Business climate thrives on community involvement

November 30, 2009
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The official “holiday season” is under way. Consider what most believe to be the overarching reason for celebration, particularly at Thanksgiving tables last week: It is that of sharing, thanksgiving, the charity of one to another in many forms.

It bears pointing out the blessings given city and county leaders as unprecedented budget cuts take a toll, not just on the public services but on the families of those who will be added to Michigan’s unacceptable and unnecessarily high unemployment rate. The metro area citizenry has listened to elected city and school leaders and responded. Though some do so motivated by misguided “opportunities” to stand in the spotlight of trouble, with sarcasm akin to bloggers with opinions but no facts, for the most part it has been an act of participation offering real ideas — good or bad.

The fact that so many, from varied groups, have attended the city’s citizen meetings is indicative of an involved citizenry, a point city leaders must cherish.

The fact that so many have offered to find ways to help (as much as they can) as services are cut is a tremendous gift, one for which some Michigan city leaders can only wish.

The actions of this community represents an overall trust in those they’ve elected. It is not shared with state legislators.

The fact is this community has been built on the public and private partnerships now acting as a safety net to move through the Great Recession. And it has been built of a volunteer spirit that is exemplified by thousands of volunteers for the annual Festival of Arts, sustained for 40 years.

This city invented Neighborhood Watch and neighborhood associations — now increasingly uncommon across America. Those neighborhoods have actively involved businesses and residents in meetings to respond to the city’s budget crisis and determine action items for assignment.

The city’s oldest residential neighborhood, downtown’s Heritage Hill, has grouped quietly for a call to action. In the monthly neighborhood newsletter, resident Barb Lester writes: “The most important ingredient is good neighbors with good attitudes.” She advises that minus street cleaning and inspections, neighbors need to pick up the slack — “every household can do something and many can do a lot.” Her neighbors have recalled neighborhood watches 24/7, which means neighbors are willing to be involved. Others take walks with trash bags in hand to keep the neighborhood clean.

Local artists and Division Street business owner Reb Roberts is noted for those tasks and more: “His art on public utility boxes is likely to deter taggers or other graffiti that has become a problem.”

Every resident of this city should be grateful, most especially city leaders and staff.

But this may be most important: Despite national or state political climates, with or without tax incentives, the actions of the community are evidence of involvement and participation, and fundamentally no better place to do business in any economic cycle.

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