If you were hiring someone to repair your home heating/air conditioning system, would you be looking for a well-trained, seasoned technician or someone full of theoretical ideas who has had no direct involvement with HVAC equipment? I would opt for the veteran repair person. In seeking to correct the deficiencies of our local government, the same principle applies. Candidates who have had little prior engagement in municipal issues routinely turn up each election season with lots of ideas of how to make everything better and no idea of how we got off track in the first place.
In contrast to those folks, I have been on the scene for the past twenty-one years, fully engaged with the workings of local government. I have consistently attended council work sessions, regular and special meetings, and meetings of city boards and commissions that directly affect the quality of life for everyday citizens. Not content with informing myself about what our municipal government has been doing, through PortsmouthCityWatch.org, I have shared with the public significant information that I have acquired. Through recording and posting videos of such local bodies as the Economic Development Authority and Portsmouth Port and Industrial Commission, PortsmouthCityWatch.org has afforded the public access to important deliberations and decisions that would otherwise have gone unreported.
In the previous local election, some candidates and one political action committee adopted government transparency as their buzz phrase, but as Mark Twain observed regarding the weather, there has been much said and little done about that notion. Again, through PortsmouthCityWatch.org, I have pried open the doors of municipal government to afford the public a look inside. I pushed the city to post its budget documents on the city website for all citizens to access, something it now does as a matter of course. Before PCW began video recording of city council public work sessions, only the citizens who could show up for those vital briefings could see and hear what their elected representatives said and did in those meetings. In fact, once we began posting our videos, the city grudgingly acquiesced to our oft-repeated prior requests to make and distribute its own recordings of those sessions. In 2013 when council decided to stop recording the non-agenda speaker portion of its regular meetings, PCW stepped in to ensure that members of the public who could not be present in the council chamber could still view what transpired. After two months of public pressure and PCW presence, the city cameras went back in service for the entirety of council meetings.
No other current candidate for city council has attended as many public meetings of council – regular, special, work session, and retreat – as I. Over the past twenty-one years, no other citizen, candidate or not, has addressed council on matters coming before it for decision as frequently and consistently as I. Please note that I have not been present to speak on matters of self-interest but rather to advance the public interest. I have advocated most often for neighborhoods – keeping them safe both from crime and harmful types of development like the ethanol plant and the medical waste incinerator proposed a number of years ago; ensuring that they receive essential city services, such as well-performing schools, timely refuse collection, adequate drainage, and necessary infrastructure repairs; and support for partnerships between the city and its communities.
Thankfully, a sizeable segment of our neighbors pay attention to civic matters between elections and have seen me in action, either during their presence at council meetings or through video recordings aired on Portsmouth City Television (PCTV) or YouTube. Many have introduced themselves to me on the streets of our city, in local shopping venues, or at civic events to express their support and appreciation for what I do to advance the common good. I hope they will remember to demonstrate that support at the polls next month.
Of my neighbors who have only recently begun paying attention to local issues, I would ask that you check back through the video archive of council meetings and see if the unblinking eye of the camera doesn’t support what I have asserted here. In running for a seat on city council, I stand on my record of citizen advocacy, but I will not stop there. My goal is to increase citizen access to and involvement in the municipal government decision-making process. Help me to help us all by voting this November 6 for Mark Geduldig-Yatrofsky to be your voice on city council.