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Democracy depends on you. Your big, bold ideas. Your hopes and concerns. Your sustained participation and action.

Civil Rights and labor leader Dolores Huerta issued this powerful call to action: “The only way democracy can work is if people participate.”

To me, Huerta’s words mean that government only works if we make it work, within legislatures and in local communities. The two must be inextricably bound together. Always.

On Tuesday, Jan. 2 — during a Massachusetts state Senate ceremony opening the 191st legislative General Court — I promised to serve the 160,000 people living in 24 cities and towns in the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district as your new state senator.

Here’s some of what that promise means to me:

I will start by listening to your ideas, hopes and concerns. Putting listening first means I’ll always move forward with you at the center, and my words and actions will draw from what I hear from you. You’ll help propel what I believe will be a bold and principled platform rooted deeply in our local communities.

My team and I will work with our municipal, state and federal allies on issues that put the people of our district and the commonwealth above all else. And we’ll muster the strongest possible opposition to proposals that work against our common interest.

I will prioritize transparency and accountability, which are essential to building trust — making sure that you know about the votes I take in your name. That means I’ll tell you when I succeed, when I fail and when I make mistakes. Above all, my goal is to ensure that our district is a place where everyone can thrive, and to do that, we’ll have to make sure that government works for us all.

But my team and I won’t be doing this work alone. Your robust participation in government at all levels is key to making it work.

Here are just a few examples of ways that your actions will help drive my first-term state Senate agenda:

On Jan. 18, I’ll file legislation to advance our priorities in education, health care, the environment, economic justice, public transit, economic development and more. This legislation will have grown out of months of constituent meetings in the district and will embody our region’s contribution to the work of addressing, head-on, injustices and chronic inequity in our midst and across the commonwealth, while creating lasting opportunity for all.

In February, I’ll co-sponsor legislation and seek co-sponsors for the bills I filed in January, placing a premium on bills that you tell me are essential. That means that my team and I will expect our phones and email inboxes to be flooded by your requests. We’ll also be happy to talk with you at the State House and meet with you during district office hours.

Then, this winter and spring, I’ll make sure that the voices of people of our district are present in committee hearings in the State House. My job is to make sure your hopes and concerns are heard in Boston and that you have the opportunity to help shape the dialogue in hearings that are important to you.

At the same time, I’ll dig in on budget negotiations with Senate colleagues, keeping our western Massachusetts communities in mind to ensure we get our fair share of resources. I’ll come home to hold town hall gatherings to bring the work of the State House back to the district, to answer your questions and to hear your feedback directly.

My team and I will advocate for constituent needs and aspirations with state government — and launch our Peoples’ Office, within the first weeks of this new year, which will rotate public office hours across the district to bring state government to local communities.

And, throughout the year, when you’re in the streets rallying for full funding for our schools, economic justice, policies to protect our planet, single-payer health care and other issues, I’ll join you as much as I’m able to, in order to support and amplify your work and bring our efforts into greater alignment.

Finally, in this new monthly column in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, I’m going to answer your questions and respond to your feedback publicly.

So, please submit your questions, ideas, hopes and concerns to dearjo@senatorjocomerford.org, and my team and I will do our very best to address as many of them as we can.

Our continuing dialogue is critical to building a stronger State House and a more vibrant and truly representative democracy.

State Sen. Jo Comerford represents 160,000 people living in 24 cities and towns in the Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district in the Massachusetts Legislature.

 

Read this article at the Daily Hampshire Gazette

Have a question for Jo? Submit yours to the Dear Jo column!

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Opinions and columns: legislator commentary by Jo Comerford