And that the kind of popular civic involvement that had so typified and sustained this community over the years was dead, and no matter how hard those who still believed tried to resurrect that spirit, those times were now far behind us and would never come back. The preservationist old guard needed to wake up and learn to accept the hard truth that nobody was all that concerned anymore.
Now, we were also told, those who wished to take this town in a direction nobody ever wanted in the past would seize the advantage offered to them by this indifference and lethargy and Sierra Madre would become just like everywhere else. Overbuilt, generic, and broke. And the America it once typified, perhaps beyond its time and place, was gone as well. Overrun by a slick and well-financed group that saw our town as little more than a choice opportunity for an easy killing. Like so many others.
And the cynics were wrong. Truly wrong.
Yesterday 300 very festive and highly engaged Sierra Madreans packed the YAC to participate in the creation of a brand new Sierra Madre General Plan. And in particular they wanted to hear all about what the General Plan Update Steering Committee was doing to protect Sierra Madre and keep it from becoming anything but the unique and wonderful community it is today.
Many questions were asked, and each member of the GPUSC was surrounded by well wishers and supporters. All in attendance happily filled out the questionnaires that will give guidance in its future deliberations and decision making.
The demand for questionnaires was so great that City Staff had to leave several times to run up to City Hall and make more copies. And then when they came back from their errand they discovered parking was hard to come by, with all once available spots taken up for blocks and blocks. You really had to want to get there.
Bill Coburn set up some kind of video contraption that only he would understand, and Danny Castro's General Plan presentation to the City Council was shown over and over, never lacking for an audience. Narrated by Deniece Delmar, Chairwoman extraordinaire.
Those who had predicted superstardom for Danny the Planner in the past could now see their faith rewarded as people, watching this video of his work, hung on to every word. Could the cynics have ever believed that people would really want to know the guts of what planning this City's future is all about? According to them professional consultants would need to be hired to fill that vast yawning chasm between sound policy and weak public interest. So how do you explain this?
Many people came with specific questions and concerns, and buttonholed any City Councilmember within reach. And a good many of these folks had questions having little to do with the General Plan per se, and more about their fears over the direction the City has taken in these uncertain times. People seemed to find this an agreeable open forum where they could address their concerns with City policymakers face to face. Far preferable to talking from behind the three minute podium, facing a City Council that, at times, can seem intimidating, remote and unconcerned with the wishes of the people.
Today there was no dividing line between the people and their elected officials. Everyone was the same, and the concerns had little to do with anyone's special place or conferred power. Democracy, that great equalizer, had made all in attendance truly Sierra Madreans, and one. Our elected officials seemed almost overwhelmed at times. People wanted to know about everything. The concern was authentic, and the interest strong.
The Genii is now out of the bottle. The rebirth of Sierra Madre has begun.