Westfield and the Changing American Dream
Introducing a new series that aims to look at jobs, home ownership, education, debt, upward mobility and life as we know it.
We're excited to announce the inauguration of our new series: "Dispatches: The Changing American Dream."
Every day, the national media is full of stories about how American families, businesses, and neighbors are adjusting to these trying times. There are so many changes happening so fast that it's dizzying: national debates about unemployment, foreclosures, debt, religion, government and private enterprise all touch on fundamental ways in which we see ourselves and our communities. At Patch, we want to explore that conversation consistently so we can better understand how our neighbors are adjusting to the challenges and opportunities that surround us. This series is about how America works, how we realize our dreams and life as we know it. It's about how we approach our lives, our relationships, our jobs, our communities and ourselves.
We know the American Dream is different for everyone. We know many of our friends, family and neighbors are working toward the goal of reaching their own dreams, helping others get there and nurturing not only themselves but their communities along the way.
Looking out across nearly 900 Patch sites, we see businesses holding their breath deciding whether to expand; college graduates returning home because they can't find jobs; and senior citizens bringing boarders into their homes to help pay their bills. We also see bold new volunteer efforts, inspiring stories of local businesses that succeed because they innovated, and locals who've taken these trying times as a signal to engage more, not less, in their government.
At the purely local level, we want to know where we, as Westfield neighbors, fit along these fault lines.
Nationally, there's a debate about fiscal and monetary policy. Locally, Westfield residents have voiced opposition - vocally and in Patch's comments section - over fiscal decisions by the Board of Education, among other education management issues. The board's decision regarding using bonus state aid for teacher hiring versus property tax relief caused divisions amongst the board and conversation amongst Westfielders.
Actions by the Town Council on hiring freezes and cost cutting in the era of a two-percent property tax cap have caused discussions on how will those decisions impact the average Westfielder. From fire manpower levels to human services to snow plowing, Westfielders are questioning the delivery of government services versus taxes in the current economic climate.
The economy remains at the center of any debate, with unemployment numbers remaining steady. In Westfield, the Presbyterian Church confronted the crisis head on two years ago, creating one of the only weekly support groups for job seekers in New Jersey. Community groups throughout Westfield continue to support those in need, from the Agape soup kitchen to the Holy Trinity food pantry to volunteer work among students at all 10 of Westfield's schools.
Nationally, there's a debate about the education system, which is at the center of our dreams of a better life for our children. Locally, the Westfield Board of Education is grappling with the resignation of the fourth guidance director in four years, a drop in ranking for the high school, declining state aid, communications issues, rising enrollments and the opposition of an entire neighborhood over redistricting.
"Dispatches" will be built upon the compelling vignettes and snapshots we unearth in our Patch towns throughout the year.
And, of course, we want your help: Tell us what issues and what stories in Westfield go to the heart of your American Dreams.