Member of the reality-based community of progressive (not anonymous) Massachusetts blogs
You know, everyone loves to beat on the unknown government. Who knows who the town administrator really is? Who knows who these selectmen are? … What I did was I ended up using technology in the response as a tool to try to make government more accessible and more human at the same time.
It helps to make the community leaders viewed not only as the eggheads you see on television at the selectmen meetings or in the newspaper talking about this, that or the other thing, but they’re also people who have their own families. They have their own lives, they’re trying to be part of a community. (emphasis mine)
Leon Gaumond has been the town administrator in West Boylston for seven years and previously served in a similar position in East Longmeadow. He is president of the Massachusetts Municipal Management Association.
I’ve been told the cliche,”This ain’t beanbag.” Yep. Tru dat, yo. But, maybe we forget that it is “We The People” and that government at every level is just us, doing the best (and worst) that we can.
A friend called me today and said, “Jack, write every blog post from the perspective that you are completely wrong. That way you won’t write anything you can’t easily take back and apologize for.”
What I don’t want to do is peddle political pornography. Below are some other folks thoughts on what blogging, activism and local government mean to each other. I picked the parts I liked best.
MUNICIPAL ADVOCATE Vol. 26, No. 1
They’re out there. The often-anonymous critics of local government—indeed, of government at all levels—are making their voices heard all day, every day, in blog posts, on newspaper websites, and in any other online forum they can find. Their posts, often fraught with misspellings, grammatical errors and misinformation, hurl vitriol and personal insults in the direction of those who are elected or appointed to serve their community. Taken on their face, these comments would suggest that local government is a haven for corruption and mismanagement. Reading the comments, one could also conclude that politics has gotten ugly—really ugly—even at the local level. People are mad as hell and, well, you know the rest.
If you make it a goal and a practice of local government to provide opportunities for people to participate in all the decisions that are made in their names, then you have a more robust local democracy, you feed the pipeline for future leaders, and you make decisions that reflect the most balanced possible perspective of the citizenry.
I believe that everything we do as local officials is modeling the behavior that we expect from our citizens.
Joshua Ostroff, a selectman in Natick for the past five years, is president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
You have to be able to find some stability in your day-to-day public debate. Otherwise, you’ll end up having the old-fashioned mob rule. The person with the loudest voice, the person who drives the hardest position, will be the one who runs up in front.
Scott Lang has been the mayor of New Bedford since 2006 and is president of the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association.
The atmosphere that’s out there now is, if you change your mind, you’re a flip-flopper. If you say, “I don’t know,” you’re uninformed. … So it’s discouraging when you get into this field and you realize that everything you do, someone is going to find a fault with. But you just have to continue forward, knowing that you are doing what you think is best for your community.
I think the most important thing is to make sure you have a really good relationship with the [local newspaper reporters and editors], so they feel free to call you and ask you anything.
Colleen Corona has been a selectman in Easton for nine years and has served as chair of the board for the past eight years. She is a former president of the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association.
I understand the concept of allowing anonymous comments. The intention behind it is that it would allow for free-flowing discussion, whereas if people had to identify themselves, they would maybe fear some reprisal. … What instead has happened is that it has allowed these basically nasty people to drive all intelligent discourse away. It’s really very unfortunate, because I think that some of these things could have provided a vehicle for, an opportunity for, intelligent discourse on every item that’s brought up.
Robert Logan has been a city councillor in Waltham for twenty years. He is president of the Massachusetts Municipal Councillors’ Association.
The blogs, when not monitored and used appropriately, can be one of the most damaging, negative, hurtful things ever invented. … You should be able to say anything about me that you want, but when teachers are being called out by name on the blog sites, when people are insulted, when Little League All-Star teams are discussed, when what police officers are doing in their free time is discussed, it creates an incredibly negative atmosphere. That is detrimental to the political discourse.
I think in many communities, that is the number one issue that’s damaging political discourse.
Robert Dolan has been the mayor of Melrose since 2002. He is a former president of the Massachusetts Mayors’ Association.
What I try to do is show a little empathy to begin with and get them to converse with you. I’m not afraid to tell someone to get the hell out sometimes. … I don’t mind people yelling at me as much, but sometimes if they’re going after my staff, I’ll say, “You need to find a proper voice. Just because we’re public servants doesn’t mean you have the right to mistreat us.”
We’re not perfect in government. Sometimes they have a legitimate beef. But the one thing I do tell my staff, and I tell everybody, is that the difference between government and business is that the customer is not always right. … We need to be able to explain to the citizens why we do things, and that what we do for you, we will also do for the next customer who walks through the door.
I always go back to why I’m in the business, it’s public service. And I always try to go back to the person who was very appreciative of the service you provided, and there are more of those than there are the people who don’t want to understand.
John Petrin has been the town manager in Ashland for the past six years and previously served as the town administrator in Harvard and executive secretary in Pepperell. He is a former president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
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