The Local Government and You

Growing up in school, we were told the biggest fairy tale of our lives: that the government works for the people. We are taught that the government cares about its citizens, making bills to protect us and listen to us. If they don’t, you go out and vote and make a difference. As an adult, you get hit with the crushing reality that the government doesn’t work for us: they work for whatever will get them the most money and re-elected. Yes, on a much grander scale this accurately describes the federal government but there is still the misconception at the local level that us citizens actually have a voice. Spoiler: we don’t. And the thing about voting? The citizens need to educate themselves and have actual choices to make the changes that are necessary. We don’t. The only politician that I follow in Chicopee that seems to genuinely be concerned with its citizens doesn’t even get a second glance from voters.

When you become a homeowner, you realize how terrible your local government can be. For instance, my mortgage went up as it seems my property taxes went up. What did I get in return for these taxes? Are my teachers getting anything that they are asking for so that they can better serve my children? Nope. In fact, they are still trying to negotiate terms of a contract that ended a year ago (Last I saw anyways, I could be wrong in which case feel free to correct me). Also in fact? They are shuffling around teachers/administration in a manner that may negatively impact the education of my children. They were even discussing getting rid of the Pre-AP program at my son’s high school, a move that actually upset my child. That tax money didn’t go to our schools.

Well, at least we kept our free trash pickup right? Except we really didn’t. We were given a trash barrel that fits 2 trash bags in it and then we have to pay $5-$10 for extra bags if we need to. I live in a house with 2 children and my recycling is so full that by the bi-weekly pickup, I have so much recycling accumulated that I can’t do anything with and it keeps building up. I’m certainly not the only family in the city with this issue. Does that matter? Nope. So where did our money go? Well, a conspiracy theorist may point out that the Mayor’s street is getting redone again…

My husband and I are reasonable people. We follow the rules. We donate more than our fair share of supplies to our elementary school because we can afford to and other parents may not be so lucky. We do it because it helps the teachers and by helping our teachers, we are giving our children the best chance to succeed. We don’t even complain about much to the city. Our only complaint has ever been: Can you fix the parking situation on our street?

A backstory. We live on a horseshoe type street. Our house is on one side of the curve, the Inkedparkingsituation_LIside where there is a sidewalk that leads up to the school and playground behind our house. A sidewalk that all the neighborhood kids need to access to get to school or their bus stops. A sidewalk that frequently gets blocked by cars. This curve has cars parked alongside it pretty much all the time, only allowing 1 car to make it around the curve, if they’re lucky (as you can see). Larger vehicles? Those aren’t so lucky. For instance, 3 times trucks have ended up on my property. They drive down the street, which they have no business being down anyways, and end up needing to back up. The problem is backing up with an 18 wheeler. This one incident is a truck that managed to come up several feet onto my property, nearly hitting my tree. In an incident that occurred yesterday, 3 pots and 2 lights were destroyed. Annoying, yes but they were close to the curb so I realize there’s nothing we can do. My neighbor? The tire tracks are further up his lawn than mine. 3 incidences where trucks ended up my property probably exceeds the reasonable limit. If I didn’t have a hill on my property, those trucks could have destroyed my home. There was also this really cool year when my son took a special needs bus to school. 3 times (at least) the bus couldn’t get him because they couldn’t get up the street. Reported it to the city, and got the response of: “Parking on this street is a known issue.” What is a known issue? Does it mean that it’s known and you don’t care to fix it? For the record, other times I just met the bus at a different stop to ensure he made it to school. One time the bus driver kept honking her horn at everyone until people started moving their cars so she could get by. I miss her.

See what also happens because of the parking situation on my street is that fire trucks and ambulances have some trouble getting around the street, sometimes even requiring one of them to get out to help the driver back up and move forward for 10 minutes while trying to get around this street. What happens in an emergency because of those 10 minutes? People could die. Does that matter? No, apparently not. What if my kid is having a medical emergency and the vehicles couldn’t get to him in time and he died? This is a valid concern that I have. There are other kids and elderly people on this street. This is a valid concern that they should have. (Side note: absolute props to the police and fire department. I don’t want to sound like I’ve insulted them because I have never had a negative experience with them. They were always kind, helpful, and they do a lot for our city.)

Now I know…. “instead of ranting on your blog that no one sees about this maybe you should contact the city”. After the first incident 2 years ago with the “Known issue response”, a second report about the sidewalk being blocked where we got a “Call dispatch next time.” (For the record, the car stayed there for another day without any recourse if memory serves me correctly.) I decided to email every official I could think to. Paper trails are a more effective approach I find. They can deny a phone call, but not electronic communications. It’s a safety concern and I worry for the day when something happens because of it. What if my kid was on the lawn when a truck did this? As of the writing of this a day later, I haven’t received any email back. Even a courtesy “we’ll look into this matter” would be less infuriating than no response.

The moral of this story: the government doesn’t care. And the only people that do seem to genuinely care never get the chance to help us. Chicopee needs a change in leadership, a shakeup. I hope it happens soon. Our schools deserve better. Our government employees deserve better. Our citizens deserve better. Most importantly, our children deserve better.

 

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