City Council FYI: Won’t you be my neighbor?
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
I’ve been reflecting a lot these past few months. I guess a long winter does that. What I’ve come back to time and time again is that we live in a community — one that melds the fabric of family, colleagues, friends, strangers, visitors and, most importantly, people who are not all alike.
Whether we’ve been here one year or 100 years, you’re young or old, just getting by or comfortable, speak one language or many, working or retired, all these differences mix to make our community. One that has, since the early beginnings of our town, been built stronger with our understanding of each other.
Mr. (Fred) Rogers said it so well when he stared into the television camera and asked, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” I ask as your neighbor, “Where did this openness and community spirit go?”
So often, we, as members of the Steamboat Springs City Council, are faced with tough conversations and ultimately difficult decisions. We listen to our neighbors, our community and those on both sides telling us why they would like a decision to go one way or another. Often those comments are aligned with the majority, but sometimes, they are not.
It’s these decisions, which don’t go the way of some, that are the hardest for City Council. Pleasing everyone is impossible. Following the rules, staying within the lines of governance and looking at our community as a whole is tough, but it’s our job. Some choices are easier than others, but no one enjoys it when personal attacks are made.
Council is not isolated in this newfound attack or negative approach to decision making. I have seen criticism far and wide these past few months, and it is distressing. Whether there is disagreement over school locations, land use, recreation or even housing, the attacks unleashed upon each other are not neighborly and are becoming more malicious.
Being in public office, one understands there may be attacks from time to time. Unfortunately, it has become part of the measured acceptance of public service. Now, neighbors are personally attacking neighbors, and we have left a vital part of our community behind.
Differing viewpoints and opinions make us all unique and often leads to greater dialogue which shapes better decisions for all of us. Sharing and even trying to convince one another is healthy. But now, we are witnessing an ugliness that is not what I have known from our community. We are a highly intelligent community and should be able to rise above attacks and communicate with greater depth.
I ask you all Steamboat, what direction would you like to take the conversation? The neighborly one is my choice. Mr. Rogers stressed, “There are three ways to ultimate success: the first way is to be kind, the second way is to be kind, and the third way is to be kind.”
Can we be successful in our neighborhood through kindness? I truly believe so and ask again, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
Heather Sloop is the District III representative on the Steamboat Springs City Council.
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