I attended the City Council meeting on Tuesday night that made an important decision to repurpose the old City Hall site.
Most of you are familiar with this discussion that has been going on for about five years due to the relocation and construction of the new City Hall. What struck me about this meeting that propelled me to write this column is understanding how vital it is that we all pay attention not only to national and state elections and who gets elected to lead us, but how much local government has the power to improve or destroy local communities and relationships.
The Council, after receiving much input from the community, conducting a staff study, and selecting three proposals for the City Hall complex, made a decision to select R.D. Olson – a local citizen and developer – to begin the process for development of a hotel.
This decision that was in their hands demonstrates the power of seven elected officials to change a neighborhood, foster enhanced business provide opportunities both old and new, increase housing values, and create an environment that can be shared, enjoyed, used, and become another symbol of pride for all residents, business owners, and visitors.
Leadership matters, and it is imperative that we all get involved in our city decisions, express our views, and support as well as analyze what the best solutions are to support long term viable economic engines which promote beautiful neighborhoods and services that are so vital to our living enjoyment.
Local government was working and shining on Tuesday night. Community members were poised to make their case for the hotel, and three businessmen chosen to present their proposals were there to review and answer any additional questions for audience or councilmembers.
Mayor Keith Curry was running a fast paced meeting to facilitate information and get a vote he knew most community members sitting in the audience wanted for the long-term needs of the Lido Peninsula.
It was encouraging to see three business men vying for the opportunity to build on the site realizing that only one would be chosen yet respecting each others projects, wishing the best for the community and its stated chosen option, exhibiting professional behavior through the entire process.
How we conduct our business, study issues, problem solve, and communicate with each other is crucial to functional government and better communities. The tone, tact, and decision process guides or breaks down communities and either create trust or distrust.
A decision making process that is conducted respectfully and bases outcomes on credible information and fact finding helps people to accept choices whether they are in favor or disfavor because the process is fair, informative, and inclusive.
We need to learn to disagree with each other without harsh consequences, name calling, and threats. We must understand that the democratic process will only survive and work when people are truly incorporated in the process beyond the “I have the power and this is how things will be done.”
We all have far too much invested in our community to sit back and not be included and involved in local government. The Council, City leaders, and local community leaders must use this particular decision process as a model for all in-depth study and decisions for now and the future.
We all have a responsibility to behave ethically and professionally in defining problems and finding solutions. Who we know should not be more important than what we know and how we go about finding the best options and roads to pursue.
The Council must take the lead, along with city staff, and ensure a good decision-making process is in place and executed prior to any major impact on our community.
The dock tax debate affected the boat parade last year because the process broke down on many levels and it became a power struggle rather than a problem-solution process on the part of many involved in the decision. The debate became personal and it touched everyone in the community.
Good processes drive good decisions.
This particular decision has the ability to begin a rebuilding process on the Lido Peninsula that is long overdue. We are a long way from where we would all like it to be, but it takes time, investment of money, risk, cooperation from many entities, and community to make the decision work.
More decisions are on the horizon and have equal impact for our city; I encourage the Council, citizens, and community decision-makers to exhibit the characteristics in behavior and process that made this decision possible before the final votes are taken. We waste time, money, and human capital when the process is not well thought out and decisions are implemented without thoughtful and respectful input being carefully considered among the community, council, and city staff.
That is my take
Gloria J. Alkire