What issues/problems face our community?greenspun.com : LUSENET : Kentlands Community Dialogue : One Thread
What are the issues facing this community? What problems do we need to address to make this community work better
-- Eileen Schlicting (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 28, 1999
Obviously apathy is one of the biggest problems. This forum was announced at a very crowded and emotional board meeting over a week ago and this is only the second posting. Very few issues or events get enough people involved to get a real sense of the community. Yet certain board members don't want to act on the information they have on hand, but are always waiting for the 'whole picture' or listening to the lone 'squeeky wheel'.
I really feel that the community ought to have a web site with something like this to encourage participation for those who can't go to the long evening meetings either because they have kids or have a life (and don't want to spend it in extremely long meetings where there is no closure or resolution!). We need a place to express opinions and ideas which certain meddling members of the board might not agree with. As it is now, you can't be guaranteed that your requested article will even appear in the Crier because its being reviewed by that board member. Actions like that (and the editiorial incident) have the effect of quashing community involvement. (This is not to in any way imply that the editor, Sonya Burke is to blame, she has done a wonderful job of encouraging additional community input!).
Anyhow, I've stirred the pot! Anyone care to respond??
-- Terry Brennan (email@example.com), August 05, 1999.
I'm not sure I agree with "apathy". For most of us, its a busy, full life. The decisions are largely left to those with the time and interest. For the most part, they've done a good job (although occasionally annoying some of us in the process). What we need is a forum to get information and provide meaningful input that doesn't involve attending a four hour meeting. A well designed web page would be an excellent start for two-way dialogue. It would supplement the uni-directional posters and town crier, and the dysfunctional board meetings.
Perhaps the silence that we hear reflects the lack of substantive issues - or at least ones that can be reasonably acted upon? Hey - the place is doing ok.
-- mike janus (firstname.lastname@example.org), August 18, 1999.
A statement in the last posting, "The decisions are largely left to those with the time and interest," struck a chord, because there is a quote I often think of when I think about the lack of participation (including my own) in Kentlands community issues. The quote is this: "The health of a community is determined by the extent to which citizens participate in community decisions" (Bazemore G, Day SE. Juvenile Justice 1996;3(1):p.6). By that yardstick, how well are we doing?
If the board stifles participation and/or acts on political motives, this is apparently nothing unique in an HOA board. But we are not merely a homeowners' association. It was intended that Kentlands be "like a small town," and this intent is actually written into our charter. My father-in-law, a lawyer, has noted that our charter is in some ways fashioned more like that of a town than that of a typical HOA.
Maybe, we need to take a good hard look at our charter and figure out what "like a small town" means, when we are basically a homeowners' association. There seems to be an inherent conflict between the twoat least, the way HOAs are often run. If we could reconcile that conflict, perhaps, in the process, we would develop an effective paradigm for promoting rational dialogue and consensus building within the community, in other words, an environment more conducive to community health than the one we now have.
-- Mary N. Macdonald (email@example.com), September 13, 1999.
I choose not to use the yardstick of a quote from an obscure publication, but the yardstick of what I see going on around the community. I see a rather successful, yet developing effort where most seem to be content either participating, or not as they wish. I am still somewhat at a loss to see what all the "problems" are in the grand scheme of things. Of course, the community, as with all things, is not perfect. It would be nice to have a system that would allow for more discussion and participation and we should shoot for that. Unless I'm missing something however, we are are not a small town, we are a community within a small city - and our efforts are those of a homeowners association. Basically, lets work at the marginal improvements necessary to help us a better community without taking ourselves too seriously - and lets enjoy the place for what it has to offer while we're at it.
-- Mike Janus (firstname.lastname@example.org), September 16, 1999.
Ouch! The barb, notwithstanding, there is no getting around the fact that, by any yardstick, citizen participation in decisions relevant to community affairs is an important measure of community health. And I still agree with Mr. Janus' assessment that "the decisions [in Kentlands] are largely left to those with the time and interest" (August 18th posting).
On another issue, certainly, we are not a small town, nor am I aware that anyone ever said we were. But the question I posed remains. What does "like a small town" mean? This is something that has been touted as a central part of Kentlands' identity ever since I moved here, six years ago. As such, it is an important issue for us to consider.
-- Mary N. Macdonald (email@example.com), September 18, 1999.
I think when people, like Andres Duany, uses the phrase "like a small town" it is with the hope that a well-designed community will cause its inhabitants to work together for the common good. We have all heard stories from the past where whole towns have gathered their forces for the benefit of something bigger than any one individual's concerns. For many years this has not been prevalent in our society. The lots surrounding our private homes in conventional suburbia have been large enough not only to separate us from each other but to require so much of our attention that any nearby public areas became a smaller priority.
By bringing us physically closer together in a traditional neighborhood, it forces us recognize the spaces that are not "ours." It does not require forcing people to contribute, but I think people will naturally take a bigger interest in public spaces that are adjacent to their own rather than a car drive away. This is something I also think takes time to develop.
Many Kentlands residents are just starting to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. They have painted their walls, planted their flowers and filled their empty rooms with furniture. Now, I expect to see a movement toward looking beyond their private realm to the public realm. It will be a very exciting decade to be a part of.
-- diane dorney (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 20, 1999.
In trying to understand what it means for Kentlands to be "like a small town," Diane, I would rather think of our public realm as being designed in such a way that it will promote the kinds of human interactions among us that are needed to foster a sense of caring about our "collective future" (an explanation I heard Andres Duany give in one of his lectures). On some issues there will be a "common good" to work towards in our collective future. But we are, by design, a fairly diverse community. Not every important issue we face will distill down to a common good. I would like to think that, by meeting in the public realm and getting to know one another, we will also become more sensitive to, more tolerant of, and more willing to address our diverse needs: all critical steps, if society is to be truly "welded back together again."
-- Mary N. Macdonald (email@example.com), December 08, 1999.