Wait! Before they build, I have something to say…
The other day, I was walking down Main Street and I looked to my right and noticed that the Seagrove Pottery building was gone. The brick structure that used to stand there is now just rubble. I remember when this same thing happened over a year and half ago to the old furniture store that has now been built to become the home to Carrboro’s first hotel. As a resident, that first construction site led to a grab bag of emotions including shock, a little sadness, and excitement.
However, this time around, I was less shocked. The plans for 300 East Main (the whole strip running from the new hotel to Seagrove) has been in the works for years. I’ve read old meeting agendas where the Board of Alderman has meticulously discussed the proposed plans. They have been diligent about trying to keep the town’s architectural integrity intact and their decisions have been made with maintaining that unique Carrboro vibe. But what I realized, when I saw that fresh rubble was that without this internship, I would have no idea what was happening on Main Street. There is nice drawing on a poster hanging outside the building, and I’ve heard a few rumors about the buildings, but beyond those few clues, I had not been an active participant in my local government and therefore, I didn’t really know what what happening. Now, I pride myself on “being Carrboro.” I share a garden with my neighbors, frequent the local businesses, and run the trails at Herman Wilson Park. How much more Carrboro can I be? But up until now, I didn’t pay attention to the leadership of this town nor did I think about how their decisions would affect how the town would look in a year, or five years, or even 10 years from now. I’ve lived in the present of Carrboro without trying to be part of its future.
I think that is something that can be common for a lot of folks. We get busy. Or we only plan to live in that town for a few years. Or who can attend a meeting on a Tuesday night? But no matter what our circumstances, its important to stay tuned into what decisions your leadership is making. Otherwise, when you see a pile of rubble and a new development taking its place, you can’t do much about it anymore. Active citizen engagement is the cornerstone of democracy, and it starts at the lowest level — your local government. And sometimes, that’s where you can have the biggest impact. So, I guess my take-away this week is that it’s important to be a participant in your local government because those are often the decisions that will affect you most directly. Also, start a garden! (But that advice just comes from the Carrboro in me.)