Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Campaign Kick-Off 2015

The following is the campaign speech that I made at my re-election kick-off event at The White Rose bookstore on High St. on Thursday May 28, 2015:

Thanks everyone for coming out this evening. Before I begin, I want to extend a special thanks to my husband, Damian, and my son, Lucien, for being here with me tonight because without them and their support, none of this public life is possible.

               Thank you all for coming; I am both honored and humbled by your presence- mostly because I am sure that I’ve pissed you off at some time or another. But I think that I’ve learned over the years that this is OK. Not because I want to piss you off or want to ‘stick-it-to-the-man’ in some way, but because I am honestly and sincerely listening to what each of you have to say about a particular issue. I am interested in your perspective and working so hard to find that common ground and those areas of overlap, so that we can move forward on an issue and make the political process productive, without compromising the principles and values on which I stand and for which you all elected me.

               And I think, from what I’m hearing, that you all are learning that you may get upset with me over a particular vote or issue, but that overall you can count on me to be transparent about that decision; that I will do my best to articulate and explain my position; and that in doing so you can recognize that I have heard you; that I did listen to you when you made that phone call, when you sent that email or hand-written letter, when you stood up at a mic during a public hearing with your hands and voice trembling.

               Whether you were a supporter of my first run for office in Ward 7, ten years ago or whether you only recently encountered me due to some controversial issue that came before the Ordinance Committee, I think that many of you have come to appreciate this attribute in me- this ability to listen not only to what you have to say about an issue, but also how you feel about an issue. I hope you know that I take very seriously your comments and thoughts on these matters facing the City, that I am empathetic toward your position, and oftentimes in awe of the passion and dedication you bring to the issues that you are involved in and in effect, to the City. I often find myself nodding along in agreement to your points and then someone with the exact opposite position will come to the mic and explain their perspective and I find myself nodding along with their points as well. This is not because I don’t have my own thoughts about this particular issue, but instead it’s due to the fact that I am working hard to understand how the logic lines up for you, so I can understand things from where you stand.

               So, Holyoke, we’ve come a long way from my 2005 campaign! I’ve come a long way from being that “carpetbagger from Northampton” (I’m from NY by the way!) to being somewhat old-hat and part of the institutionalized “city” that people are complaining about. I’ve now been the Chairwoman of the Ordinance Committee for four years. Chairing the Ordinance Committee is really hard work, but like all hard work it is also extremely rewarding. The Ordinance Committee is by far the ‘work horse’ of the City Council, where some of the city’s most important and most substantive issues are sorted through. It’s where most of the “sausage-making” happens (and oh boy- can I tell you how I love to make sausage?!!). I really do enjoy working out the details of policy making and finding solutions that work for our city.

               I’m really proud of the work we’ve accomplished in the Ordinance Committee. The Ordinance  Committee’s members’ include Councilors Alexander, Bartley, Chateauneuf, and Vacon who could not represent a more wide and diverse range of opinions and ideological commitments. Despite this diversity, the Ordinance Committee is engaging in very healthy and active debates on the issue and time and again we are passing out of committee cutting edge legislation (at times it is too far ahead of where the majority of votes are on the full council and items are sent back to committee). My committee is very successfully deliberating the issues that come before us and crafting great policy, such as: the zoning by-laws for medical marijuana facilities; passing Western MA’s first Complete Streets Ordinance, moving forward on the establishment of both the Fairfield Ave and Polish Heritage Historic Districts, and more mundane issue that pertain to the organization and daily functioning of City Hall. In all of these cases and more, the Committee has been able to reach compromises and find a course of action that allows the issue to move forward from the arena of debate and into the real world in our lived experiences in the City.

            And this is what I believe to be one of the most important aspects of the work we do in government; it’s addressing the problems and issues that you bring to our attention. Again, in my first “unsuccessful” bid for the Ward 7 seat my campaign was premised on the ideas of ‘downtown revitalization’ and ‘smart growth’ in-fill development. And while many people could appreciate the value of a thriving, walkable, historic downtown, many felt that that was a thing of the past; that THAT downtown was available wrapped in nostalgia alone. But I have held tight to this vision and trudged through the weekly council meetings and labored over the votes that would bring us closer to that vision and today we are celebrating my 2015 campaign kick-off in a small, independent bookstore downtown that did not exist ten years ago when I was first running for office.

           This vision of a livable, walkable, vibrant downtown is becoming a reality and I truly believe that it is, in part, a direct result of my presence on the council and my consistent efforts and messaging to highlight the value and promise of a revitalized downtown. The City of Holyoke has expanded what it believes is possible toward this end and has been taking concrete and measured steps forward in realizing this vision. The entire rhetoric of the City Council has shifted; although there remain critics of this vision, who continue to call this idea of a thriving downtown a “fantasy,” by-and-large the majority of councilors and constituents see a revitalized downtown as an essential component of Holyoke’s future success as a city. Revitalization is happening and we are all a part of that. So, THANK YOU for your work toward this vision. Thank you for taking the risks and opening up your businesses downtown; for bringing your talents, your art, and your passion downtown. Thank you for your support and please remember to VOTE LISI on November 3rd!