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New Year. New Executive. TOTALLY New County Council. New Hope…at least a glimmer. (Note I am speaking entirely of local HoCo concerns, not the national scene.) To all the newly elected and newly appointed: PLEASE don’t burst my optimistic bubble just yet. PLEASE let me bask in the light of optimism at least for a little while longer. Let me keep the slight spring in my step……

There was a wonderful lull in County government activity, especially County Council actions, from the time of the election in November until the first Council legislative sessions in January. One could almost put one’s guard down, knowing there would be weeks before the need to take a stand and to prepare testimony on the first bills and resolutions of the year. Well on second thought, there was the need to testify on the 2020 budget and on bills proposed by our State legislators during this lull. Nevertheless, there was an opportunity for a bit of a break from constant vigilance.

This break helped me to experience a certain lightness. And I found I liked it! Consequently I resolved to try to look at things more optimistically. This took some effort given the number of gray, gloomy days in this period. But frankly it’s exhausting always waiting for the next shoe to drop re: yet another development, unresolved school overcrowding, inadequate roadways, flood ravaged towns, costly government projects I consider unnecessary, etc., etc.

The two keys to my attitude readjustment:
The first step to my ‘rehabilitation’ was admittedly to consciously work at being less well informed. I avoided the local paper, the HC web pages, even other blogs. I began to understand the choice of those who are tuned out and content to be ill-informed. That irresponsible behavior does free-up a lot of time for other things!

The second key step was to watch for any positive signs in the behavior of our newly elected officials. I could then comment on these observations to counter the doom and gloom of my activist comrades. I was, as an example, very pleased that the Executive recognized the importance of listening directly to his public in an extensive series of listening sessions which were considerately sprinkled around the County geographically and during different time slots. I was similarly pleased when the Executive’s staff was asked to reach out to ask me to compile my community’s list of short, mid, and long term priorities.

It was obvious to me that our new Council members were working long days to learn about all of the aspects of their positions. I so respect that they don’t hesitate to ask questions about complex things they need to understand. I regard this as a particularly critical behavior. IMHO it takes an intelligent person to ask a good question and one cannot make good decisions on important matters if one is hesitant to ask questions. While some in the public may be uncomfortable about having a totally new Council, it reminds me favorably of when I supervised cohorts of graduate students in an emerging field. Everyone embarking to learn new subject matter and skills provides a level playing field and one which fosters the ability to work as a team. I see signs of cooperation and team effort in our new Council. Oh how I hope it will continue.

No doubt my activist friends who have not adopted the same resolution for optimism thought they’d lost another fellow advocate to exhaustion when I’d express my positive hope for the future in response to their expressions of concerns. Yes, I am very concerned about how things are going with APFO. Yes, I worry about campaign contributions influencing votes. Yes, I am concerned about the dire financial predictions and looming tax raises. Yes, it bothers me that the development community is over-represented on some Transition Teams. But I’m keeping that death grip on optimism at least until the outcome of the Councils’ votes on Monday, February, 4th. I soooo don’t want to slip back into a defeatist, nothing-will-ever-change, mindset. But I can feel I am treading unstable ground.

Threats to my rehabilitation:
Admitting one’s addictions is critical, so here goes. My name is Susan and I am addicted to more than dark chocolate; I have that seemingly insatiable addiction to knowing-what-is-going-on. (Some would understandably add ‘and expressing my opinion on it’.)

Getting ‘back on the saddle’ meant diving into the legislative fray in January. My optimism ran high during some portions of the January 22 Council Legislative Hearing due to lots of great supportive citizen testimony on two bills (CB-2 and CB3) seeking to improve on our abysmal development regulations. (NOW!—not in 2+ years when a Code Re-write may occur).

My optimism was bruised during discussion of a proposed road realignment (CR-3) at taxpayer expense which will cause as many problems as it solves, benefits only commercial landowners, and ignores the consequences of expanding the public service area.

The Council Work Session generally sent me on a downhill slalom. Let me be clear that this was NOT the fault of the Council members. They were asking good probing questions. Unfortunately the responses from DPW and DPZ staff were all too familiarly vague and uncertain. Inexplicably they can deliver ‘this is how we do it’ in a sage like mentoring tone. For those listening intently, the meaning is actually ‘this is what’s convenient for us.’ I hope the Council will be quick to learn that ‘I may not be the best person to respond to that question’ is a dodge for avoiding a response not wanted on the record OR signifies a lack of cross training within and between departments. In either case, asking for THE knowledgeable person to be called to the meeting right then and there would be a great procedure to adopt. If this Council will continue, as was done at the work session, to demand proof of broad statements by departmental staff and the Office of Law there may yet be hope for Optimism!

I’m back in the saddle to testify, to blog, to advocate. But like someone returning to driving a car after a serious accident, I do have a death grip on that steering wheel. From my years working in the field of disability I firmly embrace the adage “Asking for help is a sign of strength.” I will need the on-going help of our elected officials and of you the citizenry to prevent my relapse into pessimism.

I offer my help in return. After a lovely break I am re-energized and prepared to tackle the important role each citizen has –to tune in to issues and to advocate for causes that support an improved quality of life for one’s own community and for the broader community. Won’t you do the same???

PLEASE take an active role in our County governmental matters. Support Council and Executive actions that benefit the many, rather than the few–and meet me on the high road,

Susan