Guest column: Basalt meeting its future

Lollie Schweitzer
Guest Commentary

At a time when cities everywhere are struggling with debt, loss of work and development problems, Basalt is meeting its future with collaboration and progressive thinking. We are not alone in this process as cities and towns all over the country and even the world are engaging in a similar task as the need for changes push their communities into a more creative position.

The needs of communities, cultures and societies today require that we start thinking more progressively, “out of the box,” so to speak. The problems are more challenging and complex and the old system of solving community problems, i.e., a few dictating policy for the many, is not working at any level of government. We’re now being called to employ more community engagement, and Basalt, which has agreed to be a compassionate city, is now utilizing communication, collaboration and creativity as they open to the citizenry for participation and answers to the questions about the present and future.

It has been shown that when people come together for a common purpose, with real cooperation, things work out in a positive way. An example of that would be resettling the residents of the Pan and Fork Trailer Park, in harm’s way for years due to the flood plain, but also because many of the trailers were uninhabitable. Now they have all found new homes and some have become homeowners due to the cooperation of many people in the town of Basalt and the town itself. The town helped to find housing for those people, getting creative with what could be provided, such as bus passes for school kids and in most instances helping them financially.

The task and the opportunity facing Basalt is to develop the vacant property around the river and other properties that house outdated, dysfunctional buildings, establishing a more vital, exciting town and community in which people want to visit or live. This is going to require much innovation and imaginative thinking. Knowing this, Basalt has opened the task to the imagination of the residents and it’s proving to be most interesting and even exciting as people present their ideas. Being open minded is the key here, as the community has agreed to move into the unknown and try new things during the process of change. Many challenges will have to be met along the way and no one knows just exactly how this is going to play out, but the answers lie in the process as people come together, sharing and caring about what their town looks like, what kind of personality it’s going to have and what happens in it.

The most important element in all of this is the leadership of the town manager, Mike Scanlon. He is willing to listen to the people without any idea of egotistical self-interest, power, control or attachment to outcome. That is real leadership for a true democratic and functional government. Real leadership inspires and guides, makes decisions, yes, but does not need to control the whole operation. Real leadership knows how to use creativity to inspire others to search within themselves for the answers that will be the best solution for the majority of the people. You can’t always please everyone, and you’re going to have dissenters, but it always plays out in favor of the broader community if the intention is for the right reasons. Scanlon knows this and is willing to go for it, with the best interests of the residents in mind at all times. This is the leadership needed at all levels of government for our cities, our states, our country and the global society as we move through these difficult times of change.

Lollie Schweitzer is a writer, spiritual counselor and a seven-year resident of Basalt. She also is a former Snowmass Sun columnist.