City Notes: With no fireworks, Fourth offers time to reflect in Whitehall
In my time as your mayor, I can confidently say that the hardest decisions I've had to make in this role have been over the course of these past few months.
In response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, we closed City Hall to the public, cut community programs and laid off dedicated staff.
Simultaneously, we have responded to two devastating floods the likes of which haven't been seen in decades.
Now, I am making what could be the most meaningful of decisions of my career as the city commits itself to emerging as a leader amid a reinvigorated civil-rights movement that is challenging how we think about race, equity and use of power at all levels of government.
With Independence Day coming up this weekend, I find myself reflecting on our community's response to some of these decisions, such as the cancellation of the city's traditional Independence Day celebrations, including the parade and fireworks.
While the decision certainly was not easy, it was necessary to ensure the safety of our community members.
In making this decision, we received no shortage of pushback and criticism from a number of individuals in the community.
What I would like to say to those people is: thank you.
When one thinks about the passion behind celebrating Independence Day – passion we all feel more than 240 years after the Declaration of Independence was signed – one can only feel inspired. Thank you for taking time to express your disappointment and for recognizing that you do have a voice that deserves to be heard at all levels of government.
But with that appreciation for your feedback comes a request: Use your newfound time on Independence Day to think about what our country's independence signifies.
What ideals can you more fully emulate from the time of our independence and what lessons have we had to learn as a country since that time? What lessons are we still learning?
How can you more fully engage on a local level, where we are seeing cries for changes in policing, housing, education and health care? Are you registered to vote? Do you exercise that right?
Independence Day is more than fireworks, parades, cookouts and sparklers. It's symbolic of freedom that so many have fought and died for, and continue to fight and die for today.
While I am disappointed not to celebrate together with the community this weekend in the traditional sense, I look forward to more reflection with close family and friends, and hope you do, too.
Happy Independence Day!
Kim Maggard is mayor of Whitehall.