Sunday, June 3, 2012

Have we lost Davidson?

At one point during Tueday's Commissioner Chat one of the speakers lamented that we have "lost Davidson".  Is that true?  Have we "lost" what makes Davidson, Davidson?

As a new resident - at two years I still consider myself new - I probably don't have the perspective to answer that question.  However, the long-time resident making the statement at  last Tuesday's Commissioner Chat obviously felt very passionate and disappointed that it may be true.

The speaker made a plea for the Mayor, Staff and Board to stop brushing off critics of certain Town decisions as either "emotional" or "angry".  She prefaced her comments with "I've waited five years to say something" which to me says something in itself.

Specifically, she was talking about Mi-Connection, but as the evening wore on and town leaders were repeatedly called out for shaking their heads, responses that "missed the point" and other disapproving facial expressions, that type of response seemed to cross more issues than just the costly decision to join the cable industry.  If people are compelled to keep their opinions to themselves for long periods of time because they feel those concerns will be brushed off as unworthy - or worse they become the target for criticism themselves - then that may be something that should be lost.

As an example, in response to statements that all citizens really want is good solid services, the speaker was asked by Commissioner Venzon what services she'd lost - as if that was not immediately obvious. 

Over the past five years since the Mi-Connection decision, Davidson residents have seen the loss of trash service as part of their regular property taxes being replaced with a regressive $200 trash fee.  The Park and Rec department has been scaled back.  Salaries for public safety workers have been nearly frozen.  Finally, the Commissioners will be debating over the next several months how to spend the windfall from the renegotiated Mi-C interlocal agreement.  Nearly every item on the Town's capital spending wish list, from sidewalks to information technology spending, is a "service" that we have lost over the past five years as a result of that one decision around Mi-C.

Brushing off those legitimate concerns is not what people want or should expect and that is why they are upset.  I must admit, I left that Commissioner Chat thinking the lady was right.  "We've lost Davidson."

Then I got to witness something extraordinary this weekend on our Town Green.

Seeing local ultra-marathoner, Jeff McGonnell, finishing a 24-hr run around the Green was that extraordinary thing.  The beyond-super-human feet was in support of a friend's children who are stricken with a very rare and fatal condition called Batten Disease.  The event was put on with support from many different locals.  There was music and celebration and a real sense of community right in our town center.  It was the type of event not seen in too many places I'm sure. (See for full coverage.)

Beyond the completion of this unbelievable feet, what stood out to me was what this type of thing says about Davidson.  As Mr McGonnell said in his remarks, Davidson is a special place. 

It's a place where people will do crazy things like running 24hrs for a charitable cause. 

It's a place where our Town Green in front of the public library is a center of activity.

And yes, it's a place where you can see one of your commissioners running in a cow suit with a clown wig supporting it all.  (That's Commissioner Graham on the left with Jeff McGonnell on the right.)

So, in those times when we think we've "lost Davidson" because our Town leaders may not hear our concerns, or we think the process is broken, remember this.  Davidson is much more than what goes on in Town Hall.  As a newcomer I remember that every day and am very thankful that my family will get to experience all it has to offer. 

What goes on in Town Hall is important, and many more people are now paying attention which is a very, very good thing.  However, that's not the only thing, and it's good for me to remember that sometimes.

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