I honestly did not think I would care about local government. I had no desire to become a community advocate, understand taxes, the branches of government (how they work together and individually) or would desire to enter into helping others understand it all. Yet, here I am, in the middle of helping those around me understand the ins and outs of how a community works.
I use to be one the people in my community who would say, why don’t “they” do something about this, why don’t “they” bring in business, why don’t “they” poof make something happen. In my desire to understand I started asking questions and through discovering the answers, there is not a magic wand. I am a fifth generation community member. My great grandfather literally built the family farm in the area I was born and raised in. They helped to build and shape the community I live in. I did realize that through the five generations my family has been here the same mayor has not been in place nor has the same city council, city manager, city attorney or any other leaders been in place through the whole five generations. While they have not been the same people, the issues continue to be the same.
So, what is the truth? Where does the responsibility land? Whether you will recognize it or not it is up to every single resident in Albert Lea. The truth lands with the community. Instead of tackling issues as a team effort we have left the growth of our community to solely rest on the leaders shoulders. We have refused to find out the answers for ourselves and have settled for rumors being enough factual information. I am guilty of this as much as the next person. It grieves me that it took having a blog to find out the answers.
On the other hand it also falls to the leaders and being willing and able to communicate what is happening and why it’s happening. In their defense, sometimes they legally cannot give us information. The same companies you want to come to town immediately have the leaders sign waviers saying they will not disclose any of the information they discuss. They cannot mention the companies name, what they are looking for and why. They legally cannot tell us. While I desire leadership to be up front and honest, I understand now why they stop. No one shows up, no one reads their columns, no one believes the facts. The facts are not hard to find either, understand maybe, but not hard to find. Especially these last few years, our leadership is as open as I have ever (which has not been long) known them to be. They want residents to walk in their door and find out the facts. They want you to ask questions. They also value and need your in put.
Did you know Mayor Rasmussen has had Mayor Mondays for the last year and a half. If you have concerns or questions this is a good opportunity to address someone who has the facts and desires to hear great solutions. The reality is even if they had a meeting to give information, no one would show up. Everyone is too busy to put time and effort into showing up. Bottom line we the residents in our town need to start showing up.
We need to pull together as a community to build relationships with everyone around us. Get to know our mayor, get to know our chamber and tourism execs. and get to know the people at the economic agency. Learn how they work together and yet independently. Learn how city, county, state and federal regulations, highways, infrastructure is complicated to fix, build and find funding for.
Similar to when you begin a project on your house or car, you budget over the project because you know when you take out your bathroom sink you may find ants, rotten wood or worse issues. This is true with projects throughout our community. Sometimes what we think is an easy fix, becomes a bigger deal than had been anticipated and they cannot know this until they rip out a street, remove a hydrant or other areas that need maintaining and repair. They pick a project hoping everything will go smoothly and then they get three water main breaks in a week, in areas that should not have had them. What they need is a whole lot of patience from the residents, positive brainstorming and people willing to get their hands dirty to find funding and solutions.
I have learned what I need to give our leaders is a break. Yes, they need to be accountable, but being accountable is different than being accused and spreading rumors. An example of this is the Foundations company. There are rumors running rampant and instead of finding out facts misinformation is causing unneeded rumors.
What else can we do as community members? We can start talking about what we do love, the reasons we stay in town. The reasons we have come back or the reasons we never moved away. We also need to remember the bigger picture of our community and mention moving to Albert Lea to our friends, family and other business owners. We need to not leave promoting our community to “them”. We as a whole promote our town.
Please join me in finding out the facts.