February 4th, 2015
I have received a number of emails asking for my views on Palestine. My response is below:
Like you, I was profoundly affected the conflict in Gaza this summer, and the tragic loss of life which it entailed. I believe it is imperative that a negotiated settlement based on peace and recognition of the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to national independence and security is concluded as soon as possible.
I believe that Israel should have the right to peacefully coexist with neighbouring countries. I firmly reject Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial in all its forms – as well as Islamophobia and Xenophobia. Moreover, I do not believe that any theology should ever be used to justify oppression, injustice or tyranny, the hostile occupation of foreign territories, the deprivation of basic human dignity or the denial of freedom of conscience, expression or association. (more…)
February 1st, 2015
As reported in the Hertfordshire Mercury, here is my latest statement on Peter Lilley’s oil interests:
“Whatever the rights and wrongs of Mr Lilley’s actions that day, it remains true that the energy industry is global and there is an export market for commodities such as petroleum.
“Moreover, addressing climate change is an issue that can only be achieved when the international community works together.”
“It is important that the UK secures its energy supply for generations to come and to achieve this, we need to import less and produce more. (more…)
February 1st, 2015
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a free-trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the USA and the EU.
Firstly, with regard to the Backbench Business Debate on 15th January, Labour believes it is right that this important issue is debated in Parliament and I agree that these proposals deserve proper scrutiny at both a UK and EU level.
The Labour Party supports trade agreements which can bring significant benefits through boosting trade and growth, securing and creating jobs, and bringing down costs and extending choice for consumers. (more…)
February 1st, 2015
Labour strongly agrees that independent living is crucial to ensuring that disabled people have the same rights, choices and chances as any other citizen. Indeed, we tabled an amendment during the Committee Stage of the Care Bill which would have enshrined in law the right of disabled people to live independently. It was disappointing that the government chose to vote against and defeat this amendment. As Ed Miliband said the other day, Labour also opposed the government’s plans for closure of the Independent Living Fund in the absence of a comprehensive strategy for a system of social care that protects people’s ability to live independently. (more…)
February 1st, 2015
Labour has always said that fracking cannot go ahead unless we have a system of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection. In the House of Commons this week, Labour proposed an amendment to stop fracking unless a series of tough conditions are first met, including measures designed specifically to tackle the climate change impact of shale gas, and forcing shale gas companies to monitor and report fugitive methane emissions.
We were pleased to have support for these provisions from a number of bodies, including the National Trust, RSPB, Friends of the Earth, Local Government Association, and the Unite and GMB trade unions. (more…)
January 25th, 2015
Ed Miliband has committed the next Labour Government to a radical improvement in mental health provision with more emphasis on prevention, early intervention and better support – particularly for young people – as part of Labour’s plan to sustain and improve the NHS.
The commitment coincides with the publication of the report of Stephen O’Brien’s independent Mental Health Taskforce, commissioned by Ed Miliband two years ago. (more…)
January 25th, 2015
January 2nd, 2015
As many people prepared for their first day back to work after the Christmas break, Labour Parliamentary Candidates, Rachel Burgin (Hitchin & Harpenden) and Chris York (North East Hertfordshire) joined the Action for Rail protest outside Kings Cross mainline station on Friday 2nd January against the rising costs of rail travel and privatisation.
The protests were organised by the TUC’s Action for Rail campaign.
Campaigners handed out special tickets highlighting how rail fares have risen faster than inflation and how the UK has the most expensive fares in Europe. (more…)
December 22nd, 2014
Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho’ the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath’ring winter fuel.
“Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know’st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.” (more…)
December 19th, 2014
Rachel Burgin, Hitchin & Harpenden’s Labour PPC, has called on David Cameron to be open and honest with pensioners after new figures showed 470 pensioners in Hitchin & Harpenden are set to receive a rise in the state pension of 87p.
On 4th December 2014 the government announced the state pension would rise by £2.85 a week. But in the following days ministers were forced to admit up to 1.6 million pensioners would see a rise of just 87p in their state pension income.
Rachel Burgin said, “The government promised the state pension would rise by £2.85 in April next year but 470 pensioners in Hitchin & Harpenden will receive a rise of just 87p. David Cameron’s government have not been open and honest with pensioners in Hitchin & Harpenden about the state pension, saying one thing and doing another. It’s time for the government to treat Hitchin & Harpenden pensioners with respect and be upfront about the value of their pensions.” (more…)
December 18th, 2014
I have just uncovered the following article I wrote, dated 8 October 2009- roughly around the time I re-joined the Labour Party. Michael Gove has a lot to answer for!
I listened to Michael Gove’s speech at the Tory Party Conference and I almost couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
First he attacks the QCDA for “defeatism, political correctness and the entrenched culture of dumbing down” and then he brandishes them as “out of touch bureaucrats”. (more…)
December 17th, 2014
In the Eastern Region, women are earning 23.3% less than men an hour, new analysis reveals.
Equal Pay Day – the day women effectively start working for free because they are still paid less than men – fell on 4 November this year, 3 days earlier than in 2013 because of the rising pay gap.
Labour have pledged to take action to deliver equal pay by requiring companies with more than 250 workers to publish their hourly pay gap in their annual report. For the first time employees would be able to see if discrimination exists and whether all the top jobs are still dominated by men. On Tuesday 16th December, the Labour Party introduced the The Equal Pay (Transparency) Bill which received the overwhelming backing of MPs in the symbolic vote. (more…)
December 17th, 2014
Labour PPC for Hitchin & Harpenden, Rachel Burgin has urged MPs from all parties to back Labour’s attempt to scrap the Bedroom Tax by Christmas. Labour has forced a debate and vote in parliament on Wednesday 17th December on the Bedroom Tax.
Since the Bedroom Tax was introduced around half a million low-income households havebeen forced to find, on average an extra £700 a year. In Hitchin and Harpenden 386 people have been hit by the Bedroom Tax. (more…)
December 7th, 2014
The last time I saw Peter Watson was on 9th June 2010.
I had sneaked out of the office at lunchtime to attend the memorial service in Egremont to remember those who had been killed during the Cumbria Shootings seven days earlier.
Normally a cheerful gentleman, on this occasion, Peter looked white – a broken man. I went over to him to comfort him but there really were no words of cheer in the context of the devastating events of seven days earlier that had utterly devastated the hearts and souls of every West Cumbrian. I asked him how many of the 12 victims he had known. Through tears he said “most of them”. (more…)
December 7th, 2014
Saving the planet is about leadership, not fashion, Mr Cameron
Climate change wasn’t mentioned in the Autumn Statement. Hardly surprising, but there is no bigger issue
December 7th, 2014
I believe that it is the job of a Prospective Parliament Candidate to hold the current MP to account for their conduct in office. I know that Peter Lilley MP isn’t going to broadcast his financial interests to his constituents, but I believe that ever person voting in Hitchin and Harpenden should do so in full knowledge of the contents of their MP’s Register of Members’ Interests.
Peter Lilley’s Oil Interests are well known. His Health interests are less so. Here ae they:
December 7th, 2014
David Cameron and George Osborne have failed every test and broken every promise they’ve made on the economy.
They promised we’d be all in this together but then they gave millionaires a huge tax cut. They promised people would be better off but most people in Hitchin & Harpenden are not feeling the recovery and working people are now £1,600 a year worse off under the Tories. 27.8% of those working in this constituency (excluding the self-employed) earn less than the Living Wage – compared to a national average of 21.7%.(1)
And this cost-of-living crisis is why the Chancellor had to admit that his key promise – to balance the nation’s books by next year – now lies in tatters. (more…)
November 16th, 2014
In December 2008 the BNP arrived in West Cumbria – almost out of nowhere. A County Council by-election was taking place in Kells & Sandwith – historically Labour’s safest ward in the county. It was a brutal by-election campaign. One Anti-BNP activist had his car vandalised twice and there was an enormous amount of intimidation of leafleters. Labour won that by-election – but only by 12 votes. A close shave if ever there was one.
The BNP tactics had a profound impact on the Anti-BNP strategy in the County Council elections of May 2009 which I was involved in. The basic problem was that no-one wanted to leaflet Kells & Sandwith. All sorts of discussions took place about when and how to leaflet. Through the night when the trouble-makers were asleep? (but what if they came back late from a hard night drinking?) During the day when they were at work? (but did they have jobs?) While we were figuring out our strategy for Kells & Sandwith, we continued to leaflet other places. During this time we made a surprising discovery. When women went out leafleting, they fared better than men. The misogyny of the BNP skinheads was such that they didn’t have the guts to intimidate us. (more…)
November 1st, 2014
It is with some surprise that I seem to have found an issue on which I might be regarded as being to the right of Peter Lilley MP:
I am perfectly aware that many in the Labour Party will disagree with me. In fact, when I was a student I walked out of a Labour Party social event when the drugs came out. So, I know I’m out on a limb here. (more…)
November 1st, 2014
To my dad, rugby was his religion – the rugby ground, his church. Dad was a committed believer, and as his daughter, my childhood Saturdays were spent watching him play. The “church” was Webb Ellis Road, where Rugby Lions had played for decades. William Webb Ellis was the lad who, in 1823 had, “with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time first took the ball in his arms and ran with it thus originating the distinctive feature of the rugby game”. (more…)
October 20th, 2014
Rachel Burgin, Labour PPC for Hitchin & Harpenden, and Chris York Labour PPC for North East Hertfordshire attended the Britain Needs a Payrise rally in London along with 10s of thousands of others.
Rachel Burgin said “Britain is enduring the longest and deepest fall in real wages since the 1860s. I have met many people in the Hitchin & Harpenden constituency who earn less – in absolute terms – than they did several years ago. 19.6% of people in this constituency don’t even earn the Living Wage. This is notwithstanding hikes in rail fares, escalating housing costs and increasing food prices. That is why we have foodbanks opening, why loan sharks are doing roaring trade and why the churches are looking to establish a CAP debt centre in Hitchin. (more…)
October 20th, 2014
Rachel Burgin, Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hitchin & Harpenden spoke at the Bloomberg Energy Debate over her concerns about Peter Lilley MP’s Climate Change scepticism.
The debate brought together Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, and Liberal Democrat MP, Ed Davey and Labour’s Energy spokeswoman, Caroline Flint. The debate covered the progress that had been made by the Coalition Government and the parties’ conflicting proposals for the forthcoming General Election. The central question of the debate was whether it was possible to keep carbon emissions and consumer costs low while maintaining a secure supply of energy.
Mrs. Burgin said: “In answer to the central question of this debate, I believe the answer is “yes”. Yes we can keep carbon emissions and consumer costs low while maintaining a secure energy supply. But making progress requires enormous political will and we need to take the public with us. Undermining these effort are voices such as Peter Lilley, Owen Paterson and UKIP who are selling the line that all this work is just driving up energy bills. What will you do politically to counter that?”
Caroline Flint MP answered “I tell people that we’ve got to talk ‘bills not bears’. We have to make environmentalism and the Climate Change agenda mainstream and we can only do that by showing how it can reduce their energy bills. In my constituency in the Don Valley, solar panels on residential properties become talking points. People talk about how having those fitted means their bills are lower. That’s how it’s got to work.” Earlier, Flint had set out Labour’s War on Cold Homes which would reduce Energy Bills by upgrading the current housing stock.
Ed Davey MP replied “I would point people to the facts. The science is out there. Climate Change is real. We have to deal with it.” Throughout the debate, Davey had been keen to distance himself from the increasing Climate Change scepticism of the Conservative party.
Notes for Editors:
Bloomberg report of the debate:
Labour’s War on Cold Homes
Statement on Climate Change
October 13th, 2014
“My comments were made during the Local Government and Communities debate. A delegate had spoken on their motion which proposed to amend the Localism Act 2011. Their amendment sought to strengthen the powers of local communities to register facilities such as football clubs as “Assets of Community Value”. This same issue had been raised at the Hitchin FC meeting at the Canary Club on Wednesday night which I had attended. I took the opportunity to explain the club’s plight and to ask for input and ideas on how Co-operative values and principles could resolve the situation. I learnt that Hitchin FC is far from alone in its troubles and that a number of Football Supporters’ Co-operatives have been set up as a result.
I would value input from the local MP Peter Lilley on how he would propose resolving the situation at Top Field”.
October 5th, 2014
Rachel Burgin, Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Hitchin & Harpenden, has issued a statement in support of Hitchin FC remaining at it’s Top Field site.
“The issue of the Hitchin FC ground at Top Field being sold off to developers to build yet another supermarket, raises questions about the sort of town we want to be. Do we value our heritage, our community and our identity as a town or are we happy to see it sold off to the highest bidder? Are we content to lose a historic community facility that has been in use since 1928 for the sake of increasing the profits of a national supermarket chain? There are plenty of supermarkets in North Hertfordshire but there is only one Hitchin Town football ground. It is not merely a place where football is played but a place where the Hitchin community comes together and where people can celebrate pride in their town. I call on North Hertfordshire District Council to everything in its power to protect the ground as a community asset.”
October 3rd, 2014
We are very confused following Mr Cameron’s announcement promising “named GPs” and access to a GP seven days a week (Seven day surgeries, 30 September). This government has done nothing but criticise general practice for being unable to meet the needs of patients and yet has reduced the proportion of total NHS expenditure directed at general practice from more than 11% down to just over 8%. GPs have been taken out of their surgeries to undertake commissioning and management roles and all GPs now spend substantial amounts of time on supporting their clinical commissioning groups rather than seeing their patients.
Mr Cameron is proposing that another £400m will deliver his proposals. If £50m serves only nine areas how will £400m cover 211 CCGs? Who does Mr Cameron think is going to see the patients seven days a week from 8am to 8pm? Overworked doctors make mistakes. We’ve warned successive governments of impending recruitment problems; now we’ve reached crisis point – why choose to go into a career when the level of criticism from ministers is unprecedented? GP practices are not only finding it impossible to replace leaving GPs but they can’t find locum doctors either. So once again, we would ask, where are the doctors going come from? This is a disingenuous and unachievable pre-election guarantee from a government disinvesting in general practice. Dr Peter Graves Chief executive, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire local medical committee, Dr Una Duffy Chair, Bedfordshire LMC, Dr Jeremy Cox Chair, Hertfordshire LMC
September 26th, 2014
I cannot stand war. I have enormous respect for Mennonite and other pacifist traditions, but when I see the mass human slaughter going on, whole tribes driven from their ancient lands by their 100s of 1000s, when I hear of even children being beheaded and crucified, when I see Yazidis trapped in desert mountains and dying, “doing nothing” does not seem to me to be a legitimate option. We have to take a stand somehow. I do not claim to be an expert on the details of what “taking a stand” looks like. I trust that within the scope of the limited remit of this current military intervention, the expertise of our armed forces will keep civilian casualties to an absolute minimum.
I have enormous respect for those who would vote against the war and understand their reasoning. There is a risk that we could make matters worse – and that does worry me. With that in mind, I think that it is sad that any Frontbencher has had to resign over what should be an extremely grave matter of conscience.
What I cannot and will not respect are those who somehow seek to find justification for ISIL’s actions. That frightens me because I think “I am Christian. If ISIL beheaded me, would you try to justify that too?”
September 26th, 2014
A few weeks ago, Broadcast Journalist, Phil Weeder, Joined me on the campaign trail in Hitchin. This is what we discussed:
September 26th, 2014
I have just received the following message from one of my friends in Cumbria who works as a doctor:
“Things look pretty bad for West Cumberland Hospital and they are slowly moving all acute services to Carlisle without the public realising. They now want to take doctors away from maternity and make it a midwife led unit too (cost saving) which seems very unsafe as it is an hour to Carlisle and midwife led units are designed to have units with obstricians nearby for emergencies (as in within 15mins).”
There is a meeting at Whitehaven Rugby League Club on Monday 29 September at 7pm. 1,124 people have signed up to attend on Facebook.,
September 24th, 2014
September 12th, 2014
I left wanting to retrain as a Plumber. That was no small achievement for Britain’s Energy Coast Construction Skills Centre (“BECCSC”). I was an “academic” student at secondary school: I excelled at writing and in core academic subjects.
I never took to CDT (Craft, Design and Technology): I had no spatial awareness and was cack-handed with equipment. But I didn’t think that mattered: it was an optional subject and, in any event, the tried and tested way to career success involved A’Levels, a degree from a top university and plenty of essay-writing.
BECCSC told a different story.
BECCSC is part of Lakes College, Workington, which includes the original FE College of 5000 students, Energus (the Nuclear Skills Academy) and a University Technical College offering vocational education to 14-19 year olds. The University of Cumbria also has an outpost there. (more…)
September 12th, 2014
August 3rd, 2014
It is five years since a “crisis of political faith” drove me back into the Labour Party and into full-blooded party political campaigning. Looking back, it is hard to believe how strongly I resisted it and how much I wanted to keep myself above the fray. People are often surprised to hear that I had, at that point, been out of the game for over ten years.
Over these past five years I have learnt a great deal and met a lot of people. Politics is as much about human nature as it is about policy, and political campaigning offers an extraordinary window into people’s souls.
Politics is an extremely costly business – especially in terms of time and energy. The time commitment involved does force us to live abnormal lives – and this can cause tensions in personal relationships. At those times, I am forced to remind myself why I do what I do. Because unless I am doing this for the right reasons, there are – quite frankly – much better things I could be doing with my time. (more…)
July 26th, 2014
With a local MP with a track record like Peter Lilley’s, I know that a lot of people in Hitchin & Harpenden are keen to know where candidates stand on Climate Change. Below is a comprehensive response:
Climate change is one of the most serious and complex challenges we face. We need concerted, immediate and sustained action to reduce carbon emissions and to avert the potentially serious environmental consequences of climate change.
Labour has always warned that climate change threatens national security because of the consequences for destabilisation of entire regions of the world, mass migration of millions of people and conflict over water or food supplies. (more…)
July 13th, 2014
The town of Hitchin lost 453 men during the First World War. For a town of 12,000, that meant that roughly 50% of the men aged between 20 and 30 were killed in the war. This shocking and startling fact should force us to reflect on the cost of war – and its emotional and psychological impact on a nation.
At today’s memorial service at St. Mary’s Church, all 453 names were read out. It took quite some time. Among those names were 6 Barkers, 9 Browns, 5 Chalkeys, 4 Haggers, 4 Hawkins, 4 Jameses, 4 Primetts, 10 Smiths and 6 Tomlins. These figures bear testimony to the families who lost several members – perhaps fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, uncles or nephews. It’s beyond my human comprehension to understand how it must feel to lose several family members to war. What must have been the emotional response to the government who had taken us to war? To the Generals? The the Germans? To God? (more…)
July 10th, 2014
Tonight’s meeting was organised by 38 Degrees – and was the first such meeting that they had put together. The audience was diverse and while there was a lot of anger at the Coalition Government, it wasn’t party political. People brought their own firsthand experience of working on zero hours contracts. There was a lot passion, a lot of anger and a lot of pain.
I went with one question: would the proposed protections for zero hours contract workers also apply to workers like my husband on an 8 hour contract but who endures many of the same issues – irregular hours, wage insecurity and practical barriers to securing a second job. I said that it was all very well banning exclusivity clauses but if you don’t know from week to week what days of the week you are going to work then it can be difficult to find an additional source of income and this traps workers on part time wages. My husband had lost out on two second jobs because of this problem. (more…)
July 10th, 2014
I’m just back from a meeting about zero hours contracts with Vince Cable at Methodist Central Hall. In answer to a question about how people on zero hours contracts could enforce their employment rights he answered “talk to your trade union” The very same trade unions that have been criticized today and are being constantly demonised by this Coalition Government. The same unions that aren’t recognised in many workplaces thanks to Thatcherite legislation. The same unions that came into existence over 100 years ago precisely to tackle abuses like “zero hours contracts” and are now left powerless to protect millions of workers thanks to decades of rightwing rhetoric and policy. He went onto say that if that didn’t work you could take matters to a tribunal. For the princely sum of £1000, thanks to this Coalition government.
July 3rd, 2014
June 27th, 2014
Rachel Burgin, Labour PPC for Hitchin & Harpenden, speaking on Armed Forces Day, said:
“Today people up and down the country will gather to recognise, remember and pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the British Armed Forces community.
“Our Service personnel work around the world in some of the most dangerous situations to defend Britain’s interests and national security. Just like those before them, they do so with unequivocal commitment, enduring professionalism and resolute courage.
“But the sacrifice associated with military life is rarely endured alone – we must not forget the impact on the friends and families of those who serve too. They provide invaluable support to loved ones away from home and the contribution they make to local communities should never be underestimated.
April 26th, 2014
My response to recent figures on those earning less than the Living Wage:
“The issue of low pay is a personal one for me. My husband works part time in retail. When his hours are cut, so is our household income. We live week-to-week not knowing how much he is going to earn. The issue of low pay is compounded by zero hours and short hours contracts that rob workers of job and income security – and their ability to plan for the future. This is why so many hardworking families fall into debt, fall behind with their rent and become dependant on foodbanks. (more…)
January 15th, 2014
The Labour party needs to design an education policy which focuses on the Learning and the Learner. Everything else is secondary.
To focus on the learner we need a curriculum-driven system; at present the system is driven by assessment and qualifications. Assessment does not improve learning, it merely measures it. Qualifications need to be a proper reflection of learning that is valid and useful. (more…)
March 28th, 2013
The decline of traditional heavy industries and the growth of our financial and service sectors have left a lasting legacy on our national economy. In short, too much UK wealth is created and consumed in London and the South East. Figures published by the Office of National Statistics demonstrate the scale of the problem (1).
It isn’t just that there are more jobs in the South East: it’s that the jobs that exist are (in general) better paid, better skilled and more secure. The quality of life in the South East is distorted by the much higher cost of living and this causes its own kind of suffering, but opportunities are everywhere. (more…)
August 15th, 2011
The church warden of a remote Anglican parish on the west Cumbrian coast was sorting out the church loft when he happened upon an England flag. It was in the run-up to St. George’s day so he decided to fly the flag from the church tower.
Because the church is an iconic coastal landmark, the flag could be seen for miles around – from both land and sea. The church was so overwhelmed by the positive feedback from the local community that a decision was taken to keep the flag flying. It was still flying a few months later when, on 2nd June 2010, Derrick Bird tore through West Cumbria leaving 12 dead, many more injured and a community in complete shellshock. In response, the flag flew at half-mast and it provided a potent symbol of community grief and solidarity. (more…)
July 18th, 2011
I’ll never forget a conversation I once had with my Great Auntie Elsie. She was bemoaning the fact that people at church wanted to stay around afterwards to chat over coffee.
“Maybe they want to catch up on the week’s events “ I said naively “and see how people are”.
May 31st, 2011
My move from west Cumbria to the Home Counties commuter belt has been a challenge for my personal budgeting as I have adjusted to a much higher cost of living. I feel ‘squeezed’ between being unable to expect welfare or charity and finding it harder to save for a ‘rainy day’, for a house deposit or a pension. I’m fortunate to have survived the threat of redundancy but I haven’t had an inflation-busting pay rise for at least three years. I spend 10 per cent of my net salary on a season ticket to work and I’m not guaranteed a properly functioning train – let alone a seat. I spend 10 hours per week commuting to work – time that might be better spent building the ‘big society’. I say this not to beg for sympathy but to articulate the reality of life for millions of people here in the southeast. (more…)
June 15th, 2010
It was a date that seemed so inconsequential in my diary.
At 6pm on June 2nd 2010 the Copeland CLP was due to hold their post-election debrief at the GMB offices on Scotch Street, Whitehaven. It was supposed to be a positive, upbeat and constructive meeting to build on a superb result for Jamie Reed MP who magnificently held onto his “key seat” with a majority of 3,833. (more…)
May 25th, 2010
In the wake of a historic election defeat, it would be tempting for the Labour Party to seek out “quick fixes” – campaigning strategies that could deliver election victories in three and a half short weeks. The lesson from Copeland is that elections aren’t won in a short campaign: they are the product of doing politics properly over the long haul – not just over the 5 year election cycle but over the decades. It was way back in 1906 that Copeland had the first council to be represented by 100% Labour councillors – Arlecdon & Frizington District Council. The same spirit of community engagement that inspired our forefathers lives on in us today. (more…)