It’s an interesting and inspiring expression, isn’t it? There seems to be a presumption built into it that collectively we all agree and that floating out there somewhere is an obvious and well illustrated communal opinion. But it’s rarely that simple. More often than not, on some very specific subjects “the people” just don’t agree, and a clear compromise or consensus eludes us. So, the larger challenge may well be… “How do we distill thousands of disparate voices into one vision or course of action?” I mean, let’s face it… it can be hard enough to get four Councilmembers to agree on something, much less the other 45,000 people in our City.
Not that we don’t hear from quite a few people. We do. But in general, we mostly hear from the same persistent individuals or from very passionate people who are concerned about a specific issue. This should be of particular interest to the remaining 40,000 or so of you, who live in Bonita Springs; because for better or for worse, these voices are quite often the only ones that Council hears from and as the saying goes… “Decisions are made by people that show up.” Further complicating the gathering of a more representative community consensus, all of us have a relatively small group of people that we actually see and hear from on a regular basis. If you take a couple of minutes and count for yourself you’ll probably come up with no more than a dozen or so people that you know well and converse with frequently. And I’m betting that the people in your group shared most of the same interests and opinions as you did to begin with. (If not, you probably wouldn’t be hanging out with them in the first place.) This is why during a debate you’ll often hear someone say “Everybody I talk to agrees with me about this!” I have no doubt that statement is true… but does that really qualify it as “the Will of the People”?
All the studies, letters, emails, meetings, workshops, public comment, blogs, polls and conversations at the club and in the grocery store are a good source of raw information; but it is time, the attentive ear, and a little healthy skepticism that provide a steady platform for examining and weighing all of these voices collectively. And beyond anyone’s singular opinion or particular issues that have come before our City, over the last 12 years there have been consistent themes that have solidified. A communal personality or picture of who we are as Bonitians can create a foundation for the decisions that we will make together in the future. So if our community could literally speak as one, perhaps… just perhaps… it would sound something like this…
We want our City to be represented by strong, common sense leaders that will hear our voices and show compassion and respect to all. We love our beaches and our other natural resources and we want other people to love them too… but not to death. We are generous and kind, but we are not enablers. We understand the need to invest in ourselves and our community, but we demand accountability and efficiency. We want people to have fun, as long as they aren’t too noisy, for too long. We enjoy each other’s company, but we treasure our privacy. We love to go out to eat, but we want to be fit and active. We love being a small town, but we desperately want a successful downtown. We recognize the need for economic development, but we don’t want our City to be over developed. We love to volunteer, but we don’t like being told what we have to do. We like our neighbors, but we like them quiet, clean and law abiding. We love to drive, but we hate traffic. We want government to be light, but not so light that it can’t do some heavy lifting for us when we need it to. We love to play… to play golf, to play cards, to play tennis, to play soccer, to fish, to boat, to shell, to swim, to bike, to walk, to run and to go shopping; but we’re not afraid to work hard for what we believe in. We are proud to be patriotic individuals, and together we will protect our community, our children, our homes and this City we love, with faith and courage.