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Millennial Life: When the Mandate Is Simply 'Do Something'

Cassie McClure on

The email didn't address me by name, so I looked at the header to see if I was the only one listed or if it was a mass email blast. It looked like it was just sent to me, demanding I "do something" about the homeless encampments at a park near my house. For a change, I knew what the steps would be in this case, and I happily tip-tapped on the keyboard.

I told him that the police, who oversaw codes enforcement, had a process of giving those in the encampments a heads-up by speaking to them or giving a tag that said they'd need to move on and by when before the program that pays unhoused workers to take down the tents would do that.

(That in itself feels like a strange move, but let's not digress.)

I added relevant people to the email and felt that the email writer might have a better sense of our current plan as "the City."

Nope. Two days later, he replied. He said he had to reflect on my email, but now he knew I'd fit in well on the council in "passing the buck."

The emotional part of me wanted to reply to ask what exactly he was expecting me to do: Should I go down to the park with tights, a mask, and a newfound interest in crimefighting aided by suddenly conferred councilor superpowers? The part of me that enjoys humor also wanted me to send that reply, so I had to fight her a bit.

Instead, as the therapy lingo goes, I decided to sit with that emotion until the email from Codes came back to both of us with a more detailed plan and updated information. The resident never replied to that.

I've had a running joke that I had hoped there was a "How To Be Councilor" binder in my office with a list of who to contact, pertinent district projects, and people to know in a nicely designed phone tree. At least in my town, that's not a thing. I've spent the first two months emailing people whose pay grade is way above my questions. They unfailingly reply, and usually very quickly.

 

Still, joining city government is like joining a party a few hours after it's started. In one corner, there's a poker game with some interesting characters. People gather in the backyard because someone is threatening to jump off the roof. There's also a broken vase in the living room that no one has cleaned up, and the kitchen is a mess, and there's an ignored girlfriend glaring at everyone.

Unlike a party, no one necessarily expects you to perform immediately. But in Government with an official capital G, the repeated calls are to "do something."

What I replied online to another commenter, who trotted out the same mandate of doing something, was that I knew their comment came from the desire to see our city be better, and I appreciated that.

Unfortunately, my role as a council member is not to make arrests or to be a social worker; it is to set policy and educate. It is to support the role of hundreds who are on the streets, servicing the community. It's to listen to people and make connections. It's living in the future, with an eye on the past, and still actively being in the present. Perhaps, that's the only real superpower that I'll be slowly able to train.

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Cassie McClure is a writer, millennial, and unapologetic fan of the Oxford comma. She can be contacted at cassie@mcclurepublications.com. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


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