A month from today cities & towns across America will go to the polls to vote. Some people may read this and say, “oh my gosh I almost forgot.” That is not because the first Tuesday in November should be soldered into our brains’ like a loved one’s birthday or an anniversary; but if the media doesn’t remind us, sometimes life is so busy we forget. If the President isn’t being elected the national media doesn’t care and if a Governor or Senator isn’t involved the local media doesn’t give much air time on the 11 O’clock news. We here in Massachusetts will be electing a Senator, but that isn’t until January 2010, so don’t plan on much hype until the December primary.
When you have a problem with a meter reading or trash pick up, or another Dunkin Donuts is opening in your backyard you won’t get much help from President Obama or Governor Patrick, you will most likely go to your local politicians most of whom are filling up this upcoming ballot. Helping fellow citizens is the bread and butter of successfully being re-elected in local elections. These campaign teams rarely have media machines and deep pockets so they actually rely on merit and their reputation.
It’s tough in a small town to pick a person to vote for, most of the choices probably went to school with us or we live down the street from another, people don’t get into local politics for fame or fortune, it’s true public service at it’s best. These are all stand up people who will do their best, but don’t take my word for it, go out shake a few hands and get to know the men and women campaigning for your votes.
Here are 13 questions with just one of those candidates, Joshua L Cormier, incumbent City Councillor for the City of Gardner.
*Author’s note* ~ Josh is just one of many candidates who is running for the office of Councillor-at-Large, in the interest of fairness if any other candidate for this office would like to answer these same questions that apply I will be happy to post their replies.
What is the job of the city council?
According to the City Charter (Section 5), the Legislative powers of the City of Gardner are assigned to the members of the City Council. At times we are asked to establish or modify ordinances that serve as the “local laws” governing the constituents of this city. These ordinances are relative to a number of areas from traffic flow to zoning.
Furthermore, we are each asked to serve on a standing subcommittee of the City Council. Among the Finance, Public Service, Public Safety, and Public Welfare Subcommittees each member of the Council is asked to focus on that particular interest in addition to the overall requirements. In the past I have served on the Public Safety and Public Welfare Subcommittees as a member. Currently, I serve as the Chairman of the Public Welfare committee which “has charge” over a number of areas including the Council on Aging, Veteran’s Housing and Affairs, Greenwood Memorial Pool, Youth Commission, and the Public Schools.
With that said, these requirements are the “basic” role of a City Councillor. In my opinion, I serve as a representative of every constituent in this city, regardless of the ability to vote, in relation to any need he or she may have. This is the true job of a City Councillor. We are elected to represent the interests of those who reside within the city and we must do so through communication and respect. On any given day, I could be working on parking issues or paving problems, school building needs or hearing a report from a prospective business, or simply working with one of our Department Heads to address a problem of flooding in someone’s property.
Basically, if someone has a problem relative to their environment, they will probably find help through a City Councillor.
What sets you apart from the other candidates vying for your job?
Let me begin by stating, honestly, that anyone who will put their name out there as a candidate has earned my respect. I will never assume or state anything negative about someone running for the same position as me; though I do see them as my competitors.
With that said, let me tell you the things that I think are positive aspects of choosing to reelect me as a Councillor-At-Large on the Gardner City Council. First, I’m a lifelong resident of Gardner. Having been born-and-raised within the city provides me with a historical knowledge of the needs of this city and her residents. Furthermore, having resided here for my entire life has helped me to forge relationships with people that will prove beneficial now and in the future. Second, I’m a father and husband within, what may be termed, a young family. When people ask me why I run for office, my reply is always to make this city better for my children. I have to make decisions that focus on the long-term future of this city, as well as the immediate, because my children will grow up here. I want them to have a better, safer life and more opportunities than I had in my youth. Finally, I have never wavered in my commitment to this position nor have a wavered from the love I have for serving this community. In my opinion, we all have a moral obligation to give back to those around us and this is my method of doing so. I continue to look forward to every communication, whether in agreement or disagreement, and have never backed down from my duties. The only promise I have ever made is to represent each member of this community with respect through communication and I believe I can say that my promise has been kept.
A few of your opponents are also Gardner High School alumni and acquaintances of yours, not that you are endorsing them, but should another person win the election would you still be active to help them make a difference in the city?
Within this election, we have seven candidates running for six positions so one person will lose. I have always run each campaign, since my loss in 2003, believing that I would be the one to lose. It’s not true pessimisim, but it serves to focus my efforts. Each election, my goal is to outwork the competition.
With that said, I have a number of appointed or volunteer-based positions that would continue if I was not reelected. Two appointed positions are extremely important to me: Gardner CAC Board Member and Gardner Youth Commission member. The CAC focuses on helping those in financial distress throughout the community. Whether through a food pantry, fuel assistance, or medical transportation, this organization continues to benefit this community. Within the Youth Commission, this board is charged with the task of seeking out and providing activities for the youth of this community. When it’s all said and done, I believe, it is what we due for the next generation that determines our worth within this one.
On that point, as a father, I serve as a coach within Gardner Youth Soccer, Biddy Basketball, and Little League. With regard to activities, these are the most important and my role as a father, and a husband for that matter, will never change regardless of elective office. Some might say that this serves a greater purpose than the office I seek.
You are the branch manager for local Citizens in town, what can you bring from your job into the City Council?
There are a few things that I am able to bring from my job within Citizens Bank. First, my role at the bank is to lead the team in customer service, acquisition of relationships, and maintain operational integrity. Traits enhanced through this position include leadership, teamwork, listening skills, respect for others, and communication. To be honest, these are very important traits within the role of a Councillor.
Second, my position within the bank has enhanced my understanding of the financial world. My growth within accounting and various financial reports, complimented through a recently earned MBA, have served to allow me to have more educated opinions within financial discussions.
Third, and probably most important to constituents, the location serves as a quasi-office space for Council work. Given the location, within Stop & Shop, the residents of this city are able to communicate issues, ask questions, and offer opinions while they do their grocery shopping. Though most understand that I need to complete my full-time job while I am in this location, I try to do my best to answer questions without affecting my role as the Branch Manager.
This summer you ran free movies for kids under the stars in the Park, do you have plans to continue this next year? Free and cost effective family activities are wonderful in this difficult economy, what if any new ideas do you have for the future?
The Movies-In-The-Park program has existed for the past two years and there is no reason to believe it will ever stop. We continue to attract large groups of families who are looking for a cost friendly option of something to do in the summer. We continue to look at ways to enhance this program, as well as the Summer Up program held at Jackson Park, through equipment upgrade, increase in movie nights, and improved advertising. I can assure you that the Gardner Youth Commission believes this program to be very valuable to this community and that, speaking within my opinion only, this will continue to be offered.
We have begun to look at additional programs including a combining of efforts with the Gardner Little League to offer Movies-In-The-Ballfield, a fitness program similar to the Presidential Fitness program we all participated in while in Junior High, and the development of a link on the city’s website that would provide a variety of activities and knowledge for the youth of this community.
Recently on your blog you spoke of attracting film makers to the City of Gardner to help generate income for the city. A lot of people see Gardner as having a small city appeal; do you think this venture would cause the City to change?
The city is going to continue to change regardless of the film industry but I do not feel that changes specific to this economy would be negative. In fact, I believe the attraction of filmmakers to this community would be its small city appeal. Based on these initial discussions, and the short amount of time I have been working on this, it appears that “Hollywood” continuously seeks out realistic areas to film movies. With the Commonwealth’s generous tax incentives, more and more productions are coming to Massachusetts. Recently, a report stated upwards of $676 million dollars in revenue were realized as a result of these incentives.
My goal, though lofty, is to have Gardner partake in some of that reward. I believe that this community has a number of beautiful locations for filming and we should be proud to offer these areas for review. Remember how excited we all were when Brendan Fraser came to film School Ties? I know I still have a sense of pride when I see the scene from the city.
In conclusion, the impact of the film industry on the local economy could be enormous. With every location, those participating must have a place to reside, areas of interest to frequent, restaurants to eat at, and some may even do more. The indirect boost to our local businesses could only be measured through time, but I feel it is my obligation to seek out-of-the-box ideas to help us succeed as a community.
Do you have anything to do with traffic changes in downtown and are you pressing for anymore?
I had some major problems with the downtown traffic pattern prior to finally supporting the proposal. Some of my problem concerned the lack of a light within the major intersection but that was overruled following my discussions with many concerning safety. When it’s all said and done, the islands were not much safer or easier to maneuver around and those were illegally constructed.
One thing I think was lost in the debate, though, was the fact that the downtown consists of two state routes (68 & 101). In my opinion, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts should have paid for the repair of this road and should continue to pay for its upkeep. Especially considering the ludicrous amount of aid we receive in Chapter 90 funds.
I do not have any plans to press for anymore changes nor have I heard of any rumblings to that opinion.
On your webpage www.joshuacormier.com you have a quote by RFK that expresses belief that small changes affect the whole. Many people see smaller elected positions such as city council and school council as unimportant and usually don’t know even know who is running on election day, how do you feel about this?
Each position is as important as the person conducting the representation. There are some members of the “smaller” elected positions that may not serve as well as those within State and Federal offices, but in my opinion that is not the majority. Remember, City Councillors or Town Selectman are rarely approached by special interest groups or lobbyists. These positions do not feel much financial support from PAC’s or other interested groups so we have no commitment to specific issues.
With that said, one of the underlying feelings that continue to motivate me is the power of politics and the belief that one man or woman can make a difference in the world. We may not be debating health care or homeland security but I can promise you that I care for each member of this community as if I was doing that work.
With regards to the knowledge of voters on the list of candidates, I believe that is our fault. Sometimes candidates may neglect the voters. I can only speak for myself, but I announced my candidacy on March 16th and have been out there ever since. Yesterday, I was out waving at traffic holding a traditional visibility and I believe this was the first one held during this election season. There is only 28 days left and no candidate is out there participating in the “typical” strategies of a campaign. I try to run like I’m running for President. I believe I should earn votes by activity.
A grassroots politician has more opportunity to make a direct impact to assist with a situation in individual’s life, it seems the current direction of our society has begun to focus on the “big men” with the most clout. Society has lost touch with the politician that shakes your hand and knows your name. Do you feel this is a problem that politicians need to focus on?
Though I am not as pessimistic as the question seems to feel, I do think that the “little guy” is being left out of discussions. Oftentimes we hear of decisions that are made in direct contrast to the majority. Furthermore, we see decisions rushed through when beneficial to a particular party while other items, relative to the greater good, are stalled in conference or committee.
Within the role of a grassroots politician, or a local level representative, most of us are already invested in your life. We know what it’s like to live in your world or we attempt to find out. Within the “big men”, some of these individuals do not know what it is like to speak to a mother who cannot send her child on a bus to school due to the reduction in force due to the lack of funds. Or to speak with someone who is seeking fuel assistance because he was laid off and the bills continue to come without the paycheck.
To go on a quick tangent, after four years on the Council, last night I found out we have a special bathroom within the Council Chambers. I would have never thought that such a room existed given our proximity to the public restrooms. Obviously, this room was built in a different time, and I have never seen anyone use it until last night, but why the priveledge? I’m not too big to use the public restroom I can assure you.
Just one more thought to ponder, would some of this disconnect with the “big men” be alleviated if we had a third party become prominent? Something tells me that the two-party system is alienating more than each are befriending.
Referring back to my previous question, RFK is mentioned a few times on your website, is he your political hero? What sets him apart from the others?
The initial admiration for RFK was due to the words he spoke; especially those spoke in South Africa on the Day of Affirmation. Former State Representative Brian Knuuttilla had heard me quote JFK from time-to-time and thought that I would enjoy learning about Bobby. Upon that recommendation, and the reading of this speech, I found his principles and values to be similar to those we all need today.
As I previously mentioned, I believe that we are all obligated to provide some type of benefit to those around us; to have today be better than tomorrow. In addition, he also spoke about the power of an individual to improve life around him or her. His mention of each act being like a pebble dropped into the water and the impact of a variety of pebbles being dropped in numerous areas that intersect to cause a wave of power is something that sticks with me today.
Regardless of how someone feels about the Kennedys, and the opinions are as different as night and day, I believe the family’s dedication to public service should not be overlooked. With that said, his ability to spark commitment in the youth, most commonly overlooked, and his desire to help those most in need, including the poor, are characteristics that are honorable.
RFK is a political hero of mine but he’s not the only politician I admire. I continue to be fascinated by elected representatives of today and those of the past including a wide gamut of examples including former Governor Jesse Ventura, for his honesty, Senator John McCain, and local leaders such as Senator Jen Flanagan.
What are your fondest memories of the City of Gardner?
Though I feel that I have already been a little wordy, I will do my best to offer a few examples. My fondest memories are of my children being born, my wedding day, the night I met my wife, and the various election wins. Without my family, nothing would matter so the memories I have made with each of them, or as a group, will never be replaced in importance.
With that said, each of these was memories were made within this City. I am a complete “townie” and am proud of that fact and I would never to choose to live in any other area of the world.
One thing that I think is an experience that most people may overlook happens at a specific time during the year. There is a six or seven week span when the sun is setting over West Gardner in just the right place that the colors are formed in perfect unison with the flag at the intersection of Parker, West, Oak, and Nichols Street. To me, it’s one of the most beautiful pictures of our local landscape.
In conclusion, memories of high school activities, the various events I have been able to attend due to my elected position, the most important weekend of the year for the community as a whole—the Relay for Life, and the applause following the initial Movies-In-The-Park presentation are all ones that have “popped into my mind” during my time spent answering this question.
If you had blanket power in the City of Gardner, what is the one thing you would change in the City?
That’s probably the most difficult question to answer, within this forum, given the need to offer two answers. First, commercial development must increase. The direct impact on an increase in this economy is the revenue that can be generated. With additional revenues we can enhance and upgrade those things that have need it the most such as our school buildings, roads and sidewalks, and public safety personnel and equipment. The second change would be relative to the latter characteristic above in that we need to increase our public safety personnel. Though this is a “smaller” city, we still have big city problems. It is imperative that we continue to make this city the safest location for families and individuals to live and grow.
Ultimately, the bottom line is more money but I thought that would be too easy.
Who will win the Thanksgiving game this year?
Since I played basketball in High School, I mean watched the games with a uniform from the bench, as a Wildcat you will never get me to state that a Gardner program will lose any game to Oakmont. Gardner will win. 24-20.
Ok, that one really doesn’t count as a question because you have a duty to be loyal to your City and GHS alumni, so you have one month from tonight left until election day is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like your constituents to know about Joshua Cormier?
Over the next four weeks, I will be out there seeking the support of the residents of this community. I look forward to the opportunity to answering any question, addressing any concern, or simply debating any issue with every constituent who seeks to have their voice heard. If they would like to contact me, I ask them to please visit my website (www.joshuacormier.com).
In conclusion, as I have said before, my only promise is that I believe honest representation is done by communication, respect, and integrity. Furthermore, the only way I am able to succeed as a representative of this community is through the opinions of those who are being represented.
And, please do not forget to vote for Joshua L. Cormier, #2 on the ballot.