Coastal Voices: We've taken the first step

April 03, 2007 11:00 pm

In March 14's issue I read four articles covering development topics in Del Norte County. I counted nine references in the articles to prior shortcomings in working together effectively. I think this should be one of the last times we should be referring to old issues, as there is definitely a new momentum for change in the community.

Next, picture an image to help with the next comment, an image of a desk top toy, we have all seen: a small wooded frame with six ball-bearings suspended from a string each in a V pattern. Six bearings that, at rest, touch each other in a line. Now pull one bearing and drop it; one bearing immediately starts out from the other direction. When it returns, the original ball leaves its rest position and starts out, continuing until the momentum stops. Move two balls out, two balls start out on the other side with the momentum, move three balls out, three balls start out on the other side.

With all the movement, with all the back and forth activity, the balls always end up together in a line at the end. After the pulling, after the pushing, they end up together at the end. And so, like Del Norte County, after the controversy, after the conflicting issues, the simple fact is all will end up together in the end, in the community. We work, explore life, experience hurdles, and live in the same community.

So let's set aside the talk about the past issues. The only thing we need to focus on is that we all "return to the center," the same community, after the movement stops. At this time, we seem to have all come together at the center again. We can start a collective and comprehensive economic development project.

We share common values as stated in the articles, and an initial focus on youth and entrepreneurship, as stated in the articles is valid and already underway. The community is coming together in a very large way in support of a youth center project and with the presentation of the youth project study, later this month, I think the community will move forward in support of the youth. This project has been two years in preparation and many have come together, in the center, to make the project move to a reality in the near future.

Losing ground

I agree that we should not ignore the naysayers. I prefer to call them protagonists, as differing opinions are helpful in seeking out new solutions. They do not prevent working towards solutions; they can provide tactical influences on the solutions.

Of the four choices offered for economic development, staying the same was listed as an alternative.

Unfortunately, it is not an option in our world, our state or our local economy today. We can only move backward, lose economic viability, or we can move forward. There is simply no way to stay where we are without losing. Growth in economic power is mandatory in order to generate the revenue and the funding needed for even basic services, education, healthcare, utilities, roads and law enforcement. None of these vital local community service areas can stay the same. They simply need more funding to even keep pace with current needs. So we must look to economic growth to just stay where we are.

This I believe: There is a new momentum. We will not end up pulling at competing agendas, we will develop important economic action plans that positively impact the community. We can not stay where we are, and it is unacceptable to move backward.

This I believe: We will move forward because of two simple facts.

First, there is too much to be done to have any one segment of the community do it alone. We will address housing, wages, employment, job skills, youth empowerment and education, in our journey to bring economic growth to the community. This is a community task, and only the entire community has the resources to accomplish all of the tasks.

Secondly, doing nothing or working against each other will move the community backward by placing more pressure on costs of education, infrastructure and law enforcement. This is a downward cycle that simply will not be tolerated for very long. Well focused, strategic economic projects and economic growth produce the resources needed for improvement in community services.

This I believe: The momentum and the timing of current initiatives is simply too great to be stopped. From the community coming together to develop and support tourism marketing and funding, to the recently announced access to broadband services by year end, to the community eagerness for progress on a youth center, and even including the outpouring of support and volunteerism in developing the events associated with the Tall Ships events in May of this year, there are no naysayers in these groups. There are insightful comments and suggestions.

Journey underway

These initiatives all impact the community and have impacted the community's future vision for economic success. Is there a good deal more to do? Yes, but the journey already has started. The community benefits from several outside professionals willing to come to the area with suggestions, with guidance, with ideas.

This I believe: Economic and community development already has started and is well on the way. It will not be stopped, it will progress, and when the community works together, economic success will be all the greater.

Larry Lakes is executive director of Rural Human Services in Crescent City.