Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Little Blue Sign

When I first came on the CA Board back in 2011, I asked the Dorsey's Search Village Manager to tell me her "wish list".  After reviewing some of the smaller things like a replaced vent, new paint, and window shutters, she said "that Meeting Room is too small."  Dorsey had rented out the space, not much bigger than a metro car, to a woman operating a day-care.  Due to the size, the waiting list was long and Dorsey residents would have to drive outside of the neighborhood for reliable day-care.  Anytime there was a leak in the roof, a problem with the HVAC, or power outage (all of which occurred with some regularity), day-care would need to be cancelled for the day.  It was a bad situation.

Despite the presumption that CA would not be interested in expanding rental space for a single Village, we submitted a capital projects request, noting the unique nature of this request.  CA staff recommended denying the request.  The numbers didn't work.  By their calculations, the improvement to the space would not result in satisfactory revenue from rentals.  It all seemed to end there.  Why would the Board pass a spending measure for a Village they don't represent for which CA Staff recommend denial?

Then we hit the phones.  I called Board Members, worked with my Village to find support at Resident Speak-Out, and looked into alternative cost-income projections.  I can't tell you how many phone conversations started off with "Wait, you're calling me about The Meeting Room?"  It is a small space and the projected cost was approximately $175,000, but it had to happen.  It needed an advocate.  Things were not as good as they could be.

When the vote eventually came, my hands shook a bit.  I don't get nervous all that often, but I was nervous that night.  All this work, so fragile and dispensable, was going to come down to the vote of 10 people.  We debated.  Some of the people I thought supported the project went against the project.  Some of those I couldn't get a hold of went for it.  Then one Board member said something I had been banging the table about for the past month: "This is the kind of thing we should be doing.  It is a small cost that could have a significant improvement on the lives of our residents."  Approval passes 10-0.

Why am I telling you this?  Because sometimes things seem impossible, especially in government.  Sometimes you are so far from the finish line, or anything resembling a solution, that it makes more sense to stay home.  The expansion of the Meeting Room doesn't solve school overcrowding or stop flooding on the west end of Main Street, but it is the mental construct I refer back to every time someone tells me "we can't do that".

We all need something like that.  Feel free to use mine.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!