“This is not what we fought so long and hard for.” Gumersindo Gomez, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Veteran’s Center, had this reaction to the fact that only one of the eight ward-based city council seats would be contested this election season.
Community members who led the charge for the city’s return to ward representation aren’t happy that only one of City Council’s eight ward councilors has a challenger this year—and they’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And once again, the charge is being led by Arise for Social Justice.
The President and members of the NAACP, the Executive Director of Arise for Social Justice, the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Veterans Center and Springfield City Council President José Tosado held a press conference today on the steps of Springfield City Hall to talk about what can be done to increase democratic participation in Springfield’s elections.
Council President José Tosado, who successfully shepherded ward representation through city council in 2007, says, “We are fortunate to have a high quality class of freshman Ward Councilors. They are doing a fantastic job in representing their wards and the City. I support them all for re-election. However the basic premise in our fight for Ward Representation was to increase citizen participation and involvement in local government and the electoral process; that has not happened. We must continue to advance that cause.”
Michaelann Bewsee, director of Arise for Social Justice, acknowledges: “We already have a much more diverse city council with representation from wards that never before had a city councilor. But we can’t stop here.” Bewsee is calling upon community organizations to come together in a coalition to increase democracy in Springfield. “We have new leaders to identify and train; and we have new messages for the community, especially the young people of the city, about why democracy is in their hands.”
Because this initiative aligns perfectly with The Springfield Institute’s mission and our recently released civic engagement analysis (above, methodology note here), we have already agreed to play a substantial supporting role. MassVOTE, a statewide voter education and mobilization organization, is also on board.