Labor Day, the national holiday we celebrate today, can mean many different things to different people.
To many, of course, it is the summer season’s last hurrah – even though summer officially runs through Sept. 21, and most recognize the tourism here on Cape Ann carries well into September, or really to October and Columbus Day weekend.
It can also mark the start of an election season — especially in Gloucester this year, with lively races expected for mayor, the City Council and the School Committee. And at its core, Labor Day salutes the labor movement and working families — far too many of whom have fallen on hard times in the workplace, in the job market or on the unemployment rolls.
So while Gloucester candidates and voters alike are facing critical issues — from the future of the Fuller School to the often still-closed status of its Bay View and Magnolia fire stations — the key issue for many residents and votes is the lack of jobs.
Yes, Gloucester showed improvement from June to July in its local unemployment rate as outlined by the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. But its 7.4 percent July jobless rate remains above the state’s norm of 7.2, it’s 11 percent higher than the 6.7 percent figure posted a year earlier — in July 2012 — and the 1,173 people in the city’s workforce listed as out of work in July is 12.8 percent higher than the 1,040 Gloucester workers unemployed in July of last year.
As this campaign moves forward, mayoral candidates Carolyn Kirk and Mac Bell and each of the City Council candidates — whether seeking ward or at-large seats — should offer specific ideas regarding how these numbers can be reversed.
Will a lifting of the Designated Port Area mandates spur new development and jobs along the waterfront? What else can be done to spur the badly needed development of the I-4, C-2 site? Could a sale or commercial development on the Fuller School sale spur the kind of job growth the city needs?
Those are just few ideas for improving Gloucester’s job and tax base, and all should be a big part of this campaign as the races begin to hit stride.
So let Labor Day 2013 not merely mark the unofficial end of our “summer season.”
Let it also mark the start of an election campaign that forces on Gloucester’s own job and workforce issues. It’s Priority 1 for many local families.