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A “Progressive Blueprint” for Greenfield

Residents are launching a reform campaign to improve government responsiveness in the Franklin County seat.

GREENFIELD — City residents gathered around a paper-covered table laden with brightly colored markers on the town common on Saturday, asking the public to illustrate their “dreams for Greenfield.” This collective visioning was part of the public launch of the “Progressive Blueprint for Greenfield,” a comprehensive platform that attempts to “fix what’s wrong with Greenfield” and “build a thriving, inclusive community,” according to the coalition’s website.

“We really hope that this is the beginning of members of the community saying what we want from our town government and figuring out how to get it,” Jon Magee, a member of the Greenfield People’s Budget and an organizer of the Progressive Blueprint, told The Shoestring at the event. (Magee has previously written for The Shoestring). 

Authors and proponents of the Progressive Blueprint for Greenfield spent Saturday morning handing out copies of their platform to passersby and talking to Greenfield residents about their policy priorities for the upcoming election in November. 

The coalition that came together to create the Progressive Blueprint is mostly comprised of members of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR) and the Greenfield People’s Budget. Some of the priorities of the Blueprint include the creation of avenues for Greenfield residents to be “actively, collaboratively involved in developing policy and budget priorities and designing city services,” establishing a “non-armed, civilian emergency response program for mental health, behavioral health, and other civil issues,” and developing a plan to make Greenfield a more affordable place to live.

Dave Cohen, of FCCPR, told The Shoestring that one of the key points that the coalition is trying to get across is that “democracy in Greenfield has suffered from the switch to the mayoral system,” a change which occurred in 2003. Cohen said that the writers of the Blueprint “want to raise the issue that there are too many decisions in Greenfield being made behind closed doors without public input,” and that they have drafted the platform as a response to this problem. 

The Blueprint outlines a thorough vision for the future of Greenfield broken down into sections by policy area. Stacey Sexton, who is currently running for the Greenfield School Committee and who was instrumental in creating the education initiatives in the Blueprint, told The Shoestring that all of the authors worked together to create “as coherent a platform as possible.” 

“We believe that all of this stuff feeds into one another,” Sexton said. “Strong schools require a just economy, which requires environmental justice, and so on.”

While the Blueprint is titled the Progressive Blueprint for Greenfield, Magee told The Shoestring that “it’s not about catering to a particular demographic.” 

“If we get half of the democracy proposals passed, that would be an absolute win for everybody regardless of what your ideological beliefs are,” Magee said. “You will love it and appreciate that this city is working and listening to you.”

Magee shared that his hope is that by launching this platform so many months before November’s election the Blueprint is able to “lead with substance” and “get ahead of the politicking of election season to have a better chance of candidates actually engaging with the issues.” Over the next few months, Greenfield residents in support of the Blueprint will continue tabling and canvassing to promote its policies and garner support for the platform according to Magee. 

Many of the people gathered on the Common on Saturday were hoping for their first successful election into Greenfield government come November, including John Garrett who is running for City Council. Garrett, who told The Shoestring that he considers himself progressive, came to the Common on a “fact finding mission” to learn what the people of Greenfield are interested in seeing change in their city. “Part of what gives me optimism for the future is that this community wants progressive change and that these folks have figured out a way to get people together and create a document like this,” Garrett said. 

Ann Childs, who is running for School Committee, also stopped by the Common on Saturday to learn more about the priorities of the people of Greenfield. “I know that the word ‘progressive’ may scare some people away, but if you actually read the platform there’s nothing scary in it,” she told The Shoestring. “The biggest thing I’ve noticed from watching the school district over the years is that we are going from crisis to crisis and responding as best as we can, but until we seriously buckle down and look at the long term we’re not going to make any progress,” Childs said. 

Sexton, who is also running for School Committee and has a background in education policy, said that creating a strong foundation to ensure that schools are operating sustainably was one of their goals while drafting the education sections of the Blueprint.

“A lot of the time when issues get addressed in School Committee meetings, there’s a lot of fluffy language and people not saying the words that need to be said. If you don’t name the problem, you can’t solve the problem,” Sexton told The Shoestring. “Part of writing this platform was acknowledging that we can’t avoid saying what is actually happening. There is disparate treatment of students in Greenfield schools right now. We need to lean more into mental health care, social emotional learning, and restorative practices in our schools.” 

Sexton is hopeful for the future of not only Greenfield schools but democracy as a whole in Greenfield. “I have talked to so many people who just feel like it doesn’t even matter if they show up to city council or committee meetings because they feel like power is being held by people that don’t care. We know that coming together, working together, and really enlivening the structures we do have and working to change them when they’re not working is what we need to do and is what is going to make change.”

Mo Schweiger is a writer, comedian, and teacher living in Greenfield with their lizard, Louise.

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