We’re nearly at Day 30 P.E. (post-elections) and most people are over the hump when it comes to griping one way or the other. Now it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get to work. Yet, overcoming divisions (insert your polar opposite of choice here -- red/blue, right/left, pro-this/anti-that) always seems to be the hardest thing. It’s quite the bottleneck of what could be an efficient, productive, forward thinking supply chain of people, ideas, and action.
Newsflash: Sitting around complaining is wasted time and energy -- period. One of our favorite kids' books, "Zen Shorts" by Jon J. Muth, includes a classic Zen story about “carrying” things with you. When you “put things down”, you free yourself to be more. I find this so applicable to our collective situation whether it is at the local or global level.
In thinking about progress that is sustainable and prosperous (“rich” but not necessarily in a fiscal way), there are many platforms in which to build upon. After much rumination, I have arrived at three that I believe create a synergy that allows for both short- and long-term sustainable progress and prosperity: Economy, Environment, and Education.
Alone, they are each important. Together, they create an almost symbiotic über-sustainability machine capable of churning out win-wins at every turn (and every generation). Not that the folks elected into local offices have asked for help (from me, at least), here are a few ideas under each of those buckets that I think could allow Sakonnet to BE more. (Caveat: I claim no intimate knowledge of the details of town workings, but for me, an outside perspective is always fresh and useful.)
For existing businesses:
- Facilitate the creation of a business alliance organization that allows small businesses to join forces for the purpose of “buying in bulk” whether it is for raw materials, supplies, services, or insurance
- Review and modify where applicable local law and regulations that inhibit a successful small business environment
- Review contracts and agreements for quid-pro-quo opportunities resulting in net gains for everyone
For new businesses:
- Seek innovative ways of incubating new businesses such as creating a local forum for idea and innovation sharing
- Partner with non-traditional entities (academic, professional trade groups, etc) to explore opportunities to seed new business development
- Consider the creation of a farm incubation program allowing for hands-on training and education for a new generation of land stewards – and helping to bolster our local food security in the process
Create connections between local businesses and schools to enable both an employment chain and an opportunity to learn how business works
Explore the creation of a local currency or rewards program that creates incentives for supporting local businesses
Ensure the integrity of our natural environment for future generations through:
- Implementation new municipal planning and services strategy (commercial and residential) that creates a sustainable suburbia model
- Top-down review of town operations for opportunities related to sustainable operations that result in long-term fiscal wins
- Create new curricula at all our schools that inspires future generations of inquiry, critical thinking, and problem solving when it comes to the environment
Capitalize on our natural resources through:
- Exploration and implementation of renewable energy projects that benefit the community
- Enabling and expanding our local agricultural industry through low-cost access to land, farm/farmer incubation projects, and improved market development
Make the Tiverton Public School System a model for the state through:
- Identifying opportunities to streamline operations and redirect funding to enhancing educational programs
- Ensuring adequate funding for curricula that will enable our students to excel in more connected, “flatter” world
- Building bridges with the broader community through enhanced public relations with a goal of sharing the positive “story” of our educational system
Enable life-long learning through:
- The establishment of a continuing education center (the old Ranger School perhaps?) where new skills, trades, and hobbies can be learned and enjoyed
Of course, there is so much more to be said about all of this. I’ll come back to these with time. But for now, I – and I hope others within the community – want to hear from our elected and appointed officials what the PLAN is. Something, anything. And that brings up one last point for now: Our local government needs to be more accessible, transparent, and communicative (beyond the minimum required by law). The vast majority of people in town have no idea what is going on. And therefore cannot be part of the process OR solution.