My column on citizen involvement with developments:
The great pride most locals hold for our area is valuable, but it can be undermined if they don’t think local leadership sees things the same way.
Most people of the area think it’s special, love the features that make it special, like the general local attitude that’s maybe a little different than 100 miles south, are willing to pay a little more, drive a little further for some things. Many are willing to be involved to help keep it that way.
A side note: Time is better than money. Some small schools operate on a parental-involvement model. They’re happy to get donations for equipment and such, but what they require of every parent is to volunteer some time and be involved in some way. Same with local involvement. There’s no substitute for time.
But if our proud locals don’t get the impression leadership is on board with them, it can easily be discouraging. If the impression is that leadership and unstoppable forces are steering the area from exceptional, toward mediocre, they might just see it as a dream they have to let go. That a future Prescott as good as the current one would have been nice, but looks like it’s not to be. And there goes the motivation to be involved. There goes an enormous local asset. A populace proud of their area and willing to help is immeasurably valuable. Losing it would be foolish and costly.
The impression we have of leadership can be part true, part false, part complicated. Part of it can be unrealistic expectations of citizens who object to things too late. See my column of Dec. 13. Part of it can be that council and the city are limited by law as to what they can do, though laws can vary a lot, judging by the ways other desirable regions handle things differently than we do. Part of it can be weak public relations, that we just don’t see some of the things done to help the area.
None of it is a matter of lack of love for the region by council. I’ve known a good few over the years, former and current, and all love the area and want the best for it, and some work their butts off at it. But the end results of those intentions can vary. It was, after all, these lovers of the city who chose to pull a fast one and spend most of the open space money on streets. By that, among other lost opportunities, they missed a chance to preserve a key piece of the Dells.
The city and council have to operate within the laws but they could, if they chose to, be much more aggressive about how the laws are applied for the area’s benefit, propose changes in laws, get more creative about ways to get the best results out of competing interests, pull citizens into the process more and communicate back to them more.
To keep the valuable enthusiasm of citizens, leadership has to be seen aggressively pursuing the same goals the citizens have. Not just in words, but in actions. Actions that benefit the area, and not just the small number who benefit most from growth, but the overwhelmingly larger number who would benefit more from sustained quality, than from growth.
Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at tomcantlon.com.