The Long View
I often ask myself, “What would Irv and Ruth do?”
That question comes to mind when I’m trying to decide whether or not to get behind a community project – especially projects that take more tax dollars.
Irv and Ruth Hayden are lifetime family friends and parents of my boyhood friend and current golf partner, Paul.
Irv and Ruth, like many people from Atwood and my home, Longmont, have a community first rather than me first approach to the world. I contrast this to a friend who I had lunch with recently. He told me he was “selfish” when it comes to public policy issues. He was unapologetic when he gave a for instance, “If it (a tax increase) benefits my kids’ school, I’m interested. If it’s for someone else’s kids, not so interested.” He said out loud what many of us may think but would never dare put into words.
That’s not Irv and Ruth’s approach. I was back in Atwood last summer (maybe the summer before) a few days before a vote to increase sales taxes to fund a new swimming pool. Displayed prominently in the Hayden’s yard across the street from my parents’ house was a homemade yard sign. I don’t remember exactly what the sign said but something to the effect of, “Vote yes for the pool. The next generation deserves it, too.”
Irv and Ruth are in their eighties. Only two of their seven children live in Rawlins County. None of their grandchildren call Atwood home. A new swimming pool will not likely boost property values – often an argument made to get people behind a new tax. Irv and Ruth’s support for a new tax will most likely diminish and not boost the size of their personal estate.
There are many other people in Atwood in their sixties, seventies, and eighties who supported the pool tax about which the same things can be said.
Irv and Ruth, and others, don’t use self-interest as the criteria to evaluate community projects and new taxes. It’s not about, “What’s in it for me?” The question Irv and Ruth are asking is, “What’s best for the community.” And not just what’s best for the community this year or next. Irv and Ruth are asking what kind of community do we want this place to be in ten, twenty or forty years from now.
My family is the beneficiary of people who took the long view in Longmont, Colorado. People who I never knew invested in parks, community rose gardens and reservoirs. More recent community leaders rallied the community behind rec centers, museums, and ice rinks. Early residents of Longmont planted trees in our neighborhood that now tower over our home and provide us beauty and shade. Those who invested their time and money to place these treasures in our yard never saw what they grew to become. That’s taking the long view.
It can be hard to look beyond our personal needs and interests. It can be especially difficult during tough economic times. What’s more, not every idea for a community project that reaches the ballot is a good idea. Sometimes the best thing to do is vote no on new taxes.
But, it is the long view – people asking the question, “What kind of community do we want this place to be in ten, twenty or forty years from now – that creates wonderful communities to raise children and grow old. Places like Atwood and Longmont.