People ask me, “How is it going on the Keene City Council? How does it compare to when you were on the Keene school board?”
My business instincts immediately search for comparisons on the relative size of the two bodies, budgets, tax rate impacts, operating processes and election cycles. As a city leader, the word “compare” cues me to consider complex relationships and discern underlying themes when making decisions and ordinances that impact the entire city of Keene.
Previously focused on education, I am now learning from the mayor, other councilors and the city staff. Perhaps more importantly, I’m learning from constituents. I actively seek out and listen to the serious concerns and legitimate interests of residents and all community members.
I see a concerning theme among some reactions to current issues. Let me illustrate with helicopter training and college student unruliness. Certain recurring statements delivered from stakeholders in public forums and reinforced in other communications indicate beliefs that undermine the sense of civility we need in these challenging times.
“They moved next to an airport. They have no right to complain about excessive aircraft noise.”
“They moved to a college town. They have no right to complain about unruly college students.”
Perhaps too many of us suffer from a condition known as “lack of empathy.” Like with COVID-19, we may experience no apparent symptoms, but can unknowingly inflict harm on others. I imagine that it’s pretty tough to hear fellow citizens falsely position you as someone with poor judgment in choosing a home, and further demonstrate they have no interest in learning of the negative impact of their behaviors. For COVID-19 we need masks; for other issues we need empathy.
Maybe it’s tough to listen, show empathy and develop practical solutions that may not incorporate all the talking points of certain higher political directives. However, this is the work that is most worthwhile, and it’s what we need most right now.
I am encouraged by emerging themes of empathy displayed by our citizens and local law enforcement officers during the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
“We are listening.”
“We hear you.”
I want to live in a community that recognizes change is inevitable, and that personal growth is the preferable response. This starts with listening behaviors, and continues by growing into higher beliefs that value empathy at least as much as promoting only our positions on issues.
4 Monadnock Court
(This writer represents Ward 1 on the Keene City Council.)