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Grade your very own community report card
Mankind has become so much one family that we cannot insure our own prosperity except by insuring that of everyone else. If you wish to be happy yourself, you must resign yourself to seeing others also happy.
The Science to Save Us from Science
The New York Times Magazine (March 19, 1950)
Port Townsend s local newspaper publisher, Scott Wilson, runs one of the best community newspapers in the state. He is also a personal friend so a plug like that is worth at least a pitcher of beer.
When schools opened this year, Scott used that annual event to set up a Community Report Card, with the idea of letting folks measure how they think their community is doing in the learning area, whether or not there is an advance in knowledge, understanding and abilities. While all of the topics that were put forward for grading dont apply directly to our community, many do.
Here are a selected set, with permission from Scott and the Port Townsend Leader, for republishing them as they appeared in the Leaders Sept. 5, 2007, edition.
Noting our successes
Are we getting better at recognizing the many successes achieved in our neighborhoods and communities every week? Do we take the time to thank those who toil to make this a better place? Do we highlight the achievements, the milestones? How many times does each of us congratulate someone each week? Is that number rising or falling?
In addressing problems, do we come up with constructive approaches that minimize the blame and maximize the search for solutions? Do the complainers simply lay out the dirty laundry or do they also suggest ways to make things better? What percentage of our complaints is accompanied by a solution or an offer to get involved? Is it rising or falling?
Expanding jobs, growing pay
Is our local economy and the opportunities represented by it growing? Are our existing local businesses adding a job or two each year? Are our job totals from gradual local business growth rising or falling? Is our average wage rising or stalled? Do residents make an effort to find what they need locally before looking outside the community? Is the number of times you look locally each week rising or falling? Do we welcome the arrival of the right kind of new business? Do we search for it? What is our standard of a right fit? How many times a year does a decision-maker actually come here to consider a move? Is that number rising or falling?
Are we more excited or less excited about what is happening in our public schools? Do school officials spend most of their time engaged in opening minds or most of their time in crowd control and handling miscreants? In what direction is that balance shifting? Are our kids challenged or getting by? Are the enrollments in alternative programs growing or declining? On the adult education front, are the numbers of classes offered locally growing or shrinking? Are there more or fewer vocational courses? Are there more adult learners staying or going?
Are our average wages and average home prices moving toward each other? Are homes becoming more affordable or less affordable over time? If the market is inexorably pushing them apart, are our government agencies or nonprofits offering real solutions putting people into affordable homes? [Here we would insert a question: Are financial institutions moving away from failed mortgage financing options toward still effective yet sustainable options for accomplishing home ownership?] How many new homes are there each year for people who otherwise cant afford one? How many minutes are our local government officials spending to research and discuss this issue each year? Is that time increasing or shrinking?
Are our elders well cared for? Are they happy? Are their lives rich and getting richer? Or do they feel pushed aside? Do they have more of a voice or less of a voice? Do our disabled, our extreme poor, our helpless get the help they need? When the truly desperate need help, do they get it or do they get the final runaround?
Do young people feel more appreciated here or less? Do more come to forums to discuss local problems or do more stay away? Are there more people younger than 32 on committees or boards or advisory groups, or fewer? Are there more venues for the young, or fewer? Do they have a greater stake or a shrinking one? Are a higher percentage choosing to stay or to go?
Are there more opportunities for more people to express their creativity and create their expressions, or fewer? Are you hearing more poetry in the course of a year, or less? Is your ration of TV time to reading time moving in the right direction or the wrong? Is the library checking out more books or fewer? How many learn to play a fiddle or piano each year? Are local audiences for live events growing or are we shrinking into the flickering blue light of television sets?
Scott goes on to write that the guidelines are easy to say and hard to track. They are certainly a combination of empirical and subjective evidence. The Leaders report card was ungraded by them. We have taken a shot at grading this one and will publish our results next week. Mark your own grades here, then see if you agree or disagree with ours.
To contact a member of The Marysville Globe/Arlington Times editorial board Kris Passey or Scott Frank e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.