[Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix insert) editorial board] — The gifts have been unwrapped. New year’s wishes have been sent. Holiday decorations have been taken down and put away. OK, maybe that last one has yet to be scratched off the to-do list. But with every new year comes vows to make it better, richer and more enjoyable than the last. With numerous job losses, mortgage foreclosures, and budget cuts in 2009, everyone should want to strive to make this year better. Today, we suggest ways to help our communities in 2010.
- Be a tourist. We are creatures of habit. We dine at the same places, shop at the same stores, and take part in the same weekend activities. Our continued patronage at these spots will be much appreciated. But if we lived a day or a weekend like a tourist instead of a local, what might we see, find, or learn? A visit to a museum or art gallery would open our world to arts and culture. We should treat ourselves to a meal at a special spot or make a purchase at a store. If we expect tourists to come to the Valley, visit these places and spend money, we should be willing to do the same.
- Shop local. We can give city coffers a healthy dose of sales-tax revenues by spending money within our municipal borders. This enables our cities to provide public safety, fill potholes, remove graffiti, rid neighborhoods of green pools, and offer recreational activities. And it keeps people employed, which churns the economy.
- Go green. Park the car and take the bus, light rail, or local trolley. This saves on gas and maintenance costs, and it makes the skies bluer. Plus, taking public transportation is a great way to see the city from a new perspective. Let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the ride.
- Be counted. Fill out the 2010 Census questionnaire. The census helps the federal government determine how to allocate $400 billion to cities to fund services and programs. This includes public safety, parks, libraries and senior centers. Don’t think skipping the census will save the federal government money. Census workers will go to your home or talk to neighbors to gather the information they need. Without an accurate count, the money that should have gone to your city will be diverted to municipalities where residents filled out the questionnaires. Look for your questionnaire in the mail this spring.
- Stay involved. Political shenanigans and extreme budget cuts in 2009 made citizens more aware of governmental operations. Taxpayers must stay connected. Attend council meetings, volunteer in the classroom, and vote for the candidates who will best represent your interests on the city council, school board, and Legislature.
The upside to the struggles in 2009 is a renewed determination to make our communities better. [Note: With the exception of the U.S. Census bullet point, each of the above suggestions is “right out of the playbook” of the Downtown Voices Coalition’s 2004 report, “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown.” Good to see we’re thinking along the same lines!]