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Politics as usual

October 29, 2007

I used to want to be the first woman president of the United States,
but it isn’t because of Hillary Clinton that I fear that dream will
never come true.

It’s because of politics.  From the smallest town to the biggest
nations, politicians play a lot of despicable (sp?) games of which I
want no part.  Prior to entering my planning program, I thought I
might want to work for a municipal government after graduating, but I’m
crossing that off of my list as of last Friday, when a buildup of
political bullshit culminated in the resignation of my boss in
Framingham, where I have an internship, as well as the filing of a
lawsuit against members of Framingham’s Planning Board, among other
members of Framingham’s “leadership.”

The whole fiasco started with an attempt to keep social services from
expanding in Framingham (since social service agencies pay no taxes,
they reap no revenue for municipal governments and thus are less
desirable than businesses); but really one could say the whole fiasco
started a long time ago with insidious prejudices that still permeate
our society.

The Planning Board members and others implicated in the lawsuit have
been accused of holding up–for two years–the permitting process for
the expansion of one particular social service agency and for the
relocation of another.  They’ve also been caught making crude
remarks about the patrons of social service agencies, who are mostly
people down and out on their luck. 

The lawsuit is only one reason why my current boss is leaving; while I
certainly can’t know all of the reasons after working with him for only
a few weeks, I can hazard a guess that another reason is the political
blockade preventing the town from cooperating with its large Brazilian
immigrant population–nearly one in four residents is reported to be
Brazilian, and a majority of the downtown shops are Brazilian
owned.  While many people in Framingham seem to be welcoming of
Brazilian immigrants, including everyone in the Planning Department
(which is different from the Planning Board), there are several
outspoken individuals who want nothing more than to rid Framingham of
them.  For an example of the sentiments that some Framingham
residents hold against Brazilians, check out http://ccfile.org/. 
Fortunately, according to my colleagues in the planning department, the
two brothers who run this site (one of whom happens to be a town
selectman) are largely viewed as whackos–but there are still those
“concerned citizens” who eat this kind of bigotry for breakfast.

I recognize that I’m jumping somewhat to conclusions about the
constraints of working for a municipal government, but I felt so much
more empowered when I was running the Brazilian Organization for Social
Services than I do in Framingham–granted, I’m only an intern, but the
actual planner with whom I work is also incredibly frustrated about the
political constraints on her job, which brings up an interesting
conflict:  planners should not have free rein to do what they want
in a town or city, but at the same time, politics is often so constraining that virtually nothing gets done. 

I prefer to be my own boss and not have to struggle to find the happy medium that never seems to be found.

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