Sunday, May 15, 2011

Considering River View

An editorial in today's Tribune (link here) endorsed the River View project for New Albany's financial salvation. It likens the decision we face to that faced several years back in giving thumbs up to the YMCA. The Tribune may be correct in its opinion.

But in the Courier-Journal we read these words from Wendell Berry addressing a different issue, but hitting some of the same points we must consider in deciding if River View is the best view...

"For humans, local adaptation is not work for a few financiers and a few intellectual and political hotshots. This is work for everybody, requiring everybody's intelligence. It is work inherently democratic.
What must we do?"
(link to Berry's complete piece)

Berry's piece is, as usual and expected, instructive on many levels. The River View project is not likely to directly affect our agricultural vulnerabilities. Downtown property is not at a decision point of whether to go toward community gardens or toward commercial/residential use. That decision was made long ago.

But we face a monumental decision of how we forge ahead with the River View project. Our decision in 2011 or 2012 will deal the cards for many generations.

Private profit should not be the determining factor in a decision of this magnitude. When the fate of our downtown is on the line, it is time for a wider airing of the decisions we face as a community.

As Wendell Berry said, "This is work for everybody,...It is work inherently democratic."

Open the doors, and let the sun shine in.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thank You

Thank you to those who voted for me; you know who you are.

And, thanks to all those who came out and voted, period.

It is a sad commentary on our collective interest in self-government that so few make the effort to participate in our democracy.

Although it's been said before, those who step forward to run for office deserve deserve commendation.

As one who had uncomfortable competition in the race, I truly believe that such competition was not unwelcome. There may come a day for me when the discomfort will be underlined by my being pushed out the door. If that time arrives I hope to reflect not on the loss, but the privilege I had to serve my hometown in its pursuit of progress.

I look forward to the general election with the confidence that the City will be in good hands so long as caring, committed people run for office, and of equal importance, so long as caring, committed non-office holders stay engaged in the pursuit of progress.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Primary Thoughts

A couple months ago I was listening to Travel With Rick Steves on WFPL, he was interviewing Jeff Greenwald about his book "Snake Lake". The book recounts episodes of Greenwald's many travels to Nepal. It was a highly interesting program.

At one point the host asked the question, "do the Nepalese operate from a philosophy of scarcity or a philosophy of abundance?"

That, I think, is one of the essential questions of governance in our time. Since I was then early in the campaign for re-election to the City Council I applied that question to my situation.

Is New Albany operating from a position of scarcity, or abundance? For any who follow local politics, the answer seems all too obvious. We are firmly in the scarcity camp. Too often decisions have about them the sense of a zero-sum-game in which if you win, I lose.

On the other hand we could approach civic relations from a philosophy of abundance in which when more people win, more people win, and I might be one of them; and if I'm not, I will still inhabit a better city.

Scarcity is not simply a lack of material things.And abundance is not a scorecard where one tallies possessions to measure relative better-offness.

Much of scarcity is self-centered penury, and some of it is fear. Fear of what? Fear that if you win I lose, and there we go again. But fear is also used as a weapon to diminish our capacity to think the future can be better. We can not strive for a better tomorrow because we must hunker down and protect what we have. With scarce thinking we behold a bleak horizon.

Abundance is a sense that much awaits us even if not much is with us now. It is a sense that we can build a better tomorrow. We can build it through a wealth of committed individuals who make up a caring community. We can build it with a vision of abundance, a long horizon, for those who follow us. Those who preceded us must have had a sense of abundance long ago or they would not have built what has lasted until today.

From time to time throughout this campaign I have used the phrase "civic compact" to label what it is I think should inform government service at any level. What I mean by that phrase is simply an intergenerational promise to make this small plot of the Earth rational, functional, pleasant, and sustainable. I believe those are key components of abundance.

I had intended to write more on this topic, but time is scarce.