Last week I talked about individual New Year’s Resolutions and the unlikelihood that anyone makes resolutions, let alone keeps them. I was pleasantly surprised to hear from a number of people who not only make some interesting resolutions, they keep them.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Our community is made up of many strong-willed, enthusiastic and caring people. So when I sat down to write this week’s Unorganized Territory, I thought I’d introduce an idea for a countywide New Year’s Resolution.
Unorganized as always, I didn’t think of the idea of a group resolution until working on the last couple issues of the Cook County News- Herald. The first few weeks of each year are filled with “organizational meetings.” That sounds like something I should be attending to try to make my way out of Unorganized Territory, but these meetings are actually governmental meetings occupied with “housekeeping.” Various boards and commissions swear in new members, decide who is going to serve as committee or board chair, and talk about meeting dates and times.
It is encouraging to see citizens stepping up. It is refreshing to hear a new board or committee member question the status quo. It’s not that the sitting board or commission members are doing anything wrong. It’s just that after a few years on a governmental body, citizens get a bit world-weary. It seems like the same problem keeps coming up at meeting after meeting. Long-time board members develop a shorthand filled with acronyms and remember whens. It’s easy to answer every new idea with “We tried that. It didn’t work.”
A new face in a group can shake things up a bit. Not just by introducing new ideas, which is exciting, but just by asking “why?” When the citizens or elected officials who have served for a long time have to stop and explain why they do what they do, they too sometimes realize that there might be a better way to proceed.
That is just what happened at the latest meeting I attended, the Cook County – Grand Marais Economic Authority, the EDA. I won’t go into the convoluted history of the EDA or argue if it is necessary to have an EDA. I’ll just say that there have been times when it has been difficult to watch the EDA in action—or inaction. However, the last meeting was different, at least when the discussion turned to the future of the Cedar Grove Business Park.
The business park has been a disappointment. A number of businesses have expressed interest in purchasing a lot and time after time have withdrawn for various reasons, but primarily because of the inability of government to move swiftly. The 30 or so tree-shaded lots with lake views, a paved road, and power and water have sat vacant for years, not adding jobs to our community, not adding dollars to our tax coffers.
So, one of the newer EDA board members, Abby Tofte, who has served for just about a year now, introduced a novel idea to get some lots to sell. Tofte proposed that the EDA allow business owners to construct a building that includes upstairs living quarters. That way, a fledgling business owner could leverage his or her finances to create a workspace and living space. There are a number of ways it could work, but Tofte said it would be ideal for some of the artists in our community who can’t afford studio and gallery space in addition to a mortgage.
Howard Hedstrom, who had just been sworn in to serve on the EDA board, chimed in with support. And the EDA’s county board representative, Commissioner Heidi Doo- Kirk, another relatively new EDA board member asked, “What do we need to do to get this done?”
The entire EDA board got on board with the idea and agreed to explore it. It might turn out to not be feasible. But it is encouraging to see a new idea accepted so readily.
Which brings me to my idea for a communitywide New Year’s Resolution. Let’s follow the EDA’s example in this instance. When we hear an idea that might bring change, but that could benefit the community in the long run, let’s not look for reasons why it can’t be done. Let’s talk about it and work together to see if it can be done. Let’s resolve to get it done.
~ ~ ~
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.