Teri Orr: Making laws is messy business. That’s no reason not to participate.
I can forget the political process requires participation. It isn’t enough to say you “love your country.” Like all relationships — the really loving part requires work. Showing up. Speaking up. Acting out even. “For the people by the people” requires actions … by the people. By us.
I was reminded recently about an old adage in politics — we are governed by those who show up.
This week found me in two very different locations where I considered what it meant to be a citizen — of my city and of my state, which ultimately lands me squarely in my country.
Park City’s visioning process had one of its final meetings Tuesday at the library building, and we listened to consultants and participated in live polling with a subgroup of about 100 people who were not exclusively but mostly — folks over 55. All the topics were on the table — housing and transportation and tourism and Main Street and environmental health and climate change and inclusion and diversity.
This small subset agreed with the other smallish subsets that have been taking place for six months now. We have entered the Amusement Park (City) Stage in the life of our town. We exist for most of the year as a backdrop to other people’s good times. Winter and summer — some of the fall and the spring too. The former old mining town/resort community — that was maybe six months on and six months off — has become just different degrees of on.
Since July, about 1,000 people have taken the survey. About 700 people have shown up to participate, but that was questioned because many of those same people have shown up to multiple sessions.
In the scenario of Amusement Park City … the consultants say the city becomes drained of its character. And that is the precipice on which we sit. The slogan the city is running with as a result of these sessions is “Embrace Bold Change.” Which has become pretty clear — is the only way out of this current mess. And there are a number of pillars that are needed to move this forward or support this idea or what language works for you. They range from the obvious pillar of affordability to the also obvious but more obtuse — regional synergy. For non-policy geeks this basically means we need to play nice with all the kids that live around us (and beyond our actual city limits) because things like transportation and housing and inclusivity depend upon it.
When we hosted the Olympics in 2002 the slogan was — “The World is Welcome Here” — and we acted surprised when the world decided to come visit here, build here, buy here, want to have kids here, retire here. Now within the city limits we are 78% non-primary residents. So the neighborhoods with the kids and the dogs and bikes really don’t exist much inside Park City (any more) limits.
Hosting the Games in 2030 would require even more people from all over the world to fly here and rent cars and add to all the footprints — carbon and human. And if the climate keeps changing — as it has for decades now by climbing not shrinking — then the predictability of enough good snow to hold the Games comes into serious question. It will cost millions of dollars we could be spending on pillar building. Wanting to host the Games again appears to be counter intuitive to the goals the city professes to desire.
Meanwhile down at the Capitol it was Arts and Library Day this week, which dovetailed with a celebration of women suffragettes and 100-year anniversary of women getting the vote. I know this timeframe to be true. In discovering some of the political badges from my father’s side of the family, I found my great-grandmother had been part of the first Women’s Council here in Utah when she was a delegate to the Republican National Convention — I think in 1923. The frayed red, white and blue ribbon holds the heavy bronze metal with the date information and the name Women’s Council in raised letters.
The Day on the Hill for Arts was highlighted with more than 2,000 schoolchildren who had been bused in to see government in action. Representatives and senators were pulled out of sessions to speak with constituents and listen to their requests for more funding. There were facts recited in rapid-fire succession and framed awards to legislators for a job well done in representing the need and desires of their voter base.
The marble floors and walls and halls were polished and reverberated with the sounds of the children and the adults meeting up. And collectively we were all surprisingly well-behaved.
Folks who see each other mostly at events like this reconnected with hugs. Sessions at lunch tables had discussions about libraries being stretched to become more than the place you check out a book. More and more they are becoming shelters for homeless folks by day. And disease and drugs took over the conversation and the need to have accurate informed information to distribute when the disenfranchised come to that safe place and need direction.
There is an old saying that one should never watch sausage or laws being made. It is messy stuff. I have to admit I have never once watched sausage being made and I have spent a lifetime watching laws being created. And yes, it is messy. And it is the responsibility of every citizen to roll up their sleeves and show up and help those elected make smart decisions about the future of our greater community and the microcosms of our country. Want government to change? Get in there and help change it — messy or not. You can participate any day — even on a sausage cooking Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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