A New Perspective 12-02-04: Community

Golden Gate Gazette

December 2, 2004

We publish a weekly community newspaper called the Everglades Echo that covers the communities of Everglades City, Chokoloskee Island, Plantation Island, Ochopee and Copeland. For those who don’t know, these communities are in the far eastern portion of Collier County.
The county seat was originally located in Everglades City and after Hurricane Donna in 1960, the county seat was moved to Naples.
Because they have a long, rich history, there are many newspaper clippings that tell the history of the area. Hardware store owner Jim Webb has a vast collection that he has saved over the years and sometimes lets us borrow to know where we’ve come from and how things have or haven’t changed over the years. It was interesting that some of the issues from 30 years ago are the same issues facing the community today.
In a series of on-the-spot interviews from 1974, residents were asked how they think the presidents’ economic policy was working. Another question asked what people thought about the president (Gerald Ford) after the election. This week we “re-asked” the question, “What do you think should be done with empty lots?”
It was fun to see that although the faces change, nothing really changes over time. The present day responses nearly echoed the opinions of 30 years ago.
I wondered if the local residents remembered the people in the pictures from 30 years ago. What kind of contributions did they make to the community? What will future residents be saying about today’s commentators 30 years from now? It will be determined by the contributions of today’s citizens?
There is one home across from Everglades City School with crab traps throughout the yard and some disarray that is causing a stir in the community. It isn’t an empty lot, but it sure causes the same stir as an abandoned property.
We in Golden Gate can relate.
The Golden Gate community got so tired of random blight that a task force was established to stir up activity from county agencies including code enforcement, sheriff’s officials, health officials, domestic animal services, among many others. Four times a year, clean-up efforts are organized to target blighted areas and educate those who live in the community about the rules regarding housing, garbage, and vehicle ordinances.
After much effort, the property values go up, crime goes down, and people begin to take more pride in their neighborhoods.
So how would you like to be remembered 30 years from now?
I ask that question of my sons when they are wondering how to handle a given situation. Whether it is dealing with sports, schoolwork, or other responsibilities, I tell them that someday their children will come to them with similar problems – what do they want to tell him they did? This line of questioning usually causes them to make the right decision.
We use the same form of questioning when deciding punishment at our house. I ask them – what would you do if you were the dad? Sometimes I ask this because I really don’t know the right course of action. It’s always interesting to hear their answers and usually their suggestions are harsher than I would have chosen.
Seems that’s a basic rule of life. When faced with the hard decisions, most of us know the right thing to do. Sometimes the difficult decision is not what to do, but how to get it done.
From family, to community, to country and beyond, we need to be accountable and hold others accountable so the right things happen. When people don’t live up to expectations, the consequence usually goes beyond the culprit, affecting the lives of everyone it touches.
How will you be remembered 30 years from now?