When a town decides to face the harsh realities associated with transforming a blighted area into a prosperous one, or infusing a a stagnant community with vitality, money is most often cited as the primary obstacle. I would wholly disagree.
Yes, money or the lack there of is a very serious issue that hinders development but community apathy and frustration is an even larger determent. As an example consider my adopted hometown and two recent articles in the Kingman Daily Miner.
The first article is about the potential economic impact of Route 66 on communities along that highway corridor. The second article is about an indie film shot in Kingman.
Now, read the comments at the end of each article. Do you see a pattern? Would it be safe to assume that this community has self esteem issues?
You have three choices when living in such a community. The first is to accept it and, on occasion, whine. This, however, carries the inherent risk of a growing awareness that you are part of the problem.
The second choice is to move. Simply cut your losses, curb the frustration, and move.
The third option is to admit that you may have been part of the problem. Next roll up your sleeves and join the fight.
Keep in mind that the poison of community apathy will always trump the best laid plans. It will also ensure that opportunity in copious amounts will be ignored, overlooked, or squandered.
How can you develop a matching funds facade grant program like the one in Sapulpa if your city government is wholly convinced such endeavors are a waste of time as well as money? How do you convince city government that revitalizing a blighted historic district will pay bigger dividends for the community than providing incentives for a Walmart to move into town?
So, what is the antidote for community apathy? How do you roll back years and decades of hyped dreams that never became manifest? How do address an embedded legacy of inept self serving leadership that never delivers on promises made?
Fortunately, if you live in a community along Route 66, you have a tremendous advantage. There is ample hard evidence available that will magnify your endeavors.
Regardless, if I were to hazard a guess as to where to begin, the first step would be the formation of serious, thick skinned, nothing to loose neighborhood partnerships at the most basic level. I am talking you help me paint my fence and I will help you paint yours.
Community education would share the top spot for priorities. Apathy, like weeds, needs to be taken out by the roots.
Step one, educate yourself. Step two, educate your friends. Find knowledgeable speakers to address your local civic organizations, read, use the internet, reach out to community leaders in towns that have overcome apathy with visionary and inspirational leadership.
Be prepared to address every manifestation of apathy, be it in letters to the editor or at city council meetings with simple, direct, practical, and proven plans of action. Counter passionate presentations about why the city can’t do something with passionate but respectful reasons why they can.
Even though it will most likely result in the casting of aspersions, in public and in private, and, perhaps outright name calling, don’t be afraid to call in reinforcements from outside the community. If your seriously looking to see your community transformed, the concept of a popularity contest cannot enter into the equation.
Even if they are not residents, if they are knowledgeable on issues ask friends to write letters to the editor, or even to city officials. Use your neighborhood partnerships to create larger neighborhood partnerships, and then apply the pressure of public opinion to elected officials.
After this the work begins.
Okay, where am I in this you may ask? Well, I am still in the fight even though there have been countless opportunities where thoughts turned toward pulling stakes.
Do we still think about cutting losses, finding a place where the corner has been turned, and then jumping in to help build a community? Well, ask me again after the 2014 Route 66 International Festival in August, or take a chance and give me a call if your hiring.
This may come as a bit of surprise to regular followers of this blog but I am a bit of a traditionalist. I am quite aware that most of our Christmas traditions are rooted in modern commercialism, and that even fewer have anything to do with the Christianity that is supposed to be the holidays foundation. I really don’t care.
A nation, a society needs tradition. Rather than digress into a tirade about the modern era of political correctness run amuck, and the seemingly incessant urge to denigrate each and every tradition that currently plagues the country, I will instead request you give some thought to comedian Billy Connolly’s tirade on beige people (found on Youtube but be warned, the language would make a sailor blush, unless they visit a mall on a regular basis).
So, with that said my dearest friend and are I preparing for the holidays and all that this entails from fruitcake to friends, Christmas carols to a Christmas tree. We are also looking toward a new year filled with exciting possibilities.
The latest book, the Route 66 Historic Atlas, has spawned an idea for a new series of presentations. One will be about the dark side of Route 66 as evidenced by stories of crime, mayhem, passion, and disaster.
The second will be a bit more lighthearted. The topic of discussion will be the film and celebrity related sites on Route 66.
As numerous requests have been received for a photo exhibition, at the risk of sounding pompous I began thinking that, perhaps, a display of our work could lend support to a communities efforts to attract visitors as they travel the Route 66 corridor. May I ask your opinion?
In recent weeks there has been some interesting discussions about the development of a Route 66 Festival in Europe. An interesting aspect of these discussions was the possibility that it could be held in conjunction with the Route 66 Alliance sanctioned Route 66 International Festival, and then via the miracles of modern science, be linked. Would you care to share a few ideas or thoughts about such an endeavor?
The next item also provides a bit of food for thought, and another opportunity to present an impression that I am getting a big for my britches. There were several occasions this past year when I was asked to lead or develop a special Jim Hinckley edition Route 66 tour that focuses on the quirky and obscure places, as well as the detours, discussed on the blog. Again, may I ask for your thoughts and ideas?
The last item of the day is about you. I am a rather curious individual and was wondering what your favorite Route 66 memory in 2013 was, and what your plans are for making new memories in 2014.