The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Editorial: New year should bring new commitment to a better one


January 3, 2017

Hard to believe it’s a new year already.

In our review of the news of 2016, some of which is on the facing page, it’s pretty clear that last year was one of some turmoil and change for Sweet Home.

Changes, of course, are part of life and are natural, but this past year included some big ones in our community.

Suffice to say we have new leaders for our school district and our city, which, along with the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District, are among the big players in how many of us live our daily lives – and where our tax money goes.

So first, we wish great success to schools Supt. Tom Yahraes and new City Administrator Ray Towrey as they seek to accomplish their goals. Their success will very likely be ours as well, but it’s a tricky process being the new guy and trying to make changes you think are necessary.

We’d love to write at this time next year that 2017 was a banner year for our community.

So what could help this next year be one of progress, which we can look back on in 52 weeks with satisfaction? What new year’s resolutions might help us prosper as a community?

We think one answer is coming together to make things happen.

The list of adages extolling the benefits of cooperation are too numerous to mention here. They range from scripture passages and proverbs from nearly every culture (“Many hands make light work; United we stand, divided we fall”) to the Three Musketeers’ motto: “All for one, one for all.”

We know this from experience in Sweet Home. A recent manifestation of this principle is a new football field that’s the product of local people getting together and pitching in.

So what kind of involvement are we talking about? Obviously, there’s already some of this in our community, but we see areas in which there could be more. In Sweet Home w’ere really good in on big stuff, but how well do we do on a smaller scale?

We’d like to suggest a few areas where we could all step up.

Our school superintendent, as we have reported in last week’s issue and again in this one, is working on solutions to problems he sees in the district, particularly with student achievement.

We won’t go into the details, but we like his approach – getting the people with their feet on the ground involved in troubleshooting and coming up with answers, sharing information, etc. It’s a team effort and the payoff for individuals involved will be personal as improvements take place.

Think about what could happen if that approach were to extend into other segments of Sweet Home.

One venue in which more participation might be helpful would be the Chamber of Commerce.

Attendance is pretty decent at the annual Awards Banquet, but most other functions draw a small cadre of regulars.

A chamber is supposed to be a cooperative effort to build the business community. Participation is required, and there’s not enough of it in Sweet Home, frankly.

Last year by the Chamber of Commerce and state Rep. Sherrie Sprenger worked together to bring in representatives of government agencies whose purpose for existence is to help small businesses with troubleshooting, negotiating the red tape, financing, etc.

The event may not have been publicized enough – it’s hard to know. But the turnout was thin. It didn’t make our list of big events of 2016, even though it should have been one.

To be blunt, every business owner and anybody interested in starting one in town could have benefited from showing up for an hour.

Our point here is not to excoriate local business people. But it is to suggest that working together and taking advantage of opportunities that come our way might benefit us all – businesses and customers.

If struggling entrepreneurs were to take advantage of some of the training, loan and financial information, and other assistance that’s been available at these seminars, who knows what could happen here in Sweet Home?

A lot of folks in our community would like to see a real economic turnaround, but that will happen best when we’ve got critical mass – a unified commitment on many levels to attracting and growing businesses (and jobs) in our town.

One opportunity to do this is the Rural Linn Economic Development proposal created over the last two years by graduates of the Ford Institute Leadership Program and released last summer. It calls for implementation of five specific strategies aimed at connecting area businesses with existing help from agencies and programs, navigating the regulatory environment, and marketing assistance in the age of social media.

Our City Council has committed expenditure up to $15,000 toward a regional economic development director, the cost of which would be shared among eight different entities.

That last part is really key: This isn’t just Sweet Home working on this. Fixing the less-than-robust economy in east Linn County will take a multi-community approach. We’re delighted that our City Council members see this and are willing to throw their lot in.

It takes time – and lots of effort – to make these kinds of changes, but this is a step that could take us in a good direction.

Back to involvement: We think our council also needs to get more involved.

We are not, by far, the only ones who have noted and commented on the lack of presence of City Council members at important public events – and we’re not talking about parades here.

We recognize that serving on the legislative body that governs this municipality is indeed, as one sitting member recently noted, “a thankless job.” But it’s still a job – with requisite authority and responsibilities for each member who’s elected or appointed to govern our town.

A council member may be experienced in business or in public life, but if he or she is not fully informed prior to making decisions, well, that’s a risk for all of us. That’s why, if we want to improve the economy, or parks, or housing, or infrastructure, council members need to be informed – perhaps beyond what they’re told in staff reports. Most recently, for example, none were present at a transportation planning meeting with big implications for future, held on Dec. 1.

These are big issues in our town and getting out to rub elbows with the public in events that focus on improving Sweet Home’s future will not only convince the public that council members care, but that they really do want to know what they are doing.

Back to the demands of the job: They are real and significant. Therefore, it would seem advisable for council members to divvy up responsibilities for attending and participating in events that would expose them to the public – and to the issues mentioned above in scenarios other than the close walls of the City Council chambers, a store counter or a restaurant table.

Not only will it pay off in more interaction with the public for the council, but it will visibly demonstrate to the public the council’s interest and commitment to finding solutions to Sweet Home’s challenges.

Part of leadership is participation.


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