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Photo: Lauren Bierman
When Peter Day of The Grift sang the opening lines of The Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street,” kicking off a heart-pumping rendition of the song by an all-star cast of local musicians at a concert to benefit Pete’s Greens at Higher Ground, it was as though all the key reasons why I love Vermont—spirited community, lively arts scene, delicious local food, good friends—were colliding into a single, adrenaline-packed moment.
If you’ve ever doubted the heart of community, this story will give you hope: Before dawn on January 12, Pete Johnson’s barn—housing all his harvested crops, tons of chicken, beef and pork, coolers, freezers and processing equipment—burned to the ground. A total loss. But countless Vermont citizens, driven by their belief in Pete’s mission as well as their reliance on this critical, local resource, have since proven that a community can and will come together to turn tragedy into a force of grassroots mobilization to be reckoned with.More
It’s no secret that the majority of Americans has lost faith in the government (never mind those who never had faith to begin with). But our elected officials rarely address this issue head on; they usually dodge the question and offer platitudes or bullet points about their own personal agendas.
The honest response from American government, according to The Onion, would be, “right back atcha.” The Onion issued a hilarious report last spring that explains why: “Majority of Government Doesn’t Trust Citizens Either.”More
Stephanie Joyce in Juneau, Alaska. Photo: Kevin Elliott
I live life on a fairly short timescale. At 22, a year still seems like a long time, a decade almost interminable.
The idea of planning 30 or 50 years down the line borders on laughable. I don’t even know where I’ll be next year, after I graduate from Middlebury College. So I struggle with the idea of long-term community planning. In such a rapidly changing world, long-range vision strikes me as a tall order.More
Photo: Jim Ames under the Tuscan sun, July 2001.
Ten years ago, my family took our father to Italy for a Trip of a Lifetime. Dad was not Italian, but he loved Puccini, pasta and the very idea of Italy, so we tried to give him something of that experience. We stayed in an old villa outside Florence, visited Tuscan hill towns and did our best to behave like locals. Between day trips, much of our time was consumed by shopping, cooking, drinking wine and...eating.
It has never surprised me that Italy is such a wonderful place for food. After a few thousand years of doing something, chances are you will get good at it. And with all the right ingredients at their disposal—sun, soil, highly cultivated palates—the Italians certainly excel at food. In my travels to Italy, I’ve had few disappointing meals dining out, and food served nella casa has always been memorable.
If you’ve read the project page about Golden Vision 2030, you’d know that Golden, Colorado is well poised to change the way they do business as a city government. Their radical public engagement tools (okay...so not really radical...at the core, they’re based on good ol’ fashioned getting-to-know-one-another efforts) have Planning Commissioners and Advisory Committee members shedding their “public official” image and mingling with citizens like us.More
At Community Matters’10 in Denver last month, I had the privilege of moderating a breakout session about moving “from values to actions”—how communities can tap into their shared values to generate change that makes a lasting, positive difference for their future.
If the full room and scrawling pens were any indication, this fairly conceptual topic struck a deep chord with a lot of people. And the success stories shared—about values-based planning from Montana’s Bitterroot Valley to Golden, Colorado to Damariscotta, Maine—did not disappoint.
A lot of meaningful change begins by asking the simple question, “What matters most?” The answers to this question will uncover a community’s most deeply held beliefs and ideals about itself. When you think about it, a community’s values are really a direct expression of its heart and soul. They may reflect a community’s unique or treasured assets, its key historic or natural features, special buildings or important places, specific social or cultural characteristics, local folkways, myths and much more. They may be intangible or concrete—or both things at once.More
Jared Duval’s book Next Generation Democracy has just been released by Bloomsbury. Jared is on my Board, so I’ll admit my bias. But there’s no doubt his book is an important contribution to the evolving discussions on where democracy needs to go in our communities and our country.
Part educational and part advocacy, Jared’s engaging book offers a refreshing perspective on how the philosophy and field of open source software has shaped the “millenial generation” and its expectations of governments (and institutions). Being of the millennial generation himself, Jared is able to draw from his own experience and that of his contemporaries, as well as “baby boomers’” work and perspectives on the pressing topic of how to improve a system of government that clearly isn’t working.More
When it comes to new growth and development, westerners are downright schizophrenic. We want it both ways.
On one hand, growth is good. Development means more choices for shopping, restaurants and entertainment. It means our kids might have a chance to get a job locally instead of moving away.
Yet, we recoil at the changes wrought by growth—the strip malls, the traffic, the housing developments—and mourn the good old days when mega-homes didn’t lord over every bend of the river, when we could leave doors unlocked and let children roam unsupervised.More