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We all know that the bottom line in what really counts in building strong communities is … the people. Committed citizens can pull together and make just about any place better.
It helps — as civic consultant Otis White has pointed out — when there are local leaders (including planning commissioners) who can make a difference.
It’s hard to pin down, but there’s a certain “feel in the air” when you’re in a community where people care about each other and about their hometown.
- Maybe it’s that the little things look fresher and better-maintained.
- Maybe it’s that there are people on the street, talking, strolling, and enjoying themselves.
- Maybe it’s that when — as a visitor — you stop someone to ask a question, you can soon find yourself engaged in a conversation.
- Maybe it’s pride in the city or town’s history.
- Maybe it’s that locally owned stores predominate over national chains.
This is not to say these communities don’t have problems, deficiencies, and disputes. (In Bath it’s issues like future replacement of the U.S. 1 viaduct that slices through the town east to west and, of course, the health of Bath Iron Works). But it’s the sense that this community can deal with them.
As I mentioned the other day, Bath’s retired planning director Jim Upham used three words to describe the city: “Bath is real.”
Andrew Deci, the city’s new planning director was talking about something similar when he told us, “the most important thing in Bath is our social capital.”