GLBT Town Meeting, Oct. 22


10/16/2008

On Wednesday, October 22, Mayor E. Denise Simmons will open the doors of City Hall for a public Town Meeting to discuss issues of importance to the GLBT Community.  The meeting, which will take place in the Sullivan Chambers from 5:30 – 7 p.m., is part of the Mayor’s ongoing efforts to increase civic engagement, and to provide a forum for diverse community discussions inside City Hall.  With flyers for the event imploring the GLBT community to “COME OUT and Be Heard! Meet with Your City Officials in Your City Hall,” the City continues its historic efforts to embrace the GLBT community and strengthen its voice in the local government.  Cambridge was the very first city in the nation to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples, and Mayor Simmons is the nation’s first openly lesbian Black mayor.   

At the meeting, Mayor Simmons and her colleagues will offer a brief overview of the GLBT experience in Cambridge, and they will update the City on the work of the Cambridge GLBT Commission.  After this, the meeting will break up into facilitated groups so that constituents can share ideas and stories with themselves and their representatives.  The group facilitators will collect information and then provide feedback to the entire gathering. 

Mayor Simmons is excited about the event, stating “I came to the Mayor’s Office hoping to give a megaphone to the softer voices in our City.  I want to make certain that city officials hear from all of their constituents, and I also want those constituents to realize that they have an important role to play in shaping how their government works.”  Mayor Simmons continues, “Town meetings are as old as democracy itself, and they are the best way for citizens and their representatives to have an unfiltered, honest, no-holds-barred discussion about the state of the community.”  The Mayor also looks forward to seeing what priorities and agendas grow out of the event.

“Sometimes these discussions shine a spotlight on things that need to be changed.  Sometimes they help us approach the City’s agenda with fresh ideas.  The point is, we won’t know what will come from the meeting until we begin talking to each other,”  Simmons added. This Town Meeting follows in the footsteps of a similar GLBT Town Meeting that was held in 2004, which was sponsored by then-City Councilor Simmons.  This year’s event promises to draw in an even larger crowd.  The Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Jeff Walker, a member of the GLBT Commission since its inception, agrees that this Town Meeting serves an important purpose.

“As a former co-chair of the Commission, I can attest to the fact that the local GLBT community got a real boost from that 2004 town meeting, when about 200 people participated,” says Mr. Walker.  “That meeting gave folks a chance to tell city officials exactly what did and didn’t work well in the city from the perspective of a GLBT constituent. As a result of the meeting, then-Councilor Simmons submitted a Council Order that lead to the formation of the GLBT Commission.  Since then, the commission has worked to provide a safer environment for GLBT youth at the high school, we have worked with the Police Department on the development of new hate crimes reporting protocols, and we have also made certain that all police personnel have been trained in GLBT issues.”  Mr. Walker states that there are many other priorities that the Commission has worked on in recent years, and the group members are excited about taking up the priorities set in this year’s town meeting.

Mayor Simmons has already held one town meeting centering on Women in Cambridge, and she plans to hold a similar town meeting for senior citizens next spring.  She considers these meetings to be an important opportunity for City officials to hear about the trials, challenges and celebrations that face different constituency groups in Cambridge.

The GLBT Town Meeting is being sponsored by the Mayor’s Office, in partnership with the Cambridge GLBT Commission and the Welcoming Schools Cambridge program.

For more information, please contact Neal Alpert (nalpert@cambridgema.gov) or Jeff Walker (jwalker@cambridgema.gov) in the Mayor’s Office at 617-349-4321, or John W Gintell at john@gintell.org

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John W. Gintell  
john@gintell.org 

Aren Stone
arenstone@comcast.net

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