A political epiphany about Providence

It has been percolating along in my head for weeks now. I call Providence a half measure or in the more common vernacular a half ass city. In my meeting with City Councilor Bryan Principe and Representative John J. Lombardi yesterday the focus became a bit more clear.

The All Politics are local meme emerged and that’s all well and good. But what emerged was that the east side of Providence is the ruling class simply by dint of being the biggest voting and most consistent voting block in the city. Meanwhile overall voting in the Federal Hill/Broadway/West End areas is pitifully low. And the south side is worse than that. All total only about 1/4th of the people in those areas votes consistently. I’m one of them.

But I wonder why there is so much voter apathy. Don’t people realize that by voting in their neighbors and make no mistake, my elected representatives are in fact my neighbors.

I guess people get turned off every time a sitting politician gets caught up in legal troubles. Or not knowing what it takes to run – the fundraising, phone calls, emails, etc. that comprise a modern campaign even for city councilor. The ones who did figure it out sit on the council or in the State House today. Or we worked on political campaigns. I’ve done two gubernatorial campaigns so far. Perhaps I’ll do a mayoral someday – maybe organize the south side of the city.That would be fun.

And I ask myself how did I end up knowing how the game works? It’s pretty simple – I recall as a kid I was exposed to it every election season. My grandfather and father were very politically active. So it’s no wonder I exercise the same right. I grew up in the 4th ward and recall the dinners and more to the point the schools I went to made sure we got exposed to politics at lunches and dinners. I recall the food being mediocre and the conversation being pretty dull. But all that gelled into my young mind.

It’s important that you at a minimum know how to reach out to elected officials. If only to make your life a little easier. In my case I walk to the train every morning and having uncleared sidewalks is a major pain in the ass. So I of course know a little email directed to the right target gets it done. As an example I noticed the sidewalks after the GTECH building on Francis street east were never cleared. I figured out who the councilor was, sent him and email and next day the sidewalks bordering Waterplace park were down to cement. And now every time it snows there’s a DPW crew out there clearing it at 6 in the morning. Now I know it wasn’t just me experiencing the problem but as I’ve posted before when I get put out I get vociferous. And I have the wherewithal to know how to contact those people. I prefer email because email at least keeps a written record in your sent folder.

Let’s put it this way – our local elected officials need to hear from us regularly. And around here particularly in election seasons you cannot help but to bump into those elected folks.

So what I think we need to do in every ward outside those on the east side is to break voter apathy.  Maybe encourage sitting Councilors, Representatives and Senators. Send them into the schools to do assemblies or visit classrooms and talk about their positions. And by golly hold a spaghetti dinner every now and again. Bring the kids. This is something they need to know.

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