Roxane White – TRANSCRIPT
The night of March 19th, I got a call that everyone hopes they never get in their life. It was Lisa Clements on the phone.
My Department of Correction Director had been murdered in his own home. Why do I start by talking to you about Tom? I start because Tom probably taught me more about civic engagement than any person I’ve ever worked with in my life. My first meeting with Tom was about budget cuts in Colorado, and the need to engage the people of Colorado in prison closures, and he said, “Rox, we’re going to have to go shut down a community. We’re closing a prison where we’re the sole employer, and we have to go tell them.” So we got in the car and went to Las Animas, Colorado, and we met with the community.
People yelled at us, and they screamed at us. They were terrified, and we escorted out with security at the end of the meeting. Tom’s death had nothing to do with that night, but it has everything to do with how we think about good government. We met with that community every two weeks, and three weeks ago we announced that we were bringing in new employers, that we had transformed an old prison facility into a rehabilitation place for people who are homeless. The community will once again have jobs and will once again have the opportunity to thrive.
But in the car, Tom and I talked a lot about democracy, and open and public dialogue, and why did we have to close a prison in order to get people to come out and talk to us? Why is it that free speech and open elections don’t seem to be valued anymore in America? And at the same time, across the world, we are losing democracy. Why is it that trust in government has decreased from 60% just ten years ago to less than 19% now? What were we going to do about it as a community, and what were we going to do about it as taxpayers?