Monday, April 17, 2006

April 17, 2006 Dissent: It is what we are made of


Consider This for April 17, 2006--Dissent: It Is What We Are Made Of


It was the Revolutionary War, not the War of “Let’s All Get Along.” We were born of very angry people. People were angry about all those “foreigners.” You remember. All those people who spoke English with a strong British accent and came here to take all our jobs and use the free benefits of living in America.

The demonstrations and dissent all over the nation about immigration are just another part of the birthing process of freedom. Regardless of which side of the argument you are on, you have to accept that this has caused everyone to step back and think about immigration.

I teach students in my political science class that to bring groups together you have to find a common enemy, not a common purpose. Try to get together a large group to talk about the child-care crisis in the county and you might get 10 people to show up. Announce that you are going to have a nuclear storage facility next to the Dillon Reservoir and you will have 300 people show up. They will also show up with a strong opinion about the issue and be ready to talk or fight.

Hot buttons are not intellectual. Come up with volumes of justification for an action and you will put everyone to sleep. Come up with an issue that elicits an emotional response and you will see the same response that came when we were becoming a free country 231 years ago.

Cause people to feel so strongly about something that they are ready to fight. When visceral responses occur, you have a winner. That is when things really happen in our nation and in our community.

Summit County provides a great example of people working very hard to get along. I moved to the mountains in 1974 when there were no traffic signals and most of the town streets were not even paved.

I tell people about how we had wooden sidewalks in some places and the community was struggling to evolve from a mining community and sometimes a ski resort. I remember when a local prominent attorney challenged the Breckenridge Police Chief to a shoot-out on Main Street. And he was serious.

Around the end of the 1980s a group of us met at Copper Mountain to think of ways to bring the community together. Thus was born the Summit Leadership Forum. From the forum came the Summit Stage transit system. The Summit County Housing Authority. The Summit County Child Care Coalition. And a host of other organizations to make this a better place to live.

The monthly Mayors, Managers, and Commissioners meetings came about because some towns were not getting along with some former commissioners. The towns began meeting alone to make decisions on cooperation, and eventually the County Commissioners were included. That group was a model of collaboration and cooperation.

Summit County has five planning commissions. Each of the six towns has its own planning group. Summit County includes a member from the appropriate town’s commission on the adjacent planning basin commission. This enables the towns to have a vote on planning issues in the areas surrounding their communities. Unfortunately, the towns have not invited county members to sit on their planning commissions. Maybe sometime in the future the same courtesy will be extended to nontown residents to provide some input into the towns that certainly impact the unincorporated areas.

My point is there are many ways to improve communication and to quell the dissent in our communities. When I tell people in the state and at national organizations about what is going on in Summit County, they can’t believe how much cooperation is occurring.

Counties have a hard time talking among communities and most of the time don’t bother. They would rather remain geocentric and blame everyone else for the lack of progress, collaboration, and communications. Take a look at where you are in this whole discussion and then get involved. Go to a meeting and participate. Write letters to the editor and to your elected officials. Let’s have a quiet revolution to make this a better place for our children and grandchildren.

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