who do not have faith in the system as well as people who don’t have pride in Manchester. This response also sounds a bit canned, over idealistic and naïve. People who get a response like this usually just walk away annoyed and even more frustrated.
Because I am what could be called a “positive realist,” I usually see questions like this from a different perspective. I believe that voting is very important and is something that should be done by all eligible people in our country, but I also believe that there is more. There is more to a successful city than people showing up at the polls during an election; there is more to a successful city than people campaigning for their chosen candidates. In fact, the “more” really has nothing to do with either voting or with the election process.
Because the problems that face Manchester are reported on a daily basis – and even more often because of the on-demand nature of our lives – there are often good things about the city that we miss. Growing up in MHT, I witnessed the city’s ups and downs and often lamented about things like how there needed to be more to do and how the city leaders needed to do a better job at addressing the city’s issues. Even though there were problems, it was my focus that was the real issue.
Manchester has its issues – as does any city – but we need to look at the good things that the city has to offer as well as how far she has come and we need to believe that it has the potential to be even greater. We need to believe in Manchester and know that our belief isn’t based on its government or the elected officials but rather in the knowledge that we can all make her greater!
Former Providence, Rhode Island, mayor Buddy Cianci was at the forefront of the city’s turnaround, (although he is quick to point out that he was part of a group of people who made things happen). Buddy envisioned and saw to reality the moving of the Downtown rivers, the relocation of the railroad tracks, (and their placement underground), the subsequent creation of Waterplace Park, the relocation of the train station, the building of Providence Place, and the building of the Rhode Island Convention Center. Buddy also led numerous neighborhood improvement projects, brought venues like the Providence Performing Arts Center and also brought the Providence Bruins. Buddy helped spur the now vibrant arts community by supporting the creation of Waterfire as well as led efforts to make the city a more favorable place for artists to live, play, and work. Buddy’s actions also helped Providence become a world-class culinary destination and made it known as the “Renaissance City.”
Although he did great things for Providence, when asked, Buddy will tell you that his greatest achievement was restoring pride in the city. I was privileged to live in Providence during its renaissance and remember the incredible amount of pride that people had in the city. It wasn’t pride in government; it was pride in the city that we called home.
It was a mayor – an elected official – who led the city’s renaissance, but the pride was growing before any ground was broken; before any project had begun. Mayor Cianci had won an upset victory (he is an Italian who won as a young Republican in a heavily Irish Democratic city – during Watergate – a time when Republicans everywhere were losing) because he had a certain energy that inspired hope. Buddy still has this energy – and he remains Providence’s biggest cheerleader.
It wasn’t about who Buddy was; it was his energy and passion that attracted people to him. It is this energy – this passion – that moved people and gave them the hope that Providence could be a better place. It was this energy that moved people to become involved in the betterment of the city. From cleaning their neighborhoods and becoming civically-minded to tutoring children and restoring playgrounds, people were invested. Rhode Island’s motto is ‘Hope’ and Buddy brought it to the people of Providence. I refer to Buddy as a positive realist with incredible passion for his beloved hometown. Buddy is one of a few politicians that can inspire people and help them think beyond self.
But the restoring of pride doesn’t have to be led by the energy and passion of one individual. We don’t have to wait for a passionate politician for us to have pride in Manchester. We have the power to create energy and enthusiasm; we can help restore pride in Manchester.
It takes but one spark to ignite a fire, and Manchester already has those sparks. There are passionate people leading some great organizations that are working to make Manchester an even greater place to live, play, and work. But they can’t do it alone – they need our help. It doesn’t take much to get the fire going! It is possible to get the pride in Manchester back, and it starts with us. It starts with the little spark that we all have.
As I’ve said before, the most important thing is for people’s pride in Manchester to be restored and everything else will fall into place. Pride will get people involved in the betterment of Manchester. It all starts with that little spark; the question is who will take the chance to ignite it.
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.