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Posted to City Manager's Blog by Melinda Mayo
Eventually we will move beyond COVID-19, or at least determine a safe way to live with it. Hopefully, we will also figure out a way to govern in a manner that does not require vilifying one another. And perhaps we will finally chart a meaningful path forward, acknowledging the damage of racism and the need to advance on authentic equity. So, what’s next? How do we regain our economic momentum and make ourselves, our households, and our Community more resilient? And how do we right the wrongs of the past and present?
I don’t have all the answers to these vital questions, but I will use this post to explore some ideas and thoughts. Fortunately, many of the possible actions address more than one of these challenges. After all, in many ways they are deeply intertwined.
Lead and Support
All of these challenges (though I prefer to view them actually as opportunities to work together toward a new and better future) require bold leadership, along with unwavering support. In some instances, the City may be the appropriate lead where in many, the City is best serving a supporting role. Leaders willing to identify what needs to be addressed and not satisfied with just moving on, are required. Leaders willing both to speak truth to power and also to use power for positive change are essential. Leaders are needed from our business sector—small and large, from our government, our non-profits, places of worship, families, and anywhere else where real solutions can be identified and debated civilly and then, where appropriate, acted upon. Most will not lead, rather they will be called upon to support idea creation, civil debates, funding, volunteering, and more. These will all be necessary for real and lasting change.
Much of our efforts need to address well-being—that of our neighbors, our households, neighborhoods, and Community. The impacts of the pandemic have been deeper and put a heavier strain upon certain segments of the Community, in great part because not enough attention has been focused on disparities that exist—disparities in health outcomes, educational attainment, opportunity, etc.
All too often, there is a greater focus on scoring a political victory over the other side, than working together for the betterment of the Community. We won’t always agree on strategies or tactics, but we need more often to seek agreement on goals and objectives, and work from there—together, with our differences.
We cannot have only some of our neighbors fully engaged in our growing, succeeding Community. We cannot have neighbors who live a decade or more less than others, largely due to the zip code for the area where they reside. We cannot have neighbors who have less access to education, employment, or opportunity due to their race, physical ability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. For us as a Community to truly succeed, every one of our residents, businesses, households, and neighborhoods must have the same opportunity to try to succeed.
Evidence-Based and Measured
To build a more just, equitable, and resilient future, we must work with facts (they do exist!) and use evidence-based solutions that have proven to work elsewhere in communities facing similar challenges or presented with comparable opportunities. We must regularly measure what we are seeking to achieve or overcome, and adjust accordingly when we see our efforts falling short. Only with intention will meaningful change be achieved.
What is needed next is agreement that we need to work together to make ourselves, our neighbors, and our Community more resilient, better off than we are currently, and that we will work within the boundaries of facts and evidence. If we can do this, we just may be a part of building a better new normal, and that is a next worth working toward!
-- Bob Cowell
Posted to Roanoke Recap by Melinda Mayo
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