Mary Alber

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March 10, 2014
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Guest Column: Building community in Incline Village

As I leisurely read the Bonanza on Sunday morning, I was so moved by several articles that I ran to my computer to write this reflection. I want to share an idea that has been percolating among fellow residents; a pathway to a healthier Incline Village community.

Upon reading Debbie Larson’s “We The (mute) People,” I teared up for the same reasons she did (as I did watching the KNPB documentary about the IHS class). I share Debbie’s long-held disappointment that Incline’s citizens have been unable to engage in the kind of reasoned, respectful discourse that these young people are so ably demonstrating.

I went from sad to mad after reading Bruce Simonian’s lament of being slandered for trying to be a diligent public servant to the community. He is not the first IVGID board member to endure the bullying, politicking and obstructionism that has come to characterize our community’s governance process.

I was especially disturbed when Eric Severance was removed from GM consideration as I know him to be a person of integrity, commitment, compassion and capability whose appointment would have re-lit my flame of hope for this community’s future.

These two articles mirror my experience of what I would describe as a troubled community in the process of losing its essential vitality. Due to dysfunctional discourse over the years, I believe we are losing our ability to attract, retain and nurture a healthy, balanced population of residents.

In the last decade I have participated in the life of the community through raising two children, buying two homes (selling one, re-building other), engaging in two Visioning processes, and helping advance education quality for students of all ages.

After years of time, money, knowledge and passion expended, last fall my family sadly joined the wave of IV emigrants finding better education opportunities over the hill and elsewhere. Last weekend (an increasingly rare one in Tahoe), my guilt at abandoning IV education turned to anger — why do a minority of community members still overpower the silent majority?

Most residents I know want IV to be a beautiful up to date center for art, shopping, recreation, entertainment and education for all. As the 2020 Vision process concluded, a healthier IV would have a larger percentage of full-time residents with a healthier balance of working families, students and retired people.

The current trend of fewer full-time residents and more second home and tourism rentals translates to a declining school-age population, tighter school budgets, larger class sizes, reduced course options and minimal counseling and support for students (an increasing percent of whom are struggling to meet the new higher standards).

At the risk of receiving nasty emails for saying disparaging things like this, I can no longer sit back and watch a vocal minority continue to hold back the potential of this whole community.

To move forward, I suggest we must ask ourselves the question: How can the voices, needs, desires and ideas of the quieter majority be heard above the bullies, anarchists and/or “cave people” (as a former resident colorfully described them).”

Many rational people no longer attend IVGID or other community meetings because of the high likelihood of vitriolic encounters and our too-full work, travel and family schedules.

Therefore, such face-to-face meetings don’t accurately reflect or capture the voices and will of all residents. I and other residents have proposed a virtual, online IV Community Hub.

Such a site would provide facilitated dialogue (with norms for interaction) among community leaders and members with three objectives: 1) Provide access to in-depth sources of information and analysis (IVGID reports, school performance, etc), 2) Orchestrate informed, respectful dialogue and debate around issues/opportunities in the spirit of creative collaboration; and 3) Enable voting on potential directions and decisions.

If we can agree on such a goal of more effective community engagement, let us also appreciate Yogi Thompson’s great insight in “What do you think?” — when we’re feeling irritated and angry with ourselves and others, remember how easy it is to regain peace through a walk, a drive, or a look out a window to “lose ourselves in the majesty of the lake.”

We share such as blessing to living in this exquisite place. Can you imagine being part of a human community that is equally awesome?

Mary Alber, PhD, is a human, organization, education and technology development consultant. Share your support and ideas at mmeekalber@gmail.com.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Mar 12, 2014 04:58PM Published Mar 10, 2014 04:24PM Copyright 2014 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.