Dear Editor:

Last week’s editorial asks that you “understand” and be “realistic” about your value and power in shaping our community. If you live nearby, and work, rent offices, own businesses or shop in town, you should know that this is really not your town, that council sees you as a visitor, who should just hush up and enjoy the hospitality, or leave. Many have left. “Our” loss. Unfortunately, the editorial paints an accurate picture of our community, but completely misses the cause.

The real barrier to becoming a unified community and to the free exchange of ideas in the town, is not legal, geographic or political. It’s people. By their words and deeds, our current mayor and council ranks the value of your ideas and concerns, not on their merits, but first on whether you live in the town, how long you’ve lived here, and if you’re on the mayor’s personal list of approved people.

Any dissenting or just un-pre-approved input, or (God forbid) leadership, is framed and treated as a personal attack. For example, the mayor recently called the “Friends of Reservoir Hill” the “opposition to the town board,” wrongly suggesting that townspeople trying to give a little power back to themselves on important projects is an attack on the council. The only “bridge” is a castle drawbridge, that can only be lowered from within.

When the town annexed nearly all of the businesses and commercial land in the county, they also commandeered the economic engine of the whole community. Nearly all of the growing concerns and criticism we hear coming from county and town people and local businesses stem from a failure of current town leaders to also shoulder the responsibility and accountability for the economic wellbeing of the whole community that came along with it.

Unifying our community is possible. It is key to our ultimate success. There is very little that is good (or bad) for the town that is not good (or bad) for the county. There is no structure, line, or law keeping us from doing it right now.

Being transparent, responsive and accountable to all stakeholders requires no actual legal or structural changes, just changes in leaders’ actions, or in leadership itself. Watch for people who try to keep things the same to protect personal turf or power. In 2013, we don’t have that luxury.

We can no longer afford the great cost of power plays, in lost talent, time, lost business opportunities, and millions in wasted tax dollars. We can start by putting unification on the table at Town Council and BoCC. Candidly. Openly. I have recommended that our next joint town/county work session begin this discussion and process.

There is no legitimate line when it comes to our collective stake in the success of the town, and therefore we all have a right and (I believe) obligation to continue offering up our reasoned criticism, ideas, and leadership, regardless of the hostile response coming from the status quo.

Michael Whiting

Editor’s note: Your comment regarding annexations by the town does not make a distinction between the different annexations that occurred, nor does it reveal anything of the complicated backstory concerning the annexations. While there was an economic motive to at least one major annexation, it should be understood that the town proceeded only with annexations of properties whose owners petitioned for same. No property was annexed against the will of its owner. Further, a meaningful amendment to the comment concerning the “economic engine” of the county would note the fact the town has agreed since the annexations of commercial properties to a 50/50 split of sales tax revenues with the county. This is not required by law and the town could, if officials so desire, go to a point-of-sale scenario with sales tax, radically altering the split of the revenues. They have not, and that fact should be acknowledged.

This story was posted on January 24, 2013.