Hello Blue Mass Group,
Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Ernesto Cruz and I am a candidate for an at-large Council seat in Springfield. A longtime activist in the city, I am taking this step because I want to put Springfield to work, not just literally, but put it to work improving the quality of life for all of its citizens.
But I also wanted to reach out to the BMG community, not simply to lend voice to my campaign, but to bring my city into the larger conversations of local, state and federal policy that have an impact on my fellow residents everyday. There is a large disconnect between local decisions and our beliefs as voters in Statewide as well as National elections. We need real debates and discussions locally, the types of ideas often discussed on BMG, in order to provide a positive contribution to the Commonwealth.
First a little bit about myself. I was born in the Bronx, but my family moved to Springfield when I was only a few months old. After graduating from Central High School in the city, I attended UCONN, but took a job as a personal care assistant for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities before graduating. A few years later I worked in the life insurance business. I did this for some time, but I ultimately left that profession and began working with a number of community organizations like the Mason Square Health Task Force, Men of Color Health Awareness, UROC of Western Mass, Maple High/Six Corners Neighborhood Council, Springfield Community Air Mobilization Project, and helping various other groups as well.
In time, my community work led me to politics working on city campaigns and on Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, all as a volunteer. During this past special Senate election, I was hired as a field organizer for Ed Markey and worked in Holyoke and throughout the Greater Springfield area.
Now, after trying to make a difference from the outside, I want to get to work changing City Hall from the inside. I live in the urban core of the city and from there I see people in a lot of need. However, I also see the potential of this historic city to grow and prosper for the benefit of all of its citizens from the lush Forest Park neighborhood to the edgier North End to 16 Acres and Indian Orchard in eastern end of the city.
My focus is on three areas, crime, transparency/citizen participation and public health. Crime is a persistent problem in our city and most notably the perception of it. This will never change merely by throwing more money at the problem. I’m in favor of giving the police and the community the resources they need to succeed, but too often that just comes in the form of promises of cracking down. I don’t like tougher, I like smarter.
To that end I want to see the return of a Police Commission that oversees the department and delivers a forum for both the average citizen and the rank-and-file patrolman. Citizens must have confidence in their police department if the latter is to succeed. But the officers on the front line need to have confidence in their leadership and be sure that what is actually going on in the streets is making its way up to the top.
On transparency, Springfield is the largest city in New England with minimal outreach to people in the digital world. Only a few city departments use social media at all and this limits the public’s ability, particularly younger people like myself, to know, let alone participate, when things are going on. From my research, city hall doesn’t allow social media usage on the network in most departments, updates come from staff making an extra effort outside of work. If people don’t come to city hall, city hall has to go to them. Springfield will not thrive unless the younger population is involved. The average age of a Springfield resident is 32 years old, yet we have no social media presence to engage our greatest asset, our citizens.
This kind of process would not only bring citizens more into their own government and increase our voter turnout. It can also connect citizens with everyday opportunities and messages. For example, people looking for a job, trying to reach a city agency or even looking for when to move their car in a snow storm. I have young volunteers who have the desire to get involved, but didn’t know where to start until we started reaching out to them. There is no shortage of good people wanting to become involved in Springfield.
Finally, I want to see if our city can do more to improve public health, namely our air. I have friends who basically live their whole lives in the city and then get away for a week and find that they feel and breath so much better. This has been a particular focus of mine, fighting proposals in the city that would only damage our air quality further with next to no benefit for average residents.
Let me add one more about jobs and economic development, which every politician local and state always talks about in terms of Springfield. Here we need to be smarter and not just tougher. We can talk tough about what we will do to build jobs all we want, but we need to think outside the box and get Springfield to take a more active role in the creative economy that drives the whole commonwealth. Our current leadership always seems to always be looking for salvation from one big “perfect partner” or another. The reality is that we need to promote policy which will grow our own economy working in tandem with surrounding communities. I want to bring that to the City Council.
This will not be the last of my postings here. If elected, I want Springfield to be a part of this community too, and I hope to continue through the campaign. I hope you’ll stay with me as well and stay in touch as well.
Let’s Get to work!