Council Corner: Reasons to be optimistic

There is a lot of angst and frustration with government right now in our country and our communities. Times are challenging, resources constrained and expectations often out of sync with limited resources. The federal government is sending a message that they will push more responsibility down to the states, and state governments will then push down to county governments. Little of that push will come with funds adequate to make things work at the local level.

Things are challenging, but they have always been so and my guess is they will always be so. We have to figure out how to make progress across the many needs and wants of our community with our limited resources.

I want to focus on one major reason for my optimism. My daily relationship with the millennial generation makes me feel this world is in store for another great generation.

Every generation struggles to find its path. This millennial generation is no exception, but I think they have gotten off to a much earlier start than many before them. I see it every day at the university, young people involved with issues and ideas of a global nature and mindful of their responsibility to the environment. They embrace matters of diversity and inclusion. They dare to lead and help produce innovative ideas to address issues of a complex world.

That brings me to the young people of the CEAP (Climate Energy Action Plan). Of course, there were many people of all ages who contributed to the final product and the plan adopted by the council. Certainly, the plan needs a lot more work; in fact, one could argue the work will never be truly “done.” However, over the course of the past few months, I have had many meetings with these great young people who are dedicated to making a positive change and actively involved in doing so. They are impressive, and their desire to work together to make wonderful things happen is inspirational. They did not just complain what “should” happen, they stepped forward and did much of the heavy lifting that resulted in a very good plan and a great community moment.

We need to honor that spirit as we move forward. Do they have a lot to learn? Of course. Do we have a lot to learn? Of course. Acknowledging no one of us has all the answers is the first step. Acknowledging others have answers we do not is the next step. Acknowledging what we all do not know, and need to learn, is perhaps the most important step.

Too often people do not understand the process of decision-making in a democratic environment and they become frustrated. Instead of studying how to make things work within a process, they are stuck on “should” instead of presenting “should and how,” and they tend to get frustrated by the many voices it takes to make things work effectively in our system.

My greatest compliments go to the high school students who worked hard to bring climate issues forward and to understand how to influence the decision-making process positively. They learned, and we learned. It is the best of community.

The result of a two-year process took many people working across their particular interests, finding common ground, to produce an effective plan. The contributions of the millennials was impactful and meaningful. I expect their contributions will be historic.

I want to give young leaders Isaac and Allie a shout out for their many meetings to help educate me and for the intelligent exchange of ideas. I am grateful we had people on the committee who encouraged and engaged the youth in such a respectful manner, all under the gentle leadership of Councilor Rich Rosenthal. This is what good community governance is all about, and we will need more of it as we move forward to deal with other challenging issues.

The CEAP will stand as a great example of what happens when we work together, when we get past the “should” and do the difficult work of “how.” My optimism comes from our ability to do such work in the face of the huge challenges of an uncertain future.

— Dennis Slattery is a member of the Ashland City Council.

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