Monday, February 27, 2012

Local Politics - The First Responders

Local politicians are always invited to attend the different "Old-Timers" dinners given by the firehouses in Derby. I'm sure this tradition is shared by most of the New England cities and towns as well.

Storm Engine Co #2 had their dinner this past Saturday. They a great door prize (iPad!), prime rib, and a really good comedian. I went with my husband and we had a great time.

So, why do the firemen invite the politicians? They don't need to curry favor with us because we love our volunteer firemen - they take care of Derby and they aren't expensive. What's not to like?

I think it's because the firemen are not only the first responders when there's a fire or other disaster, they are the first responders in the political process as well. They are members of the community that are doing what we all need to do - be involved. And that is what local politics should be all about.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Were We Just Bored?!?

Look at this room. What's missing? There's nothing to do. No big-screen plasma TV - no TV at all. No video games. No ipads laying around. No phones to talk to friends or send messages. No laptops. No wii. No nuthin. Nada.

There are no people in the picture either. Where are they? Where have they gone? I think that maybe they're at a local government meeting. They are probably at the Town Hall attending a meeting of the City Council.

Or maybe they are at a church meeting, volunteering somewhere, or taking a class at the local community college.

What worries me is that maybe they are out doing these things because they were bored at home. We think back on those "old days" before television and computers and we think that was swell. Mom did some sewing after dinner while Dad read the paper and smoked his pipe. The kids did their homework and then played a board game or read a book before going to bed. Everyone was there for suppertime and there was some meaningful conversation.

I say that a steady diet of that had to get boring sometimes and therefore people went out into the community more - to find something interesting to talk about and do.

We don't have to do that anymore - we have everything we need right here. Or do we?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Are You Coming?

The experts say that people will only participate in society if they understand the benefits of doing so and they believe they have a chance of achieving their objectives.

This makes a lot of sense! Would you write a letter to the editor of a newspaper with no circulation? Would you help clean up a river when there's no plan for keeping it up? Would you vote if you hated all the candidates? Would you join a committee with no objectives? Would you run for a public office that held no power?

If our public institutions are healthy and their missions are clear, then there must exist many opportunities to work with these entities and make our future brighter. If we are turning away, instead of joining up, is it because we are too busy to participate or have we lost our faith in the objectives and solutions?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Must Clarity be Absolute?

Although the military has stated that they do not censor news [prior to and during a war] but merely review it, since the invasion of Grenada, in 1983, they have given a clear signal that they will not yield power to the media again. The idea being that you can't very well sneak up on the enemy and out maneuver him if CNN, with cameras rolling, is riding shotgun at the front of your column.

How does this relate to us in Derby? We've been trying, since forever, to bring in a good firm to develop our downtown. There are some strategies used by local government to attract these kinds of developers, and some methods used by the developers to accomplish their work. For example they need to buy land and attract business to their project.

The public, anxious to see some progress after so many years, is understandably wanting a great deal of information about the project's status. It seems obvious that some details would have to be kept from the public, but whenever the withholding of information is sanctioned that opens the door for potential manipulation of the facts.

The above suggests, to me, that clarity cannot be absolute in most cases, especially during war or the negociating of important business deals. The question becomes, rather, how much needs to be shared to safeguard the public's best interests?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

10% Off When you Vote at WalMart!

I went to the New Haven Register's Citizen's Agenda Project forum tonight in Milford. It wasn't a huge gathering but there was a nice mix of people there.
- Reporters and staff from the Register.
- A representative from the League of Women Voters.
- A representative from Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit lobby and advocacy organization founded in 1970 and now 400,000 members strong in 36 states.
- A very young lady (I'm thinking 9 or 10 years old) who hosts her own weekly radio show and has interviewed Governor Malloy and on down.
- State Rep, Kim Rose, from the 118th Assembly District
- Myself, representing Clearly Derby
- Several members of the public

We talked about which issues have been most popular in previous forums and from online data gathering - most on the voters' minds: the economy, unemployment, health care reform, the national debt, and the banking/financial industry.

To that we added education, how much is spent by candidates, taxes, ...

I introduced the Clearly Derby concept - bringing local government to the people - and everyone seemed interested in this. This turned out to be a good segue into the discussion of how to get greater voter participation. Here are some of our thoughts:

- everyone is too busy to follow what's going on
- the people have lost their confidence in government so they don't want "to play"
- voters won't participate unless they see solutions they can believe in
- we need to break things down (issues and candidate info) for greater transparency
- and my personal favorite ... let's put the polling places in WalMarts and give out 10% off coupons for first time voters! Why not?!?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Civic Pride

There are some emotions that are truly universal: The love felt by a mother for her precious child, the utter despair of a broken heart, the thrill of winning a prize, the joy you feel when your loved one comes home from afar, or the desire to protect things that are weaker than you.  

On Clearly Derby, the fans and I are trying to pick out a new profile picture.  We want something that represents Derby well and that's because another universal emotion, civic pride, is in play.  This is our home and we want to put our best foot forward.  We want validation.

I am thinking that civic pride will be what ultimately unites Derbyites and brings them to share some common goals.  We are a feisty, headstrong bunch of Yankees around here, but, that pride in Derby is really strong too.

If you look around at our local government you see Irish, Italians, Polish, Hispanic and more.  You see white and black, young and old, men and women, Democrat, Republican, and Unaffiliated.  So, I think it's safe to say we can work together - if we can ever decide what exactly we want!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How it's going

Clearly Derby has been up for a little over 2 months now and we have 111 fans.  Not a huge number - Starbucks has 28+ million - but I'm pretty happy with our number, for a few reasons:

  • We are new page with a new concept - it will take awhile for people to "get us" (and hopefully not run away when they do)
  • We haven't promoted the page yet in any significant way.
  • Our target audience, Derby CT, is a small city with only a few thousand citizens who have facebook accounts.
  • Our "product" is not sexy because local government is not sexy.  

So, given the above, I think that 111 fans is like a small mob.  And you have to take into account that a Clearly Derby fan is worth at least 10 fans on a normal page.  Our fans are that good and that loyal.

Our biggest challenge on Clearly Derby is much the same as that in the public (and private) schools.  Our subject matter is just not that exciting so we have to use some "bait" to get our "customers" interest.  We have to be careful to not make the "bait" too much fun or else our students, and facebook fans, become much more interested in the fun and games than the subject itself.