Thursday, April 05, 2007

Column 97 - Incline Vision Town Meeting 2

There is an apocryphal story about a school boy who, upon entering second grade was told that one of the requirements of this school year was that he read a book of his choice, to which he replied “why do I have to read a book? I already read a book!”

I hear a similar plaint from locals about the upcoming Incline Vision Town Meeting and it makes about as much sense to me. “We did planning in 1996 – do we need to do this every ten years?”

Well, I guess the answer is yes. The 1996 planning addressed land use and a lot of good things came out of it over the subsequent years. I moved here in 1995 and a lot has changed for the better in the town since then – we have sidewalks we didn’t have, we have facilities we didn’t have, and in general the physical aspect of the village has improved in many ways. Much of the improvement has come from direct citizen involvement – the sidewalks were, in part, a result of accidents that occurred when people were walking where there were no sidewalks. The pedestrian-operated traffic light at the south end of where the Northwood/ Southwood loop intersects Highway 28 came because a group of citizens were unwilling to wait until someone being injured or killed prompted a safety measure. The skateboard park was a direct citizen effort, and on and on. I guess the connection between the Town Meeting and citizen involvement and these and other improvements is just too indirect for some people to see, but I think it’s real – when people get involved in their community beyond sitting around or writing letters to the paper about what’s wrong and “somebody ought to fix it,” good things happen.

Here’s the thing folks – in an unincorporated area outside the mainstream of county services if the residents don’t get involved, improvement is a hit or miss proposition. In November of 2005, Bea Epstein and a small group of others (full disclosure - I was one of them) took the initiative to raise the question “What do we want Incline Village/Crystal Bay to be like in 2025?” This was before TRPA’s Pathway 2007 got started, before Place-Based Planning, before much of anything was happening in this arena. That group pulled together the second planning effort in ten years and held a Town Meeting with over 300 people present. From that meeting came ten committees focusing on issues ranging from demographics to the environment to arts and culture and to recreation, encompassing a hundred or more concerned individuals that spent the next 18 months planning and working with the other efforts that got started as well. From time to time the effort was declared successful, unnecessary, dying, dead, and revolutionary, and on it went.

Now the time has come for the committees to report out what they have learned and to move from planning to action, and that is the purpose of Saturday’s Town Meeting – to move from vision to action and to come out of the meeting with commitments either for direct citizen action or action to influence the appropriate public bodies and officials.

As I told someone today, I’m too old for cynicism. When I was young and had lots of time, I could afford to say “aw, nothing’s gonna change – it’ll just be meetings every ten years forever.” Now I’m older – I don’t have the luxury of cynicism and if I’m going to help change things for the better I need to do it now. Where will you be Saturday morning? Basketball doesn’t start till 3 – why not take a chance that community involvement makes a difference, even when it takes 10 years or it’s indirect.

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