Thursday, May 2, 2013

Community


Recently I attended a community meeting and was saddened by several things.  The lack of presence by anyone in my generation and the lack of listening and understanding by a room full of people.  

A little context first.  

I live in an older neighborhood, most houses built in the 60s and single family residences.  We live right on the border of the Arts and Design District and the Monon Trail.  The mayor of our city, Jim Brainard, is a progressive thinking guy who has done a ton of great things for the city of Carmel.  There is this underlying tension within the city between progress (and the costs that come along with it) and maintaining history, the city as is and was.  You can easily split the populace into 3 groups, the progressive types, the old schoolers, and the ambivalent.  The progression plans for our city hit on areas that border our neighborhood and in order to protect our neighborhood and its integrity we've opened the idea of becoming a conservation district.  

Letters were sent to every household within the neighborhood (Johnson/Wilson) advising of several meetings to discuss becoming a conservation district and whether or not, as a community, we wanted to move in that direction.  Of those who attended the large majority of that population voted and agreed to move forward.  This most recent meeting I am referring to was to hand out responsibilities and create boards to move forward on becoming a district and the duties that would come with it.  

Let's revisit my disappointments and/or areas of opportunity that were revealed within this meeting. The lack of my generations' presence and no one listening or seeking to understand. Within all this I am sure there will be some political disagreements ((which is fine and actually healthy if handled maturely), but I agree in the democratic process in general.  

There were city council members and other Carmel representatives there to explain the benefits and details of moving in this direction.  That being said the general understanding is that since this is their job they have a better understanding of it then the audience they were speaking to.  We were also given a 2 page document explaining what a conservation district is and what a conservation district is not. The agenda was very clear in this meeting and from my perspective the content was clearly laid out and explained.  Here come the opportunities I saw at this meeting now.

I was by far, by at least 15 years, the youngest person there.  A huge reason for my involvement is in my understanding that there is a lack of young blood in these type things in general.  I want to be involved in my community as a young person and think it beneficial for others to be as well.   If we are the future of neighborhoods, we are all growing up, getting married, buying houses, etc (AKA being domesticated), it would make sense that we get involved to help what will be ours soon.  That way we don't end up just a bunch of angry old people who don't like the way things are.  If we were involved in the journey we wouldn't be displeased with the destination.  

What a great transition into my next item, people not listening or trying to understand.  I'm the youngest and probably most open minded person in that room.  I stand out with my full sleeve of tattoos and brightly colored clothing.  I also stand out from a self-perspective view, i'm not angry, i'm curious, i am listening.  As I look around the room I see a bunch of older people sitting with their arms crossed.  Body language isn't everything, but it is a huge indicator of internal thoughts.  Crossed arms generally mean closed off.  One gentleman says, "Now of those who voted are not the majority of the neighborhood and I just don't like a minority moving forward on something i'm not ok with."  Within his statements a couple things are clear, he voted against becoming a conservation district and obviously doesn't understand the democratic process.  If you don't vote you are in fact voting.  You are voting to be silent, you are acknowledging your voice is not a part of the conversation.  You are making a choice, by not voting you vacate your opinion.  When we said a majority voted in favor we are talking of a majority of those who voted.  Those who did not vote in essence don't matter because they chose that, they chose to not have a voice.   Another man stands and colorfully says, "I don't want someone what color I can paint my house."  And another, "So you're telling me I can't sell my house for $30,000- more than it's worth..."  The final comment that made me say an explicative and walk out was this, "And that's the problem with out government now..."  

Truth be told, i'm not a huge supporter of our current leadership and may have even agreed with what some of what that gentleman would go on to rant about. I walked out not because I was offended by him, I walked out because I saw where this meeting was going.  A bunch of angry people sitting around with their arms crossed looking for that chance at the end of the meeting, the "question" time on the agenda, to rant on whatever it is they feel they need to say.  No one asked questions.  The things that were said were actually covered earlier in the meeting.  The irony of this is those most against progression of Carmel and Brainared's vision are also against progression of dialogue.  How can we discuss something if no one listens?  how can a neighborhood move forward if people don't get involved?  

I'm hoping to provide a little insight from a youthful perspective, but more than anything looking to learn and be involved in moving my community forward.  Wouldn't local government work so much more effectively if this were the case for more people?  So don;'t chose to be silent, get involved, ask questions, listen a little, and most of all seek to understand others.