The vision thing
By DON PERRY, Vice President, Business Development & Expansion, Sullivan County Partnership
The views expressed are solely those of the writer and should not be construed as, nor do they constitute, an official view of the partnership, its officers, board, employees or members.
A retired naval officer left some land to his heirssix brothers and sisters who shared title to the land between them. One of the sisters was appointed the trustee of the land by the other siblings. Eventually, a dispute arose amongst the siblings. After protracted litigation, a settlement was finally reached that resulted in each sibling being given individual title to his or her proportionate share of the land to do with as he or she so desired.
Sullivan County is at a similar crossroads in my view. There are as many different visions for its future as there are full-time residents, second-home owners and casual visitors to the area. And to varying degrees, the search for some resolution of these differing visions will involve protracted negotiation, and possibly litigation, among the various parties involved.
But while the future of Sullivan County is a present-day issue, the case of the six siblings began in 1575 B.C.E. and was finally settled in 1270 B.C.E., nearly 3,300 years ago. I mention this to show that in all that time, people have not fundamentally changed. We still grapple with differing wants, likes, needs, perspectives and desires that drive our unique visions of what an ideal future would consist of. Even after all of the charettes, community visioning workshops, discussion groups, surveys, etc., at the end of the day, there is still no single vision for Sullivan County. Even as grand a statement as Sullivan 2020, an attempt at achieving a common consensus, leaves out the most difficult, intractable and absolutely critical elementthe details. Because of our fierce independence and stubborn pursuit of self-interest, once we move beyond the grandiose and elegant phrases of the common vision, all hope of consensus breaks down. They dont say the devil is in the details for nothing.
This lack of specifics presents a conundrum for economic development for people like me because we grapple with nothing but concrete details all day long. By definition, our jobs involve change, growth and development. Without change, growth and development, a community dies. Thats a fact. Moreover, because no community is an island unto itself, cut off from the unruly influences of a vague and nebulous Big World Out There, visions of some kind of bucolic rural Brigadoon are as ephemeral as that legendary place. Consequently, no matter what we in the economic development arena do, everything we do has its detractors with a differing vision of what ought to be or what should be or what is desirable or what is undesirable.
My personal vision is for a reality that takes into account the fundamental drivers of human nature and tempers it with an abiding faith in the essential goodness and decency of people. While we may never wholly agree on a shared vision, at least we can disagree amicably and in good spirits, without rancor and dissension, since we are all trying to achieve only the best, and most decent and most favorable future for our county (as it benefits us).