Often campaigning can be viewed simply as the practice of getting your name and face in front of as many people as possible – gaining name recognition and the rest. While that’s inevitably part of it, the truly valuable skill of door-to-door and other campaigning is listening. If you’re smart you’ll pick up on the pieces of information and nuggets of knowledge that can make the community a better place, and enhance our quality of life.
I was reminded of how this can happen when I knocked on a door this afternoon that I immediately recognized as the home of a former administrator of the Berkshire Mosquito Control Project. When I first encountered him four years ago, I was under the impression that any kind of mosquito control in Pittsfield had been removed, or even outlawed, because of health or environmental reasons. I was not the only one under that impression. Councilor at the time Mike Ward had been questioning what the city could do to deal with mosquitos more effectively, particularly with some nasty mosquito havens near a branch of the Housatonic in the neighborhoods on the south side of Pomeroy Avenue and other wet areas that were often intolerable. What I learned by listening to my constituent was that, in fact, Pittsfield’s parting ways with mosquito control in the late 1980s was solely a cost-saving measure in the new Prop 2 1/2 era. Unfortunately, he’s no longer living at the home I stopped by tonight – but his daughter does – and I was thrilled to hear that he’d been diligently following our progress over the past few years on mosquito control.
Since early in my first term, the city of Pittsfield and the Berkshire Mosquito Control Project have several new chapters of interesting history – and believe me – I can tell you every detail, every task force, every vote. Let’s save that for another post…or two.
The end of the story is that today we have a commonsense mosquito control program that systematically reduces the population of mosquitos throughout the city, and also has the capacity to target major problem areas – both for health issues (like West Nile and Eastern Equine Encephalitis) and for quality of life issues (like making sure, say, we can go watch a game at the Doyle Softball complex without getting eaten alive).
I am happy to say I had a hand ensuring a better program with the help of my fellow Councilor Christine Yon. After saving the program with a narrow 6-5 vote of the council, Councilor Yon and I were determined to fix the early issues that allowed opponents the political leverage to put the program on hold, and ultimately attempt to break the contract with the state.
We sat down with the health director and Berkshire Mosquito Control to get it on track. Today, it’s right on track.
That’s the kind of councilor that I would suggest that Ward 1 is lucky to have. Councilor Yon is diligent, conscientious and – importantly – effective. Tonight, I was once again keeping an eye on my watch on the door-to-door trail to make sure I made it to Councilor Yon’s fundraiser at a reasonable hour, showing my support, and hearing her speech. One thing I heard rarely in her speech was “I” or “me.” Instead, I often heard “we,” “together,” and “team.” She knows that none of us can get anything accomplished all on our own. We need our fellow councilors, we need great relationships in city hall, we need communication with our constituents, we need people we can trust and most critically, we need our family….and on that note, how heartwarming it was, indeed, to see Christine’s parents Dr. Bernie Auge and his lovely wife, Eleanor, honored for 70 years of marriage. State Rep. Paul Mark had the honors of delivering the official state certificate. And by the way, this all came the same day that Christine and her husband, Greg, learned that they had become grandparents for the second time. Little Nicolas will get to meet his grandparents tomorrow when they make the trip out to Boston. Nostrovia! to a beautiful family – and people who I am proud to call my friends.