Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thanks Village Master Plan Committee members

The (Gray, ME) Village Master Plan Advisory Committee assisted the Town Planner in putting together information for a grant to the County requesting funds that would allow the beginnings of a downtown revitalization. The Planner recently learned that the grant was turned down, an unfortunate thing, but a common occurrence in first-time grant requester.

Thanks VMPAC for working so hard and getting the information the Planner needed. Thanks council, for saying that you plan to stick with the process and try again. I applaud the proposed improvements to the downtown, including better infrastructure for the vision and hearing impaired and better roads. The Athens Banner Herald editorial this week stated "A community that invests its own private dollars in itself, rather than hoping for some outside help, is going to be a community in the truest sense of the word- a place where residents are taking an active interest in each other's needs."

The VMPAC is filled with folks exemplifying the elements necessary in making up a vital community. Past councils were criticized for having no vision, for moving too slowly. This council has been criticised for having too big of a vision and for moving too fast. If you have a penchant for criticism, the following excerpt may prove helpful to determine if you exemplify the ideals listed. If you do not, ask any member of the VMPAC, they'll help you learn how to be a positive contributor to the town. Maybe you can be part of the "Let's try again" crowd!

Elements of a successful community
By Jon Russell

A community is dynamic, successful, exciting, and serves human growth and evolution to the degree that it supports each individuals excitements and explorations. In exploring various communities, I have noticed that paying attention to the following values and skills is what allowed and maintained a deep sense of connection, support, interest and commitment amongst the members of a group.

1) Have a vision higher than yourself. While being committed to yourself and your inner sense of what's important to you, also notice that you are part of something much bigger than yourself.

2) Spend a good part of your day doing what you love, what excites you, your passions, your "task." Recognize more and more quickly when you find yourself not excited and just coping, contending with things, or consumed in mundane activities.

3) Find those times when it feels natural to serve the group, and in what way you can best do that. Learn how you can, in those times, temporarily put aside your own issues or agendas. Learn what it is to be a "pole," a group member who is looked to for being centered, helpful, committed and inspirational. Notice that, when we create for others, those things we want for ourselves, we automatically receive it also, and without effort.

4) Leave the group regularly to connect with the outside world and new people. Bring back gifts of knowledge, experiences and insights. Use what excites you to guide your explorations of the world.

5) Be involved in the "feedback" process. Notice when you are being polite and not saying what you think. Practice speaking what you see and what you want. Become more and more skilled at communicating to others effectively, in a way they can use it. Help each other to be clear, and to learn about our projections and any tendencies to blame.

6) Be curious about others in your community, a curiosity that's real and comes from your heart. Be willing to ask penetrating questions, not just for the sake of it, but about those things you are really curious about. Do so without judgment, and learn that we can assist each other in becoming transparent by the way we ask our questions, and how we can help each other be open and honest without fear.


Anonymous said...

With every change that takes place in the little Town of Gray, there needs to be someone who will enforce them. Part of the VMPC's plans for revitalization of Gray's Village focused on numerous sidewalks? After last week's Spring Snowstorm, the current sidewalks are still snow-covered? To whom does one look to for accountability? The roads are paved with 'good intentions' but can quickly be lost without enforcement. Did you know that the Town Planner's position is being phased out? The Zoning Board of Appeals is next!

Elizabeth Prata said...

There is someone to enforce what changes are proposed: from the Code Officer to the Planning Board, Zoning Board, Manager enforcing her employees doing their jobs, to the council overseeing things to the citizens overseeing the council.

"After last week's Spring Snowstorm, the current sidewalks are still snow-covered? To whom does one look to for accountability?"

To the Director of Public Works, Steve LaVallee. His phone num ber is in the book. If he is hard to rech then the next accountable person is the Manager. Town office number is 657 3339.

"Did you know that the Town Planner's position is being phased out? The Zoning Board of Appeals is next!"

Good, this town can better maximize its money spent on salary for someone who will Plan AND be proactive: multitask in oter words. And perhaps even write a winning grant.

The Zoning Board cannot be phased out. It is my understanding state laws mandate that towns have an Assessor, a ZBA, and a Board of Assessment Appeals.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree..but try telling this to Andy Upham? In regards to enforcement from Town Employees...THEY should KNOW what there responsibilities are and DO THEM! The citizens should not have to 'police' things that should be done automatically! Somebody needs to 'kick-some-butts'!!

Elizabeth Prata said...

All employees should know their job and should do them. Ideally. But that’s what bosses are for, to keep everyone on track.

I do not believe that citizen participation is “policing,” however, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Citizens should at least read agendas, attend the occasional meeting, take the opportunity to introduce yourself to your local elected representative. Sometimes it’s the manager who kicks employees butts, sometimes it’s the council, and sometimes it’s the citizens. We all participate and we all contribute. That’s democracy.

Anonymous said...

There are too many manipulating their 'Power'; and citizens DO go before them at Council Meetings; and Board Meetings...only to be politely acknowledged with "Thank You For Your Comments"...and then THEY proceed with their own agendas? Is This Democracy at work?

Elizabeth Prata said...

Yes. Just because one does not like the outcome does not mean democracy is not working.

To change outcomes, work within the system to effect change. This could mean running for office, promoting a candidate you support, getting on a town committee, speaking up through the microphone or through the newspaper, or joining a civic organization. Among other things...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your excellent suggestions, Elizabeth! With all that Gray is dealing gets a little frustrating sometimes.

Anonymous said...

and then THEY proceed with their own agendas? Is This Democracy at work?

Actually, this is democracy at work. Elected people studying issues, taking input from the people and then making decisions.

I think Gray needs less volunteers (not more) on committees and should hire professionals to do work on behalf of the citizens.

This town hasn't made much progress in the last 20 years.

Elizabeth Prata said...

Is it democracy at work? Yes and no. It is when it is approached in positive fashion with suggestions for compromise and consensus, adopting solutions and then moving on. It is not democracy when a group of people oppose for the sake of opposing, and never offer anything in the way of a solution. Constant negativity, attacks, and opposition with no outcome is negative democracy. This means that people are dissuaded from participating rather than encouraged to offer themselves or their ideas to the general civic melting pot. This is the reason “nothing much” has been accomplished in past many years, and is the reason that this very post extolls the virtues of people who are making "something happen" and yet it went right over your head.

An example of negative democracy wrapped with personal attack is Debbie’s graymaine04039.blogspot. Someone e-mailed me, seems that it was announced that Chair Foster is not running again and the first response was that it’s because he is ‘saving $$ to move out from mommy and daddy’s house.’ Despicable.

A Positive response in a thriving town democracy would have been, no matter the individual's political or philosophical stance, to thank the man for his service and then either run themselves or encourage someone else to run who is more aligned with the political stance they had wanted to be represented by. Instead, the people who oppose what’s going on can only think to attack. So in this case democracy is not served.

Elizabeth Prata said...

"I think Gray needs less volunteers (not more) on committees and should hire professionals to do work on behalf of the citizens."

I completely agree with you on this one.

Anonymous said...

I agree too! Common Sense dictates that a Professional has the necessary skills and experience; and a Volunteer merely offers himself (or herself) for service. The major difference being that a Professional, Paid, position would be totally committed; and the Volunteer, rather receiving compensation or not, might not be required to have the same commitment; therefore, would not have the same sense of accountability. We need people we can depend on!

Elizabeth Prata said...

Not that I’m an advocate of increasing government or adding reams of taxpayer supported government jobs, but take the example of Gray’s ordinances. Patchwork additions over many decades by volunteers, intelligent and well-meaning but not professional, has resulted in a patchwork, contradictory zoning that needs overhaul. Everything needs overhaul once in a while and I think it’s a good idea that the council hire one person steeped in knowledge of the big picture to streamline the ordinances and remove the inconsistencies. Plus, it’ll get done quicker and with nobody publicly calling anybody an idiot.

Anonymous said...

The Town Meeting folks decided they DID NOT want to subsidize the VMPC and their Village Project.

Elizabeth Prata said...

So of the 50 people who attended, 26 decided not to make downtown safer for the elderly, children, business owners, and handicapped pedestrians. Hmm. I'm glad I don't live in such a place anymore.

Anonymous said...

WHY does everyone think the Gray Village Area will EVER become pedestrian friendly?? With the double intersections and the traffic frenzy in this Major Arterial, WHO would even consider, in their wildest dreams that the area would ever be Safe??? It just can't happen unless an 'Overpass' of the entire Town is constructed???