In his parting advice to present and future council members, Michael Cohen advised the following:
“Be there for your constituents and never say, ‘It’s not in my jurisdiction.’ You are the person they are relying on to figure out a way, so always take that responsibility. Take everyone seriously and give everyone the dignity and respect that they deserve. You are there to protect their quality of life.
“Make sure you take the time to do the homework and understand every resolution, every precedent and every budgetary component. Make sure you are the most knowledgeable person on that dais. It allows you to find creative ways to help the community in ways that are needed.
“Make sure to build solid, meaningful relationships throughout city hall and with all the people in the various municipal departments. Know their jobs. Respect them. Know the community leaders regardless of whether you represent them or not, and understand the narratives of those who you don’t serve. I worked really hard over my 12 years on the council to constantly be somebody who could embrace and celebrate the diversity and bring our communities together for all of our mutual benefit. Only through mutual understanding and mutual respect are you going to be able to build the alliances necessary in a legislative process to be able to get done those things that are substantial and those things that have an impact on people’s lives.
“You need to be the ambassador for your constituency so that they understand the narratives of our ward. At the end of the day you are going to serve your constituents better when you serve the city of Englewood better.”
By Ronit Mershon