Good afternoon, Mayor, City Council and School Committee Colleagues, and invited guests. I’m excited to start a new term and honored to be able to guide our Council through it. We had no idea what was in store for us two years ago today. The pandemic forced us to isolate and lock-down and when we all thought the pandemic was behind us, along came raging omicron.
I was, recently asked by a constituent, what keeps me up at night? You might be surprised by my answer. I told him that it was the disappearance of empathy and the complimentary lack of compassion. Can we walk in another’s shoes? Can we solve problems with compassion?
First I need to say Newton is a generous and giving community. We support charities locally and around the world. But the tone of political discourse in Newton is worrisome. Conversations on local issues –roads, trash collection, schools, zoning, parking, street lights, have often devolved into the us versus the “other”. Often evil intent is ascribed to “the other”. Some say the former federal administration used anxiety and fear as motivators rather than empathy and compassion. Has this trickled down into Newton conversations?
Can we address the winter parking ban, zoning, or just a missed trash pick-up with empathy and compassion? With these we can seek balanced solutions for the resident with no driveway, the family that gets priced out of Newton, the disabled adult child living with aging parents for lack of affordable options, or even the trash collection company who can’t stay staffed up because of COVID. I believe empathy and compassion can change the tone of our discourse.
The pandemic’s rules for social interaction force us to only see each other virtually on computer screens. These rules are here to stay for a while. Vaccines, testing, masking and social distancing keep us physically healthy. Empathy and compassion can help us stay mentally healthy as we try to get to yes on so many controversial issues. I will work harder to listen carefully and work on compassionate solutions taking everyone’s needs into account. I ask that of all of us, elected officials and residents alike try the same.
Before I conclude I want to note that this council stayed intact from the last council which will enable us to hit the ground running as we serve this city. We will make government as transparent as possible. Join us on zoom even after we go back to city hall (hopefully sooner rather than later). Soon the docket tracking database will be released and help everyone track our progress. It is my hope to create a new Council Climate Action Mitigation Committee to address related docket items – and give them the attention that they need and deserve.
Finally, I thank you for attending inauguration – a fresh start to get to yes on so many things. I wish you, your family and friends a happy, healthy and solution-filled New Year.