Tuesday, July 07, 2009

For-Ward 2 the Future...

Last week, lifelong Springfield resident Michael A. Fenton announced his candidacy for the Ward 2 seat on the City Council. Fenton joins a crowded field of candidates for the newly created city council district consisting of East Springfield, Hungry Hill, and parts of Liberty Heights. Those who have announced include Tommy Sullivan, Gil Perron, and 2007 City Council Candidate Robert Underwood. Fenton's campaign website had been up and running for a few weeks before as he prepared his kickoff at Mykonos European Restaurant in the Springfield Plaza on Liberty St.

What makes Fenton's announcement particularly notable is the candidate himself. Fenton, 22, is perhaps one of the youngest candidates to run for elected office in the city and have an excellent chance at the seat. Having completed his studies at Providence College this past spring and set his sights on WNEC Law School for the fall, Fenton decided to go back home to the city and neighborhood in which he grew up and in which his family has deep roots.

At a point in life when many twenty-somethings' inclinations and desires extends little past their next beer or biological urge, Fenton is interested in something more. There is little doubt that Fenton was compelled to act having seen the same downward spiral residents and former residents have lamented for years.

At his announcement, Fenton emphasized his stance on lowering the business tax to encourage development and thereby improve the city's overall financial situation. Perhaps just as important, Fenton focused on what the future, not the past, holds for Springfield.

Fenton's direct confrontation with city and region's paralysis of nostalgia could prove one of the most pivotal parts of his campaign and, if elected, his term as Ward 2 Representative. As described in previous posts here and elsewhere, the city has for too long been in a vain and largely unsuccessful effort to recapture some of the glory and respect it had held up to about 20-25 years ago. These blatant efforts on the political level have had success for the politically connected, but a devastating effect for the city as it spent money with no reward while those elected using these tactics took whatever they could for themselves.

Save for a few factory closures, Fenton would have himself been less than 10 years old when the last of Springfield's most notable institutions folded like Steigers or Johnson's Bookstore. In other words, he never fully experienced that same Springfield first hand that many residents and former residents remember fondly. A fresh perspective such as his, free of those long past memories, might spur a revolution in popular thinking.

No doubt Fenton will be capitalizing on his youth both to inspire voters to look past a slate of traditional candidates, but also to encourage the participation of others his age. President Barack Obama won in no small part due to the activism of young voters. Should Fenton be able to likewise channel the youth vote it would be a boon not only to his campaign, but more importantly to the city as a whole. Let's face it, the previous generation will not be around forever, and sooner or later Generation Y will need to step up to plate both on the stump and at the ballot box.

As it stands right now, Fenton has a good shot for somebody thus far unknown to the political scene. First he's going after one of the ward seats, which were created with the express purpose and making it easier for people from the community to step forward and win. Second, he has political experience gleaned during his college years. Finally, and most importantly he has a significant group of friends and family who will no doubt go the mat for him to help him win.

If he and others like him are successful, Springfield might finally have the revolution it needs and indeed, it deserves!

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