What the doors tell me

I am in my sixth month knocking on doors, talking with people about Attleboro’s schools, teachers, children, seniors, taxes, downtown revitalization, firefighters, public safety, our cities growth, Highland Park, and much more.
It’s a challenge to summarize several thousand conversations nut there goes. I’ll do my best to give you feedback on what I’m hearing.

1. Attleboro: Overall, most people (90%) really enjoy living in Attleboro and plan to remain here their entire life. The vast majority feel Attleboro is filled with loyal, friendly, caring people and they wouldn’t live anywhere else. However, there were certain concerns that came up at most doors…. but most folks still love Attleboro.

2. Downtown Revitalization: This is far and away the biggest concern I’ve heard at the doors. Some people dislike going downtown and feel there is nothing to do except go out to Morin’s for dinner. Most people are looking forward to taking down several buildings at the end of Union and Park. There is a general agreement that building more decent apartments near the center, adding more parking, and enticing more businesses and restaurants is a good idea. There is a consensus that this makeover will take 3-5 more years. The fishnet building/former hotel on South Main appears to be the leading building for demolition. Older folks express a desire for more parking near the senior center and an eventual need for a new building.

There is almost universal agreement that our library needs to be saved and it is an historic, beloved building. Almost everyone want to see the library fixed (roof, windows, AC and heating systems). About 25% of the public think our downtown could be cordoned off someday and become a walking area….. once we have more stores, bistros, and interesting shoppes. People want a nice downtown.

3. Schools: 90% of the doors tells me they want strong schools and no teacher layoffs. The Blue Pride spirit is strong and their children are getting a solid, good education. I heard excellent reports from parents whose children are now in college…. they felt our high school has done an excellent job of preparing them for college. But I was surprised at the number of parents who send their children to Foxboro Charter School. Almost every parent was looking forward to our new high school and expected an excellent education in the future. The best news was the positive spirit that permeates through all the schools. The only negativity I heard was lack of maintainance of the current high school, and skepticism that the new high school might not be maintained property. They want school committee and city councilors to insist on keeping schools maintained this time around. There is a consensus the class sizes are a bit high and should be reduced.

There is a sizeable minority that criticize the cost of the new high school but most of these folks still think the quality of our education is very good. Despite anxiety about rising taxes most people remain loyal to Attleboro and the need for good schools.

4. Seniors: Seniors are interested in help paying their taxes. No doubt about it. Attleboro has small ways to help them, if they can work one hour a week, they will get $600 off their taxes. Building the new high school is a great thing for our children and the city. But many seniors are worried about affording the extra bill they are paying during the remainder of their home owning life.

Seniors receive great support from our Council on Aging and the Senior Center. Lunches, socialization, exercise, advice from the COA’s two social workers and shine councilors, free help with their income taxes…. and much more. I’m constantly sharing all the benefits they will receive from participating in the senior center activities. Some enjoy it… other seniors stay at home most of the time. But most of them appreciate hearing about the COA opportunities. Seniors are definitely the most receptive people I meet at the door.

5. Firefighters: Almost everyone loves to hear about the city council’s efforts to protect our firefighters. Total support in purchasing two gear washers and a second set of gear for those who needed it. Our citizens want our firefighters protected from cancer causing elements they risk when fighting fires. They are proud and thankful for our excellent fire department. In addition, I hear no complaints about our police. Most people appreciate police patrolling their streets. I heard lots of compliments for the professionalism of our police, especially in South Attleboro near route one..

6. Highland Park: I get a lot of questions about the future of Highland Park. Only a small percentage of people seem to have visited Highland so far. It’s nice to have cross country teams (AHS and Bishop Feehan) running in the new course at Highland. It was terrific seeing the Vietnam wall last weekend. But there are questions about the future development of Highland Park. The usage of our newest park is still unknown for most people.

7. Growth: A lot of people notice increased growth, new homes, speeding and increased congestion on the roads. This is a growing concern throughout our city. Several neighborhoods (Holden St., Tiffany as examples) have begun to organize informally to seek more police patrolling their streets. Having campaigned three times in the past two years, I see an increased concern over new homes, increased traffic and speeding. For most people, this is a quality of life issue. No one is being blamed but there is a realization that Attleboro is becoming a bigger city.

These opinions belong to the people I meet at the doors. I’m simply trying to share the concerns and messages that I hear every single day.

Ty Waterman, Attleboro City Councilor At-Large

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