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Gov. Patrick wants to hear your opinion

Gov. Patrick wants to hear your opinion
By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor

Now, I know I've given Gov. Deval Patrick some lumps lately, but deep within my cynical reporter's body lies a true believer's heart. I want Patrick to succeed. I want true and meaningful changes in the state.
That's why when the governor's press office called me and asked if I would consider an op-ed piece from Patrick, I asked them to send it along.
It's not really an opinion piece exactly, but more of an invitation. It follows:
"When you elected me as your Governor, I promised to be the governor of the whole Commonwealth. That means getting out of the State House and its sometimes inward-looking focus, and staying connected to you in your own neighborhood. It means hearing directly from you.
"That's why this summer I am once again traveling to communities across the state to hold a series of informal town hall meetings. And on Thursday, Aug. 6, I will be in Chicopee at the Chicopee Public Library Amphitheater, 449 Front St., at 6:30 p.m.
"You can learn more about the town hall meetings and find a full schedule at www.mass.gov/governor/townhall.
"Last summer we held 14 of these meetings across the Commonwealth. Over 1,000 residents turned out to raise hundreds of challenging, interesting concerns: from a dairy farmer in Rehoboth who asked about farm subsidies to a woman in Great Barrington who opposed the Iraq war; from an Amesbury resident who suggested an alternate pension funding system to a nurse in Hull worried about staff ratios. I don't pretend to have all the answers. But in every conversation I learn things that help us make better policy.
"On Aug. 6, I hope you and your neighbors will come out and talk with me and each other about the challenges and possibilities facing our communities and our Commonwealth. I want to talk about the tough economic circumstances we are all facing, the work we are doing to create jobs and improve education, and the reform agenda we have been pursuing on Beacon Hill. And I want to hear what ideas you have for how we can better serve you and your families.
"I've learned in my job that, no matter how certain I am about the right thing to do, there is always another side to the story. Usually, there's more than one other side. That's what makes our work and our approach to governing so exhilarating: the opportunity to consider all the different viewpoints, to debate publicly the multiple ideas and passions that people bring to the table, and then to follow a path forward the serves the common good.
"Meeting our challenges and working together to strengthen our communities must begin with civic conversation. We can't work with each other if we don't talk with each other.
"Despite the unprecedented economic challenges before us, I have confidence in the Commonwealth and her people. I know that if we see the stake that each of us has in our neighbors' dreams and struggles, as well as our own and act on that our better tomorrows will come.
"I hope to see you on Aug. 6."
I think most people can agree that Patrick has been the governor of recent history who has paid the greatest attention to Western Massachusetts. If you have something to say to him, you really should plan to be at this event.
I know I will be.

***
I did not know Yolly Nahorniak very well, but the folks in the Pine Point neighborhood of Springfield did.
Nahorniak passed away last week and the Pine Point neighborhood has lost a valued asset.
A neighborhood activist, Yolly advocated for her area in the City of Homes for years.
I was very surprised a few years ago when she called to tell me I was selected to receive an award at the annual dinner she hosted at the Pine Point Neighborhood Council office. I was very moved by this gesture and by her hospitality.
What people might not understand about any community is that it truly runs on people such as Yolly citizens who are willing to plead, yell or cajole on the behalf of where they live. While we have some excellent public servants, we need more people like Yolly to make sure local government officials truly understand what is going on in specific neighborhoods.
With the advent of ward representation in Springfield, I'm seeing some of these neighborhood advocates prepare for the leap into City Hall. That's a good thing, but we still need a legion of folks like Yolly to truly make any city the best it can be.
This column represents the opinions of its author. Send your comments to mdobbs@thereminder.com or to 280 N. Main St., E. Longmeadow, Mass. 01028.