Pleasant Hill Mayor's Message
Dec 07, 2014 11:24AM ● Published by Jennifer Neys
By Tim Flaherty
I have had an interest in government since I was a teenager. Initially, as part of my high school civics class, and later, because I just believed in getting out the vote during the election cycle, I volunteered in a number of local campaigns helping to energize voters and encourage them to vote. I have never been affiliated with a political party, but just follow the issues and candidates. Given my enthusiasm for the political process, I was disheartened that barely 46% of the registered voters in Contra Costa County cast a ballot in the November 4 election. As best I can tell, the voter turnout in Pleasant Hill was no better.
I am not sure what can be done to address the collective apathy when it comes time to voting, and I wonder what we can expect in the future from our youth when they don’t see their parents participating and voting. I could wax nostalgic about going with one of my parents to the voting booth, and most of you now vote at your kitchen table. I would think a lesson about exercising the right to vote as the responsibility of every citizen is a lesson better taught at home by mom or dad while filling out the ballot, rather than a trip to the polling place (or you could do both!). If parents aren’t voting, what will our children do when it is their turn?
My concern was alleviated a bit when, shortly after the election, I hosted the third grade class from Gregory Gardens Elementary School for a mock city council meeting in the Pleasant Hill City Council Chambers. I gently mentored Mayor Sienna and Councilmembers Gianni, Gwendolyn, Jameson and Stefano as they received public comment from their many classmates. The council then voted on several issues, including “Should students be allowed to wear Halloween costumes to school?” (which resulted in a surprising—at least to me – “No” vote) and “Should students learn cursive?” (Who knew students were not learning cursive anymore?) After some compelling arguments for the skill, including “We need to learn cursive so we know how to write a check when we grow up,” and “If we don’t know cursive, we won’t be able to read the Declaration of Independence or what older people have written,” the student council voted to reinstate the teaching of cursive.
These eight and nine-year-old students were bright and articulate, and I saw glimpses of the adults they would become. I left our meeting confident that, with continued encouragement and example, these kids might become active in the political process and fully exercise their right to vote at each opportunity to do so. I owe tremendous thanks to their teachers for arranging the event and preparing their class. What a great experience for the students—and for me.
My Thanks to You
Over the past year as your mayor, in addition to all the work at City Hall and council meetings, I have had many memorable experiences representing the City of Pleasant Hill. For example, I have participated in the Contra Costa Mayors Conference. In October, Pleasant Hill was the host city for the conference, and I was pleased to showcase our Community Center to my fellow mayors.
As mayor, I was presented with opportunities to experience the wonderful cultural diversity in Pleasant Hill. Did you know we have a Taoist Tai Chi Society? I didn’t until I was asked to speak at their first anniversary celebration. I also did not know Pleasant Hill is home to the Contra Costa Chinese School, where I was invited to visit their annual festival and meet the students, teachers and school president.
I was privileged to pay tribute to the Class of 2014 at the College Park High School Baccalaureate and on Memorial Day to honor the sacrifices of members of the military at the foot of our beloved soldier’s monument. I thoroughly enjoyed invitations to your neighborhood barbecues and chatting with you at Off the Grid or just walking, dining and shopping around town. I met many new residents and business owners and very much appreciate the hard work of our Chamber of Commerce. I cut a fair number of ribbons and welcomed you to many community events. I received your emails and phone calls and was pleased to be of some assistance in helping you seek solutions or connecting you to the appropriate city staffer.
I sincerely thank you for the privilege of being your mayor this year. I had a great time.