Saturday, July 29, 2006

Remembering Ray Blanco

Ray Blanco had a global reputation as a tireless documentarian on human rights issues. On the small stage of Plainfield politics, he brought the same passion to the cause of public service.

On Friday (July 28, 2006) a great heart stopped. Ray died at home, just a year and a half into his term as councilman at large, representing all the people of Plainfield, and just seven months into serving as City Council president.

Ray arrived late at the last council meeting, having attended a glittering event at Gracie Mansion. Taking his seat as president in the mundane courtroom where council votes affect more than 47,000 residents, Blanco laced into the new administration for trying to get away with last-minute submissions to the governing body.

Knowing he was ruffling feathers by holding the mayor and her cabinet up for public criticism, Ray stood firm. It may not have been right politically, but it was the right thing to do according to his standard of public service.

Ray tells his own life story more comprehensively on his “Communicating With Plainfield” web site (click here) than anyone else could tell it. His childhood heroes were real-life crusaders for a better world and he pledged early on to give a voice to the voiceless. Ray not only portrayed the plight of the disenfranchised, he tried to bridge the gap by personally providing opportunities to diverse individuals. Aware that at least one-third of Plainfielders lack a voice in the future of the city, Ray sought and achieved establishment of the Hispanic Affairs Commission.

Fiery, sometimes mercurial, but always sincere, Ray set the city on a path to higher standards and demanded of the council and administration that they do no less than their best as stewards of the public good. Honoring Ray’s memory means finding within ourselves some measure of his passion - celebrating ourselves when we win one for the human spirit and not letting anyone diminish our lives by misuse of power.

Plainfield was lucky to have Ray for 27 years - more than half of his life, as he said in his biography. His life has now been cut short, but not his influence. He moved in many worlds, but here in Plainfield his legacy is clear. Seek, don’t settle. Fight for what is right, not expedient. If we can do that, Ray’s memory will be properly honored.

--Bernice Paglia


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