City Hall milestone should be start of something even bigger for SH

In our personal lives, milestones are often times we can look back on with pleasure – significant birthdays, getting a driver’s license, earning a diploma or certification, getting married, having kids.

Milestones can represent the completion of a project or effort, such as graduation, or winning a state title in sports. Public recognition or an honor, especially one that isn’t expected, can be a milestone.

When we hear about the experiences of local veterans who’ve participated in the Honor Flight program, many of whom did not receive the public appreciation they deserved upon returning from horrific wartime experiences during their service, we can see how it is a true milestone, an experience of recognition they may not have anticipated and which they deserve.

Communities have milestones as well, and Sweet Home has enjoyed some real positives in the last year.

One was last year’s Capitol Christmas Tree celebration, which represented a turnout of community pride and celebration that exceeded the expectations of many. It was a great time.

Friday’s open house for the new City Hall was another, including some distinctive flavors of the the Christmas Tree event. They included a performance of the national anthem by local talent Moriah Winn and a return visit by young poet Brigette Harrington of Hillsboro, who has become quite familiar with Sweet Home in the course of representing us at the Capitol Christmas Tree celebration in Washington D.C. late last fall. Inviting her back to celebrate with us was a masterful stroke by organizers.

Community is a concept that goes far deeper than the dictionary definitions, which are numerous and range widely – illustrating our point. Webster’s generally defines “community” as a group of people linked by common interests or geography or history or policy (government).

Certainly, Sweet Home checks off all those boxes. But our “community” goes far beyond that. We have community personality characteristics that define Sweet Home in our own minds and those of others, and which are far more complex than what’s included in that list.

We are a community that steps up to build a top-notch football field when we decide one is needed. But we’re also a community that lives with what many would consider blight in our downtown.

We’re a community that enjoys the economic benefits of 100,000-plus acres of privately owned timberlands surrounding us, but has done little to develop alternative economic engines that could take advantage of the rich natural resources around us – and the parade of tourists rolling through town to visit them.

We’re a community in which many residents live comfortably, with solid jobs and healthy families, but in which too many of our school kids are sleeping on somebody else’s couch.

We live among tremendous water resources, but our residents pay significantly more than others who don’t, simply because we’re footing the bill for a lack of infrastructure planning and maintenance in the past.

We’ve had the opportunity to take advantage of 200-plus acres of prime riverfront property for the public’s benefit, but progress has been painfully slow, though it’s happening.

We’ve got a lot of pluses as a community, but we’ve got challenges as well.

So here we are at a milestone, a new City Hall. It represents some smart planning in the past – City Council members and staff who anticipated the need for a larger, safer building to house our community government operations.

It will also serve as a community meeting center and the lobby and public hallways serve as a local art gallery, something that turned out to be an out-of-the-park success, featuring high-quality art by local artisans. Haven’t seen it? Stop by and visit.

Eventually, there will be a public park located on the property, which the city purchased for a very reasonable price, right before values started rising.

Although it’s cost us $2 million, it should function as a center of the community for decades to come.

The new City Hall represents an opportunity for growth, for progress in Sweet Home. If the kind of ingenuity that resulted in Friday’s celebration is applied to the challenges of taking the community to new heights in areas where we have needs – economic growth and competitiveness, transportation and public infrastructure, housing, public health, education, culture and other elements of high-quality livability.

Like we said, this is a milestone. Hopefully, it’s just the start of what will be many more for Sweet Home.