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After listening to an NPR story about a crowdsourced poem about a more hopeful future, Needham Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick came up with her own poetic project last year: a crowdsourced poem reflecting people’s hopes and dreams for cities and towns.
The resulting poem, “We Long For A City Where We Go Hard On The Issues And Easy On The People,” celebrates an ideal municipality, or rather, many municipal ideals, and includes more than 50 contributions from around the country, and one from Australia. The poem, which Fitzpatrick published on her blog on March 24, has received national attention in recent weeks.
Ron Holifield, CEO of Strategic Government Resources, discussed the poem in a video included in the organization’s March 29 “10 in 10” email newsletter, and Fitzpatrick recently learned that the poem would be included in the May issue of Public Management magazine, published by the International City/County Management Association.
Almost a year in the making, the poem reflects many themes, with contributors envisioning communities that are free of divisions and full of empathy and civility, communities in which people collaborate to solve problems and create better futures for residents, and communities that are inclusive and welcoming of all people.
“I was amazed at how many people from different walks of life took the time to send me notes,” Fitzpatrick recently told the MMA. “I was not surprised, exactly, but certainly it did strike a chord that everyone is desperate for civility, for belonging, for appreciation.”
The poem gave contributors a chance to express their love for cities and towns during what has been an extraordinarily difficult time for communities and their leaders.
“We long for local government to be valued,” one contributor wrote.
Asked about her favorite lines, Fitzpatrick said she loves the reference to animals roaming free, and the fact that “the condition of roads (would) end up in a poem about longing.” She also mentioned the title, which she said was inspired by Arlington Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine.
For the past three years, Fitzpatrick has been writing a blog called Very Kate that reflects on life and municipal management. Many local managers follow Fitzpatrick’s blog, but the poem has found an even wider audience.
“It is by far the most widely read of anything I have written,” she said. “I keep hearing from people that they read it at a meeting or posted it on a wall. One person told me that it was a prayer, not a poem, to her.”
Here’s the full poem:
We Long For A City Where We Go Hard On The Issues And Easy On The People
We long for civility.
We long for a city where people focus more on what we have accomplished, with pride and amazement, and focus less on what remains to be done, with frustration and criticism.
Where people come together to meet real challenges with resolve and good humor, and a willingness to work collaboratively. Where finding a reasonable compromise is considered a win.
Where we can disagree, without being disagreeable, and people are civil, respectful, and supportive, even in the face of disagreement.
Where broad generalities and stereotypes are not raised over differences of opinion.
Where there is an appetite for increased listening to others, and where opinions are allowed to evolve and change.
Where we worry more about the common good then a single agenda.
We long for a city where residents take the time to go past the headlines, learn about the issues, and ask questions.
Where civility and common courtesy prevail, and dialogue builds us up without breaking us down.
Where we can leave the past behind us, and grasp the opportunities that await us.
Where we no longer assume the worst in others, that secret agendas disappear, and that honesty and civility are not considered slanderous and outdated.
We long for that city.
We long for welcoming.
We long for a city where everyone feels respected and safe.
Where we are as happy to greet our neighbors as we are to cheer for the home team.
Where cancel culture is discredited.
Where working toward a vision of an equitable future and shaping economic development are not construed a conflict of interest.
Where we make space in our thinking to accept different points of view, not just the fashionable ones, and where we live is in line with our values.
Where neighbors from all parts of our city can prosper.
Where our city is a place welcome to all who enter, and compassion rules the day.
Where the only class that matters is the life-long learning one.
This is the city that we long to see.
We long for a sense of place.
We long for a city where people stop looking at all the bad, and start looking at what an amazing city we live in.
Where our cities keep building beautiful spaces, and nature and sustainability are at the forefront of our lives.
Where people smile when they wave to you, and the roads are in such good shape that you can look beyond them while driving.
Where the city brings out the best in us, and our dreams can become reality.
Where animals roam free, and we take the time to slow down and enjoy the view.
We long for that city.
We long for local government to be valued.
Where public service is appreciated and respect for public employees is the norm.
Where local government creates as much customer satisfaction as the most successful private business.
Where residents who have questions about their community reach out for answers before turning to social media.
Where city management is an honorable profession, and elected officials are respected for their commitment.
Where the way we always did it is not is the standard.
We long for that city.
We long for Collaboration.
We long for a city where problems are seen as opportunities, where success and failure are shared, and credit and blame are of less consequence.
Where people are inspired by empathy, coming together to meet challenges with resolve and good humor and a willingness to work collaboratively.
Where residents are resilient, positive, and display a wicked sense of humor.
Where people take their responsibilities seriously, without taking themselves too seriously.
Where people focus on what unites us and use our commonalities to achieve shared goals.
Where we achieve our goals because everyone recognizes we are on the same team, whether or not we all agree on the same game plan, and where our leaders foster and encourage this environment, rising above discord.
Where residents understand the impact of local government on their daily lives and are willing to collaborate to make their community exceptional.
Where people take satisfaction and pride in all that we have accomplished together as a community, extending the benefit of the doubt that what remains to be done will get done by the good people, both elected and professionals, to whom we entrust the task.
We long to build that city. Where we go hard on the issues, and easy on the people.
Fitzpatrick thanked the following contributors (with apologies to anyone she may have inadvertently left off): Katherine Warden, Heather Harper, Jamie Hellen, John Mangiaratti, Christopher Coleman, Andrea Llamas, Christopher Ketchen, Denise Baker, Tim Higgins, Colin F. Loiselle, William G. Keegan Jr., Bob LeLacheur, Mark Lauzier, Richard Downey, John Mulder, Sam Gaston, Daniel Blumberg, John Rufo, Jay Hedges, Daniel Blumberg, Jay Feyler, Pat Scheidel, Henry L. Hayes Jr., Opal Mauldin-Jones, Ed Broussard, Richard Brown, Gerald Young, James Fisher, Mike Land, Alan Ours, Chris Senior, Eileen Stein, Maurice Handel, Bob Jarvis, Kevin Tackett, Paul Buckley, Denise Casey, Weston Davis, Abby Serino, Adam Chapdelaine, Donna VanderClock, Alissa Farrell, Libby Gibson, Kim Donovan, Anne Nydam, Julie Traub, Andy Sheehan.