Monday, December 12, 2005

"The Star Thrower" Lives In Each Of Us

The Community Alliance Looks Back At 2005

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." ~~ Margaret Mead

It was in February of this year that The Community Alliance, Long Island's premier quality of life watchdog group (if we do say so ourselves -- and we do! :-), offered its State of the Community address, a forward-looking "wish-list" of hopes and desires for the community we call home.

Looking back at the initiatives we sought, the causes to be championed, and the desire to witness the "rebirth of the suburban way of life our parents and their parents before them envisioned," we can safely say that, with few exceptions, we bore witness instead to what can only be characterized as the afterbirth.

From the scourge of illegal rental apartments to the dearth of affordable housing, we've heard much talk, but far too little action. On School Aid and School Tax, there have been rumblings and ruminations, but woefully little in the way of substance. Economic redevelopment seemed stalled along the highway as we embarked on our "journey of renewal," and efforts to "take back our Town" in the name of democracy were blown to bits by autocracy's dirty roadside bombs.

All in all, with hopes dashed at every turn, and the closest thing most of us have to local government serving as little more than a monolithic roadblock to community's progress, it suffices to say that our Long Island community did not fare very well in 2005.

Indeed, were this blogger, say, an elected official in Japan, having failed dismally to advance, let alone achieve stated goals, he might consider hari-kari as a viable opt out. Then again, we are but "the penultimate advocates of community," second only to those we ultimately elect to do our bidding in Washington, in Albany, at the County Seat, at Town Hall, and even at the firehouse. Here on our island, we live -- and sometimes slowly die, at least figuratively -- by the ballot box, not by either bullet or sword (it just feels that way).

Given the paucity of movement along that road to community -- a road paved, perhaps, with the best of intentions, but left to potmark and crumble beneath the weight of benign neglect and bureaucratic ineptitude -- it would be easy for even the most ardent among us to fall into quiet despair; to whither on, or be strangled by, our own vine; to pull down the shades and crawl back under the covers, outrage supplanted by indifference. Few would notice, and even fewer would care, if we, the advocates of community, disappeared from the scene, or if we gave in to that most destructive of human thoughts, that one person cannot possibly make a difference.

Perish that thought. Play into the hands of the very scoundrels and houligans who, in 2005, told us "pay more," "get less," "give up control" and "stay the course?" Not us. Not now. Not ever!

We're no Rosa Parks here, that's for sure, but we do know that when we choose to stand up for the causes of community, as Ms. Parks sat down for the cause of humanity, it is not for the moment we stand -- or sit -- but for all of our tomorrows. We are advocates, making a difference, not for the instant gratification, but for the long run. When Rosa Parks alighted from that bus in Montgomery half a century ago, the world -- both hers and ours -- did not change overnight. It merely began to change, to evolve, to take on the dreams of one person who, in her heart, believed that she made a difference -- if to no one else but herself.

Yes, it is frustrating to, day after day, feel that one is talking -- or blogging -- to oneself. Seems that, since the election, at least, the voices (other than those is this blogger's head) have, in great measure, fallen silent. Do we dismay? Have we, too, grown apathetic? Are we frightened by those who, having fooled 60% of the electorate, have placed us on their "Hit Lists?"

We like to think that this is simply a time for regrouping. A period of introspection and reflection. No one should mistake the calm and quietude amidst the whispering willows as either apathy or aversion to engage the foes of community. There is a rustling in the branches; the constant gaze of militiamen focused on the movements of those who would find it necessary, if not compelling, to overshadow the small, to stymie the fledgling, and to silence the voices of community.

In fact, we would not be at all surprised if, in the days and weeks to come, we begin to hear, in voices strong and clear, stirrings from the underground.

Maybe some or many of the 39 Trustees representing 15 school districts ('57' would be so much easier to remember :-) to whom this blog is e-mailed will be inclined to speak out -- giving a public voice to their public office -- on the issue of school funding. We would surely welcome these voices, and provide them with a forum in which they may be heard.

Perhaps our State Legislators, who hold in their hands the fate of the School Property Tax, will follow the courageous lead of Assemblyman Tom Alfano, not only setting forth a plan for bringing this pitbull to heel, but in seeing that plan to fruition during the coming legislative session.

Perchance our local representatives will see fit to reach beyond the partisan bickering -- or, in the case of those at Hempstead Town Hall, beyond the perceived yet false security of "we hold all the cards" -- to act upon matters such as illegal accessory apartments, the shortage of affordable housing, and the revitalization of "Main Street," issues that not only impact upon our lives and livelihoods, but come to shape and define suburbia.

Or maybe, just maybe -- and this is a stretch here, folks -- you, the good people of our towns, our hamlets, our county, our island, will see your way clear to stand up, speak out, and become a very real part of the solution. We'll leave a light on for you at The Community Alliance. Feel free to blog with abandon.

No, we might not have made much headway in 2005 in achieving those shared solutions to our common concerns. Then again, we will say that, if nothing more, we were most successful in putting those concerns out there, and in getting more of you -- and of "them" -- to listen.

Okay, so, for the most part, they didn't act in our best interests -- or, at least, act with sufficient resolve and fortitude -- in 2005. So what? As the old saying goes, "There's always next year!"

"Next year." We'll be there, blog and all. We welcome you to join us, on the beach, as we throw starfish back into the sea, and on the road, as our journey to community continues. . .
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If you think you are too small or insignificant to make a difference or to be effective, you've never been felled by a virus, naked to the human eye, or spent a sleepless night in bed with a tiny mosquito!

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