Adelina Mart, whose reappointment to the Maplewood parks board was voted down by city council 5-1 on Tuesday has responded. She said Mayor Barry Greenberg gave her the opportunity to have the vote removed from the agenda, to save her “the embarrassment,” but declined, saying the council’s decisions should be made in public.
A few hours before this Tuesday’s Council meeting, Mayor Greenberg informed me that the other Council members would not approve my reappointment to the Park Board. He was truly kind in offering me the option to be removed from the agenda and save me the embarrassment. While I appreciate the offer, my view is that Council decisions should be done in public view to increase transparency in a government where it is sorely lacking it.
Therefore, I am not embarrassed.
I am not embarrassed for the two years I served on the board, bringing up the needs of the community I live in. I am not embarrassed for my failed attempt at advocating for the 100+ petitioners who requested a better dog park. I am not embarrassed for my failed attempts at creating a trail in Kellogg Park for individuals who regularly commute by train, or advocating for an updated Park and City master plan that includes community input, or the creation of pocket parks to demonstrate the appropriate use of native plans. And, I am not embarrassed for advocating that our policies and decisions be based on evidence and research along with what the community needs.
I am not embarrassed for speaking up for transparency and inclusion, constantly questioning who is involved in decision-making and how we can better hear the voice of our diverse community. I am not embarrassed for speaking against the use of Park funds for a War Memorial in front of city hall. I am not embarrassed at my failed attempts to create collaboration between the Park Board and Sustainability Commission, or for my suggestion that Park Board come out in formal support of the Walkability Study. I am not embarrassed in my failed attempts to engage discussion around the Parks budget. And I am not embarrassed for questioning the intentions, demand and funding for a skate park (before ultimately voting for it). I am not embarrassed for asking that actual skate park users be included in the design of the project. And I am not embarrassed for requesting that all agendas and minutes be published online.
I would be embarrassed as an elected official to have never attended a Park Board meeting. I would be embarrassed as an elected official to not reply to emails from my constituents. I would be embarrassed as an elected official to have no comments on a 125+ page, $9 million city budget. I would be embarrassed as an elected official to not address the comments of individuals that take time to come and speak at public forums. I would be embarrassed to make assumptions about constituents based on the street or Ward they live on.
My parents were keenly aware of tyranny created when government silences the people’s voice. I was born in a country under communist rule. While I immigrated here in 1995, it was only in 2008 that I became a citizen and was granted the right to a voice. Everyone has a right to that voice, and no one should be silenced for using it. This is a blatant attempt to do just that.
Beyond Park Board, I was vocal during the creation of the Short Term Rental ordinance. I have made public comment at Council meetings and in this online forum on many topics. My mannerisms may not be demure and my opinions may not always be popular, but I have always been respectful and forthcoming.
Serving on a board is but one way to participate in our governance. I have met neighbors who advocate for safety. Neighbors who advocate for accountability and transparency. Neighbors who work on community engagement and social inclusion. Neighbors who went out of their way to help our Airbnb guests with their dead battery, neighbors who beautified the Zephyr lots with their garden, and neighbors who come by with their dogs for coffee on Saturday morning. Elderly neighbors who have brought us into their family, and neighbors who rent and feel like they don’t have a right to a voice in our community. These are the neighbors I keep in mind when I speak up.
They will not be silenced. I will not be silenced. As long as we all keep bringing our voices together, the just and inclusive community we imagine can become a reality.