Friday, June 5, 2009

Call for unity

The worst economy since the Great Depression should be a call for people in the Wood River Valley to work together to find ways to survive the national tsunami.

Yet, instead of building strong teams and charting a way through these troubled waters, many people—including a few local elected officials—seem to want to form a circle and start shooting inward.

When things get tough, it's easy to play the blame game and go negative. Residents and elected officials in the Wood River Valley have had years of practice in both. Arguments have piled up everywhere recently, especially over money.

Witness the bitter bickering that went on over divvying up the costs of a countywide dispatch system—bickering that will return in a year when the current agreement expires.

Witness Sun Valley bristle each time Ketchum says it wants to revisit a joint firefighting agreement, Witness Hailey flare when the Wood River Rural Fire District wants to revamp fire plans.

Witness what happens when anyone even mentions a new airport.

It's no secret that the cities don't trust each other. And, it depends on what day it is whether any of them trust Blaine County—or vice versa.

Residents of the cities seem to trust their own elected officials, but they're skeptical about those in other towns.

Developers don't trust anyone because they can never predict who will try to shoot down their proposals. Other businesses don't know where to turn, what to do or whom to trust. They are in a dither trying to keep their heads above water and realigning operations with changing and unpredictable economic realities.

Only one thing is certain: If distrust, suspicion and blame dominate the Wood River Valley through this period, the future will be bleak. This is no time for parochial warfare.

This is a time to adopt the view from the top of Bald Mountain. From there, it's clear that the Wood River Valley stretches from north to south as a single narrow piece, its cities cradled by the same mountain ranges and fed by the same river.

Residents need to acknowledge that all of us are literally in the same boat. Public, private, rich, poor, young, old, what we do now is critical if the valley is to survive the storm. We must acknowledge the truth of the adage that if the north county has a cold, the south county has pneumonia.

The area's leaders must put down their verbal six shooters lest they blow a hole in the boat. They must build trust and cooperation in order to find a route to safety.

Then, the rest of us need to quit bickering and start rowing.

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