Letter to the editor submitted by Anthony Lopez, RTM District 1, Sept 10, 2018
Yesterday reminded me what politics is supposed to be about. It reminded me of why I ran to represent District 1 on the RTM, and of what I will never lose sight of.
Some of us know that on September 12, the ban on the use of plastic bags at the majority of retailers in Town goes into effect.
This will mark an historic day in Greenwich, one in which our town will join the ranks of those who are serious about leading the charge toward a cleaner and safer environment. As a result of the ban, residents will be afforded one of three options at local retailers. Use the recyclable brown paper bag that retailers provide at no cost, purchase reusable bags from a retailer, or bring their own reusable bags with them.
When we considered the ordinance to ban plastic bags in the RTM, my principal concerns were that many of our residents would not be able to afford to purchase their own reusable bags, and that the fee associated with bags being provided by the retailer – which was removed from the ordinance that passed – would have a disparate impact on these residents.
To that end, I have been working to raise donations of reusable grocery bags to provide to these residents at no cost. The goal was to raise 5,000 bags.
I am happy to report that because of the generosity of groups like BYOGreenwich, and my employer Independent Support Services, our local grocery store Stop & Shop, candidate for State Senate Alex Bergstein, and the Director of Environmental Affairs for the Town of Greenwich Pat Sesto on behalf of the Town, we have exceeded that goal and have secured pledges 8,124 reusable bags – 2,324 of which are on hand.
Yesterday, my wife, our two daughters, our longtime family friend and sister, Maria Berisso-Santos and her daughters, joined me as we kicked off the reusable bag giveaway at Wilbur Peck Court in District 1.
This is the place where my wife and her family grew up, and where I fell in love with Greenwich when I first visited 20 years ago. It was the natural place to begin.
On our way to giving out 153 bags to families, we met a woman named Olga. Olga is a nearly 40-year resident of Greenwich who previously lived in Armstrong Court, and is one of the sweetest people that I have ever met.
Olga did not know about the ban on plastic bags, and did not have reusable bags in her home. She is also one of our seniors in Town and she is bound to a wheelchair. Her nieces come over and help her out from time to time, and she loves their company. Incidentally, my wife and Maria, both Greenwich natives, grew up with Olga’s nieces, and know her family. Near the end of our roughly 25 minutes with her, she took pictures with us and said that she was our abuela – our grandmother. Maria and I left our numbers, and I told her that I would be back to check in on her.
That is what politics is about. It is not about the divisive, and hyperbolic rhetoric that we see every night on the news. It’s not about partisanship, bickering, or policy fights. It’s about the people whom we serve. I don’t know if Olga is a Democrat or a Republican. I don’t know if she voted for me, or not. All I know is that she is a member of the District that I represent, and it is my job to do all that I can to get to know her concerns, her issues, and her story.
Knocking on people’s doors, having real conversations with them about what their hopes and dreams are, about their issues and concerns, and hearing their ideas about what we can do to solve problems, is the thing that I enjoy most about being in politics. I know that I cannot solve everyone’s problems, or make everyone happy at the same time. But, what I do know is that I will never stop being there. I will never stop doing what I think is right for the people whom I serve, or fighting for them and their causes. I also know that you don’t have to be involved in politics to knock on your neighbor’s door just to have a conversation, or to check on them. Sadly, society seems to shun the notion of neighborhood, and community. We’re either too busy, or in too much of a hurry, to get to know our neighbors. We’ve even stopped saying hi to each other as we walk down the street. I guess it’s no wonder then, that our politics has become so cold and disconnected from the people.
I hope that we can return to a time where we knew the Olgas in our community – one where we made time to be neighborly, to sit and talk to one another, and to build the bonds of community that not only made our neighborhoods stronger, but that also made our politics stronger. When you know the people around you, when you learn about their stories, their history, their wants and desires, and you have a relationship with them, it becomes easier to do right by them. That is what I was reminded of yesterday, and what politics is supposed to be about – being a good neighbor.
If you would like to join us as we continue the giveaway all over Town, please email me at Anthony.Lopez@greenwichct.org. We will continue, in every part of Town, until we have given away the last bag. Thank you in advance.