Just over a week ago, America once again experienced the peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another. We also experienced in our small town and worldwide an outpouring of people demonstrating in support of women, human rights and the environment and in opposition to the new administration. We have experienced a litany of executive orders, appointments, and announcements that portend unsettling changes in how government communicates and engages with the public.
Through phone calls, emails, social media contacts and in person, we have heard from many of you expressing concerns about the national government’s commitment to fact-based policies and decision-making and, particularly, to protecting and serving persons of all backgrounds. We hear people wanting to know what these national developments will bode for us locally – how it might impact people of our community and the way we operate local town government.
We believe it is important at this time to publicly assure people that we are steadfast in our dedication to the mission, goals, and ideals of the Hillsborough community. We are committed to being good stewards of public resources. We strive to make what we do in local government transparent, to make decisions based on facts and diverse perspectives, and to serve and include all parts of our community. We know we are not perfect, and we aim to admit, correct, and learn from our mistakes. We will promote respect and civility when faced with disagreement. Our aspiration is to serve as an example of what good local government – on behalf of the people – looks like in America.
We must acknowledge that many issues of concern are far beyond the scope of town government and that our ability to influence the choices made at the highest levels of government is small. Nevertheless, we will take action in response to national events where we can.
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Let us highlight three items specifically.
Environment – We are committed to environmental stewardship, to doing our part to ensure that our residents have access to clean water to drink, air to breathe, and open space to run and play in. We will protect our natural resources and send clean water to communities downstream from our own. We will do our part to mitigate the well-established risks and consequences of climate change. We will promote environmentally wise policies and practices in our operations and in town ordinances. We are committed to environmental justice, meaning that environmental risks and benefits, to our best ability, are not disproportionally borne or enjoyed by a particular group based on race or economic status. We will soon post a new town web page on environment and climate change, so that the Hillsborough community can more easily see and join in the effort.
Policing – We are committed to community policing as a model for law enforcement, even if the Community Oriented Policing Services program (COPS) is eliminated by the new administration. Our police will continue to engage our residents in a way that serves for safety and justice for all, as guardians rather than warriors. We understand that both risk and power are inherent to any police force, and we will continue to enhance practices and policies that mutually protect the rights and safety of both residents and the people who serve in law enforcement. Because community policing relies on the people in a community trusting that police will look after their safety and well-being regardless of how they look, what they believe, or where they are from, we will continue outreach to build relationships with communities of color. We will continue to promote transparency and sharing of statistical information regarding the performance of our police department, and we will actively seek to mitigate inherent biases that might disproportionally impact particular social groups. Our police are here to serve and protect all who find themselves in Hillsborough.
Inclusion – Finally, as leaders in this community, we will continue to use our voices to welcome everyone to our town, including those of diverse faiths, cultures, sexual preferences, gender identities, immigration statuses, and political persuasions; to speak up for those who are vulnerable or ignored or who have little means so they have access to both basic needs and justice; and to condemn actions of violence, intolerance, and fear – whether those acts be the firebombing of a building, the burning of rainbow flags, harassment or hate speech. We recognize that given current events, those who are Muslim, Latino, LGBTQ and African American or other people of color may feel particularly vulnerable, and we want you to hear from your leaders that you are welcome here. We recognize that our citizens include the entire range of political affiliations; and while we may be unlikely to reach consensus on everything, we are committed to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to be heard and to meaningfully participate in their local government. To all our residents of diverse cultures, faiths or religions, political persuasions, ages, genders, sexual orientations, and economic status, please know we are glad you are here and part of this community.
Our vision for Hillsborough remains unchanged: a prosperous town, filled with vitality, fostering a strong sense of community, which celebrates its unique heritage and small-town character.
In short, we commit to the best of our ability to work toward that vision in a way that exemplifies the longstanding American values of justice, liberty, and general welfare of the people – every day.
Tom Stevens, mayor
Kathleen Ferguson, mayor pro tem
Mark Bell, commissioner
Evelyn Lloyd, commissioner
Brian Lowen, commissioner
Jenn Weaver, commissioner