Teri Orr: Be bold?
In the last two State of the City addresses, Mayor Andy asked us to be BOLD. And that sounds — you know — BIG and BRAVE and CHALLENGING. And I so wish we were capable of that as a community. To be abundantly clear — I want us to be bold beyond borders — beyond where The City becomes The County. Because our school district operates in both — ditto our fire services and sheriff and police. The People’s Health Clinic and the Christian Center. Our community is fluid. Yet our actions are increasing rigid … and honestly — tired and stuck and unimaginative and nowhere near … bold.
Last year right — this exact week — after the mayor had delivered his address it was spring break. Main Street was overrun with young people here to enjoy our magic mountains and blow off steam from their institutional learning factories. I met up with a longtime friend who works with city stuff. We had a drink in a bar. In hindsight — we probably spent two hours sitting in a petri dish. But we didn’t know what we didn’t know then. There was a strain of a flu that had started in Washington state and perhaps came from China. No one was wearing masks because no one yet knew what the CDC was about to recommend and insist upon … in hours We would shut down Park City and Summit County by Sunday. But this was Wednesday. We were all still carefree.
In the course of our always-free-range conversation, my friend asked —based on the mayor’s talk — if I had one big bold idea. I told him I did. It was something that had been percolating in my head for a while. It was simple for me. Walk away from the Olympics. He literally did a head snap. “What exactly are you saying?”
And so I told him it had been in my craw — how small thinking always does these things. Just repeat something that was successful without looking at the why — 20 years ago — months after 9/11 — and not understand almost all those key factors are gone. And while at the same time — only giving lip service to what the planet has declared is a parallel critical date — 2030 — to address climate change in any meaningful way that can still save life as we know it. We can’t have an event that invites people to travel here from all over the world landing in their G5s and driving into our town and overrunning our natural resources — let alone our limited human capital to serve them — so we can trade pins and get some televised screen time — which — of course — no longer means much in terms of how internet more efficiently delivers news.
He sat back on his bar stool. That IS a bold idea. But you do know we plan to be greenest Games ever? I hope I wasn’t rude but I do remember laughing. Sure, I had heard that phrase but it was hollow. The Games can’t be made authentically green when we will spend literally hundreds of millions of dollars on antiquated transportation systems to bring thousands of people here to stay in our dated (but charming), not energy efficient lodging properties that use antiquated systems for cleaning rooms and serving meals. Real hope for the planet requires us to be authentically BOLD. That means sacrifice and creative thinking.
Right now there are two enormous projects (actually more) inside the city limits and more beyond the invisible thread that stitches us together “out into the county.” But until we start right there and remember that we who live in The City also live in Summit County, we won’t start accepting we have problems without borders. The air quality at the White Barn — that marker into Park City — needs Summit County to keep the sky blue. And the roads don’t have tolls. We don’t leave the unincorporated area of Summit County and pay to enter Park City. And yes, of course, the state of Utah and feds get involved and you start to see how our small-town thinking limits our ability to make authentic change.
So we can look at the faux Tech Center and growth planned at Kimball Junction and wonder if more buildings would solve anything if we haven’t fixed the underlying issues of low-paying jobs and and a bifurcated transportation system that doesn’t function.
And because my brain likes to do a walkabout when it starts trying to connect dots, the school district danced in front of me. A new way of learning. Kids using their bodies to move in ways expressing their curiosity and learning the math of staying on a beat. And being encouraged to use their ever-expanding and elastic brains to think of new steps and shapes to express themselves. To make the music themselves. To solve problems with adults who don’t stand in front of a classroom and lecture to students who are over-medicated so they don’t “act out” in class. Before we talk about floating a school bond of $100 million for facilities, could we please — first — ask ourselves what is going to happen in those buildings. And if the answer is we are going to keep crushing creativity and breaking down children’s natural talents and curiosities and not spend a matching $100 million to improve what happens in the building I am not only gonna vote NO — I am going to actively campaign against it.
Which brings me to the arts and culture district — a concept — an idea — that has been near and dear to my heart for decades. Not this plan, mind you. Not in that place at all. But a place that organically was allowed to grow and had big thinkers attached in City Hall who encouraged creative thinking to make — out of the box culture — celebrated. Instead, we are literally arguing about the boxes we want our government to pay for — to house people (which is a separate and even more critical issue) and a place for buses to transfer people within our town because the county will be running its own lines that will be connecting with Wasatch County and we will be left at the curb. The anchor tenants don’t have the funding to build their centers today and in the changing face of priorities on the planet will find fundraising more than challenging for a location that is at the corner of Ugly and Ugly. There is nothing creative about the space or natural beauty, or any charming historic train depot or church or abandoned factory to rehab.
So my bold idea I realize isn’t really bold at all but maybe brave. We collectively admit we made a mistake. We were using old metrics for future planning. The planet changed in the meantime. Collectively, we are enduring a pandemic. We are relearning how much human connection matters. How little we can get by with. How arts — even on a screen on our laps — can lift us up and allow us for a few hours — to leave our heads and bodies and imagine new ways of being. Let’s be the mountain town that said STOP. We want to look at all the broken parts together. We want to build relationships with our counterparts in the county and beyond to embrace bold thinking that isn’t driven by a bat and ball and stick. We want to be authentically green. We want to take care of our citizens — starting with our seniors and flipping fast to the youth. We want to be asked to make understandable sacrifices to make this part of the planet and the interconnected systems — the bravest and boldest they can be as we walk on this fragile planet together for whatever amount of temperature warming time that might be. Together all the days, making authentically bold choices, especially on Sundays in (and outside) the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the founder of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts. She has been a member of the TED community since 2007 and founded TEDxParkCity in 2009.
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This ski season was great once it got going, writes Tom Clyde. Being outdoors on the slopes was “a powerful and necessary thing this year.”