Friday, July 11, 2014

Lasting Power

I would like to start this post by congratulating those who took the time yesterday to Speak Out at the Columbia Association Board meeting.  This is an under-appreciated form of democratic influence that, from all accounts, was implemented with professionalism, courage, and force.  And, more personally, I would like to begin by saying "thank you".

There was a time when those in support of the Inner Arbor plan could fit around a coffee table.  Tracking the comments on Facebook and Twitter last night, I couldn't help but be amazed at the life that this set of ideas has taken on and the amazing group of supporters it had earned.

One of the hardest lessons Inner Arbor has taught me is that final victories are near impossible in politics and community life.  Read my elation from a year and a half ago.  The Inner Arbor Plan has had at least three near-death experiences since that day and likely will have many more before the first shovel lifts dirt.  In fact, I recall that in the days after that vote, my optimism wore off, and I realized the grind doesn't let up for those looking to protect good ideas.

The only way those good ideas are protected is if the community buys in.  No individual, or small group, can expect any lasting success, no matter how good their idea may be, if they can't build a larger team.  Not a team of followers, mind you - A team of mutual and distinct leaders who each have separate ownership in the outcome.

Inner Arbor has that, which is why I am confident is it never going away and will be the park built in Symphony Woods.  According to Amanda Yeager's report, there were 10 people who took time out last night to support the Inner Arbor plan.  There are dozens of others who, if pressed, would have been there as well.  You can be assured that not a single one was told what to say, how to say it, or otherwise fed lines for why the Inner Arbor plan deserved our support.  It was internalized.  They were standing up for a good idea because it was partly their idea.

Another hard lesson Inner Arbor taught me is that leaders need to know when to get out of the way.  As we've seen in Columbia politics, leaders (or "spokespeople") who demand too much attention or control on a given issue, while offering their strengths to the cause, also exchange their weaknesses.  Personal motivations crowd out the merits of the idea.  Personal animosities blunt progress.  We need leaders, but we need those leaders who understand that holding the front is a cooperative experience with a termination point.  Eventually, you hand off to someone else.

The kindest lesson Inner Arbor has taught me is that we can trust one another with good ideas.  We can trust one another to take care of those things that will make this a better place to live.  Not all the time, and not without a fight, but often enough to keep you thinking big.

Have a great Friday doing what you love!  It's impossible not to.