published: Sunday, October 20, 2013
Time to get rid of blinders
Citizens, appointed board members and elected representatives joined in another acrimonious meeting at the Avon Park Community Redevelopment Agency's meeting Monday evening.
This followed an equally contentious CRA Southside Advisory Board meeting Friday.
As if being unable to conduct civil meetings wasn't enough, attitudes during debate revealed an alarming isolationism and prejudice among many present.
We do not refer to racial tensions, but to the stubborn idea that only someone born and raised in Avon Park can have the city's best interests at heart.
The issue arose during debates about how to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January. Discussion devolved into shouting back and forth; Monday, Mayor Sharon Schuler had to threaten expulsion in order to quiet the chamber.
Some members of the Southside Advisory Board want to hire a planner, spend $10,000, have a parade and a three-day celebration downtown. Other members want to keep the celebration small and focused on education. They want to have the celebration on King's birthday, and confine it to that day as a neighborhood event in the Southside area. They suggest a budget of $3,000.
We find it hard to understand why such a seemingly simple conversation could become so hostile so quickly. We were taken aback, for example, when the professional event planner was taken to task for not being an Avon Park native. Even more astonishing was a similar attack on a long time Southside activist who, while spending most of his life here, was born in Wauchula.
Avon Park has worn blinders for many generations. Too many people living in the city look with suspicion on anyone from somewhere else. Ideas proposed by outsiders are rarely taken seriously, especially if their plans include change.
Things are never going to get better in Avon Park with that kind of thinking. It is what you do that makes the difference, not where you're from. The idea that only a life-long resident can be true to the city is preposterous. It's like saying you can't really love your husband or wife's family because you weren't born into it.
In fact, it can be argued that new residents are more connected because they can compare Avon Park to other places and see its beauty and opportunity with fresh eyes.
The city needs new energy, new investment and more ideas. If it is to attract larger companies with more to offer the community, its leaders and residents have to move into the 21st century and recognize the global economy. This means we have to outgrow our xenophobia and accept people for who they are.
Remember, that person from far away may have the key to the city's future.
Not just the Southside carries this mentality (by: BEEN HERE! - 10/20/2013)
Good article Newssun!
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