Please Apply to Serve (on a city board)

Before we discuss my perpetual appeal for citizens to apply to serve on a board or commission, we need to discuss yesterday’s City Council meeting.

First, I MET MIKE GERMAIN LAST NIGHT.  (I think that deserved all caps, don’t you?)  I was hanging around with Brendan while he schmoozed (or, really, was on the receiving end of a lot of schmooze) and he said, “You know MikeGermain, right?” as MG walked by.

Well, of course I do, but I’d never met him, but I’d seen him numerous times, and of course he knows enough about me to know that a restraining order is in our future.

So Brendan introduces us, and we shake hands.  And then he keeps holding my hand.

Which is kind of awkward, because those situations are always awkward.  I mean, once a hand-shake is past the two-second mark, it’s really too long, but do you want to be the guy who pulls his hand away?  You might offend the other person.  But you really don’t want to be the person who doesn’t pull away, because then you’re just creepy. 

I mean, I really like MikeGermain, but I’d prefer to stay married.

Luckily, after what seemed like an hour but was probably thirty seconds, Mike left us to go talk to TV reporters.

Second, I met friend of the blog Steve Foskett, whom Brendan also introduced to me, because it was like one big cocktail party in the hall outside Esther Howland.  Except with dog leashes instead of drinks.  (Seriously, those people with the masks made no sense.  They weren’t from Worcester, so perhaps they were just scared of the Big City.  Also, not one person was wearing a dog collar, which was kind of refreshing and kind of disappointing.)  I had wanted to meet Steve for some time, so that was pretty cool.

Third, I found Bill Eddy saying, “This will be my losing moment of the night” surprisingly poignant.  Sure, I completely disagree with him on the pit bull issue.  And just about everything else.  But that kind of self-deprecation usually works better with Germain.

Sometimes the life of a city councilor is really depressing.  You propose an ordinance that six other councilors sign onto, and when it gets presented, not only is it held, but you have another councilor tacking on ten or so amendments to the ordinance.  You think you’ve got a slam dunk for public safety and instead you’ve got an overflow crowd made up of many who disagree with you.  And the few that do are made up of Vinny Pedone and Billy Breault.  If that’s not worthy of some self-deprecation, I don’t know what is.

Fourth, Kate Toomey.  I really like Kate, even though I agree with her about 25% of the time.  Which I believe is more than I agree with most other councilors.  After the meeting (oh, yes, I stayed to the bitter end, dinner-less because Woosta Pizza was out of cheese slices), Kate asked me what I thought about her amendments.  And I was trying to be nice, but I’m not a crime-and-punishment or law-and-order kind of girl.  Maybe my neighborhood is the one island free of dog violence on the mean streets of Worcester, but I just don’t feel like this is that big a problem that we need more laws on our books that essentially say the same thing as the laws we already have.  With two dog officers.

I mean, aren’t there any street vendors left to kick around?

Fifth, the real reason I wrote this post: the city needs people to serve on boards and commissions.  They’re begging for people to apply for the Thomas Early Scholarship Committee, which meets on an “as needed” basis.  According to the city HR department, The committee is “charged with delivering applications to the schools and then reviewing the applications to make selections. The busiest times for this board are in the early and late spring.”  If you’re looking for a small way to give back to your community, this could be it.  Information on applying can be found here.  (You can also email me and I’ll send you an application and some more information.)

I’m going to petition the city to make applications and a list of open board and commission seats available next to the agendas at every City Council meeting.  If they really want people to serve, they need to encourage people who attend public meetings to apply.  Aren’t those the kind of people you want involved?

I discussed this a bit with Jo Hart, “a Worcester resident who likes to describes herself as a public transportation advocate“, after the Council meeting.  In case you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Jo, she is someone who attends nearly every public meeting because you don’t.  She feels (and I don’t think I’m really putting any words in her mouth) that the city is not really interested in democracy, and she attends meetings primarily so that councilors know at least one person is watching everything they do.  She wouldn’t apply for a board because she thinks it’s just a way for the city to look like it cares about getting citizen input.

Now, I am sympathetic to her views.  But I think it’s equally true that our elected officials can say, “Well, no one’s serving on boards because there’s apathy” (as opposed to disgust) and “No one attends council meetings because they don’t care” (as opposed to not wanting to hear unnecessary speeches).  Jo Hart already walks the walk; she attends meetings and speaks out about the things we all care about. 

Now go out there and apply for a board.  Even if you already have — pick a different one and apply again.