Slouch potatoes don’t go with whine
They say the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one – so, here it goes.
My name is Mary Thompson and I am not a community player.
In the 12 years that I have lived at South Shore, no committee, board or commission meeting has ever marked my weekly agenda. The lure of fresh powder and raging rivers have always taken priority.
Honestly, that has never caused any concern on my part – until recently.
Now that my job description as a reporter includes covering city council meetings, school board meetings and various business and charitable functions, I have come to realize that I’ve been a community slouch. I have relied on everyone else to guide the direction of this town.
But there is comfort in numbers, and I am not alone.
Most of the time, there’s plenty of seating available in the council chambers and at school board meetings. Aside from the occasions when teachers filled the Lake Tahoe Unified School District board room to voice opinions about salary negotiations, school board members and staff typically outnumber the audience. Redevelopment Agency members talk into microphones, for the record, at themselves.
Adding salt to the wound, it’s many of the same people, just different rooms. Go to one meeting on Thursday and it’s likely that half of the people sitting on the board were running a meeting Tuesday on the other side of town.
On the upside, this configuration of community “players” makes my Rolodex as thin as a pancake.
There are a million excuses why people don’t become involved with local boards – too busy, too boring, too helpless, etc. – I know, I’ve used them all.
But that’s not always the case. The silent majority can become quite vocal when pushed.
Last week, the power of the people was brought to the front as Douglas County residents faced off with county officials on their library. More than 100 people crammed into a library meeting room, some couldn’t even get near the door because it was so crowded.
I never would have guessed, and I bet the county decision-makers are right there with me, that library issues could draw such a community response, but it did.
And while public opinion may or may not sway decisions in the library’s case, the residents followed through in the most democratic way – kicking and screaming.
But short of occasional temper tantrums, the will of the people usually remains the decision of a few.
Even in changing times, where the Internet gives people of the luxury of floating ideas around to the rest of the community without ever getting out of their armchairs, the few are chatting for the many.
A click onto the forum reveals that cyberspace faces nearly the same challenges as the real world.
Tahoe.com’s webmaster says that the Tribune’s Internet forum is the most active out of any of its five sister papers on the North Shore and Carson Valley. But it’s the same 10 or so call names posting responses on a regular basis and everyone else looks on silently.
The slouch that I am, I enjoy lurking and then posting in some anonymous call name. But at least I am writing something, and I’d say it’s a step toward the recovery of a community non-player.
Community non-player is an easy trap to fall into when people can toss their heels up and let the decisions on redevelopment, commercial air service and lake clarity be made by a few.
And if those on the couch are happy with the outcome, it’s a good, painless system. But if they’re not, they’ve got no one else to blame but themselves.
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