Mayor’s Message: Giving every resident a voice

Mayor Louis Manzo

Beyond dealing with the pandemic for the last year, we have experienced more civil unrest in America this past year than seen since the 1960s, arguably. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May 26 immediately triggered protests there, that quickly unraveled into destructive riots over the next several days. The underlying issues of race relations in America and the actions and perceptions of law enforcement members quickly took center-stage like never before.

Ten days later, a half-million people participated in a nationwide day of protest in 550 locations. Momentum built throughout the month of June and by the 4th of July, protests or vigils had occurred in more than 40 percent of the counties in the United States with more than 20 million participants. By summers end, these protests spread to more than 2,000 towns and cities in all 50 states, making this potentially the largest movement, in terms of participants, in the history of our country.

I don’t write today to editorialize the issues of race, diversity and equality in 500 words or less, which is impossible. I write today to make you aware of what we are doing in our hometown on this front to be proactive. In simple terms, we need to provide the opportunity for every member of our community to have a voice and feel they have a place to express their opinion. I don’t mean social media, though that is a popular outlet. These expressions and this conversation need to be connected to the leadership of our town so that steps can be taken to make changes, if necessary.

That was the motivation in creating the IDEA Board (Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Advisory Board), when we were approached by a group of residents last summer about what we could do as a community. I have always believed that the most significant impact is possible at the local level. This theory is reinforced as we become more frustrated over the years watching the ineffectiveness of our elected leaders in Washington (from both parties).

The best public policies or societal norms are those initiated and molded by the people themselves. To that end, our IDEA Board Co-Secretary, Sarah Weaver, tells us about an initiative they launched this week to get our community’s feedback. The IDEA Board has created a survey to help determine how residents and visitors experience our town as it relates to feeling welcome, included, and supported. Sarah says the plan is to analyze the responses to determine if there are initiatives that can be implemented to help address any shortcomings. Please go to www.tinyurl.com/HarrisonIDEA to participate in the survey.

We thank Sarah and the membership of the IDEA Board for their dedication in providing this forum for our residents. Their Survey is six questions with the option to comment and, like any survey, relies on maximum participation to provide valuable results. I encourage everyone to take the required couple minutes to participate. Once the survey data is compiled, The IDEA Board will share their findings and potential recommendations.