Building Community with Grains of Sand

This past weekend, as our nation celebrated its independence from colonial rule, the Goose Lake Watershed District (GLWD), which I chair, brought our small community together at a beach picnic. Neighbors enjoyed each other’s company and new acquaintances were made. Towards the middle of the afternoon, I took the opportunity to inform Goose Lake residents about how much a small group of volunteers has accomplished under the auspices of the GLWD.

In just a few short years, our 5 member elected volunteer commission has made the most out of our small budget (roughly $18,000 in tax revenues annually).

  • A few years ago, we bought a used weed harvester, which a volunteer maintains and harvests lake weeds and provides them for organic farming;
  • We have vastly reduced invasive weeds through effective non-toxic bio-management and hand harvesting;
  • Last fall, we started a 3 year fish stocking program with an initial stocking of over 3,000 fish;
  • We removed a hazardous bridge and boardwalk; and
  • This spring we brought in new sand to our small beach and made initial improvements to the boat launch.

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In the near future, we hope to establish a web site and in 2017, in cooperation with Adams County and the Town of Jackson, we hope to vastly improve the roadway leading to the boat launch to reduce runoff into the lake.

American skepticism about government is very high. In late 2015, survey data showed that:

only 19 percent said they can trust the government always or most of the time, and 74 percent said most elected officials put their own interests ahead of the country’s.

However, I have long believed that when money and partisan politics are removed from government, as is the case with the GLWD, and citizens see that government is effectively leveraging their tax revenues for the common good, then citizens will support government not only through their taxes, but through volunteerism.

None of the projects I mentioned above, including the picnic itself, would have happened without the effective participation of citizen volunteers working with our small government unit. While I understand that problems of scale increase as the size of the government and the magnitude of its problems increase, nevertheless, I firmly believe that reducing money and partisanship in politics combined with clear demonstration of effective work performed by government officials, will increase the support for the necessary work that we all need government to perform. Simply put, most people will pay for things that produce value they can see, including government.

Perhaps the most important function government can perform is building community by supporting the shared interests of its local citizens. This past weekend, as the children playing on the Goose Lake beach and in the water clearly demonstrated, we demonstrated that we can build community with grains of sand.

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For more information on how Jeff Spitzer-Resnick can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change, visit his website: Systems Change Consulting.

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