Select Board member Bopha Malone and Planning Board member Jacinda Barbehenn have created “Bedford Connect,” a new “space” for townspeople to engage in community conversation.
So just what is “Bedford Connect?”
When Malone campaigned for a seat on the Select Board in February, one of her promises was that she would “listen and learn” and take voters’ concerns back to the Select Board. As she went door to door, she realized that many residents had questions but not the time or know-how to search out the answers. Not that the Town wasn’t doing a good job of putting out information, but for many–particularly young families with children–there simply wasn’t enough time for navigating the web site, pulling up committee agendas, reading minutes, and attending meetings.
At the February League of Women Voters candidate forum, Malone and Barbehenn, who was up for reelection to the Planning Board, realized they were on the same wave-length with these issues. Putting their heads together, they came up with “Bedford Connect,” a virtual monthly forum with an open-ended agenda where participants can ask questions and share ideas.
Their original concept was to go out to various groups in town, across all demographics, and hold in-person sessions at the Council on Aging, at parents’ groups, at Mothers out Front meetings, or at any of the many locations where different groups gather. Malone and Barbehenn said, “We hoped to tap into people we don’t usually hear from, people who have never been to a town meeting or served on a town committee, and to bring new voices into the fold.”
Along came Covid-19 which soon put an end to the idea of face to face interactions. Malone and Barbehenn quickly recalibrated their plan and came up with the virtual “Bedford Connect,” which takes place via a zoom meeting. They’ve already held two sessions with a third set for August 26 from 5 to 6:30 pm.
The sessions are free-wheeling, with no set agenda although there is usually a focus on one or two current topics. Participants are encouraged to bring their questions and suggestions. Following the July session, Malone and Barbehenn sent a two-page summary to each attendee via email to share the topics that were talked about, plus an update on the annual town meeting and reminders about the 2020 Census and how to Vote by Mail. Some of the topics that came up at the meeting were: police policies and budget, ideas on new ways to get information out to voters before Town Meeting, and ways to encourage more residents to become involved in town government.
Malone and Barbehenn consider themselves to be liaisons between citizens and government. They say their new venture is very much a work in progress and the future development of “Bedford Connect” will be shaped by those taking part in it.
How You Can Connect
The next meeting is set for Wednesday, August 26 from 5 to 6:30 pm and if you are curious and want to join in the conversation, please send your name to
BedfordConnect@Yahoo.com. Instructions and a zoom link will be sent to you.