Respect and tolerance were the rule of the day in Westfield politics until recently. During my 16 years on the Westfield Town Council I have never witnessed anything like today’s local political climate. In the past, elected officials and constituents could disagree in a way that was both respectful and civil.
Now, not only are people afraid to speak up at Town Council meetings, but residents in the audience are booing and hissing at our council members, myself included. Not until I asked publicly from the dais that the mayor stop this unconscionable and uncivil behavior did it stop.
Unfortunately, however, on social media the bullying and ridicule has continued. Every day I’m sent examples of personal attacks and horrific accusations against our candidates, volunteers, and supporters that are only meant to deflect from the real and important issues facing this town, like the many empty storefronts downtown, the loss of the Rialto, the break-ins and car thefts, issues with outsourcing our crossing guards, decreased revenues … the list goes on and on.
So what has changed? Over the last few years the national political chaos has seeped into local municipalities. On the positive side, this has inspired people to get involved in a way they never have before. Personally, I think that is great … that is what democracy is all about. However, the cruelty, vitriol, scare tactics and public shaming that are poisoning national politics are now poisoning Westfield. Democrats are publicly humiliated for supporting local Republicans and candidates’ families and children are being criticized.
I am writing this letter to say enough is enough. I will not tolerate or acknowledge this type of behavior from either side. I have spoken to too many people who are afraid to say who they support for fear of being labeled. This labeling, targeting, and intolerance is new to Westfield, and it is disappointing. If this behavior continues, good people will not want to engage in their local government, and can anyone blame them?
As we near election day, let’s remember that we are all neighbors; we frequent the same restaurants, stores, and places of worship; and largely, we all want the same things. We can disagree on the issues, but let’s keep it civil- it is the least we can do.
Ward 2 Councilperson