posted on November 16, 2010 16:49
By Joe Borgstrom, Director
Specialized Technical Assistance
& Revitaliation Strategy Division
Michigan State Housing Development Authority
The staff at the Michigan Main Street Center @ MSHDA has been busy all over the state the last few months helping get our three new Selected Level communities up and running, doing our annual year-end visits with our other Selected and Master Level communities and are into the meat of our Associate Level trainings. Meanwhile, we’ve been working with the seven Downtowns of Promise communities with our contractors, Beckett & Raeder Inc. (BRI). BRI, with local steering committees, is leading the development of each community’s revitalization strategy for their nominated district. To put it bluntly, our team is currently working with 42 communities across the state.
Most of our work is energizing. It’s great to see communities come together, put aside their differences and roll up their sleeves and get to work to solving their problems. However, every so often we come up against obstacles. Don’t get me wrong, EVERY community has obstacles. There are nay-sayers, doubt, turf wars and a host of other obstacles every community has to go through. Occasionally though, we come across bigger obstacles than others. Sometimes we get really dedicated CAVE (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) people. Now CAVE people in and of themselves aren’t that big of a deal. They are often well intentioned folks who get burr in their saddle (sometimes justifiably) and decide no matter what the local Main Street program does, they will be opposed. Some are more dedicated than others. We’ve seen CAVE people on city councils, in blogs and in letters to the editor. (I wrote about some of this a year and half ago about e-critics here.) Most times though, it’s rooted in either misunderstanding or perceived secrecy. Be sure to be transparent in your operations and truly open to these individuals to hear their ideas and thoughts. They might come out of left field, but they still deserve to be heard. However, once in a great while, folks are just out and out malicious. They’ve taken a personal snub and turned it into a justification for war.
The thing I keep coming back to is these people could make a tremendous positive impact if they turned their energy and effort toward helping to promote the positives of the community instead of tearing down those trying to help. I know communities are not alone in fighting these battles. Everyone doesn’t have to agree on everything. That never happens. But when you spend all of your effort tearing down those who disagree, when do you build? The answer is you don’t.
Look, we all can take a negative look at not just our community, but our world. It seems these days there is no shortage of opportunities to disagree or bicker. I know I do it myself more frequently than I’d care to admit. What if we took the opportunity to put out the positive more than the negative? What if we took just part of our effort that we use to disagree, to focus on what we DO agree on? How much better would our downtowns, communities and world be? We all have a choice about how we react. Me? I’m choosing to be more positive. What do you choose?