It is no secret that I love Northampton. This blog, after all, is a paean to my adopted city. But never have I loved Northampton more than today. It is not just that Northampton made an excellent choice in electing David Narkewicz as our next mayor: an intelligent, capable, effective man with integrity to spare. It is not just the results of the city council races, and the fact that we get to see Bill Dwight bring his energy, no-nonsense intelligence, and sense of humor back to city government. It’s not just that we soundly defeated an attempt to repeal the Community Preservation Act, which, for a small increase in taxes, helps preserve open space, historic buildings, and recreation facilities, and develops affordable housing.
No, today my heart beats a little faster for this town because it proved that critical thinking is not a thing of the past. I have no doubt that Michael Bardsley, David Narkewicz’s opponent in this race, is a good man who cares deeply about Northampton. But from the beginning of the campaign he went negative. He claimed that David was handpicked by a small group of city hall insiders, and that the previous mayor’s decision to step down early was part of a conspiracy to anoint him mayor. He belittled David in ads, painting him as inexperienced and in need of training wheels. Bardsley claimed that this down-to-earth guy—from a Shelburne Falls working class family of 9 kids—was part of the elite, the 1%. (Bardsley explained in a debate that David was clearly elite because he could afford to be a stay-at-home dad. Apparently this makes me elite as well. Oh goody. Now I can stop worrying about money.)
Throughout the campaign, David remained positive and resolutely refused to rise to the bait. Sometimes we desperately wanted him to, but we knew it wouldn’t solve anything. And it worked. Northampton’s electorate didn’t believe the half-truths and insinuations and they weren’t swayed by negativity. They refused to buy into the manufactured notions of a split in our community between “elites” and regular people. They didn’t accept unfounded anti-city hall rhetoric. They listened carefully and recognized honesty when they heard it. And 70% of them voted for David.
Throughout the country people stand ready to believe utter nonsense and the media is happy to feed it to them. But in my little corner of the world, good old-fashioned critical thought prevailed. Maybe it will catch on.