The Ties That Bind

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Sometimes, we hang by a thread. Sometimes, we’re connected by a thread. Sometimes, it’s the same thread.

This beloved community is full of characters and neighbors and kindly strangers. Never mind the mild summers and the blessed winters and the flowing rivers — it’s the people who make this place a heaven — and a haven.

So many people have fallen on hard times — in Payson, in Rim Country, in our beloved country.

The unemployment rate remains impaled at nearly 10 percent, month after month after month. People who have never needed help, need it now.

Some among us have never ceased laboring on behalf of our neighbors — the least among us, the wounded among us, the broken of body and the sick at heart. But even the best efforts of those precious groups who have always been our weary angels have begun to falter in the face of the great need.

Last year, when St. Vincent de Paul’s food bank faced empty shelves and rising demand, the community rallied. You donated $20,000 and 50,000 pounds of food so that the 40 desperate people a day who have no where else to go to feed their children would not find the shelves bare.

It was wonderful. It is not enough.

St. Vincent de Paul now faces another shortage, as detailed in today’s story. The group has long helped out people facing eviction or electricity cutoffs with small cash donations. Volunteers visit people in their homes, talk to the power company and landlords. The smallest amount of cash can prevent that final fall into homelessness. State and county agencies that do the same thing have run out of money and the need for help has risen perhaps 50 percent.

They’re your neighbors, your children’s friends, and parents who have fallen on hard times — an unemployed roofer, raising his son alone, an older woman, caring for her grandchildren, a man with a bad knee who can’t go back to work in time to pay this month’s rent.

St. Vincent gives away some $113,000 annually, but at one point recently they had just $200 in the bank. They prevent homelessness, foreclosures and job loss.

It’s not just St. Vincent — of course. The Salvation Army, the church-supported Payson Helping Payson and a host of other compassionate, devoted groups are struggling to meet the need.

We hope you will give as much as you possibly can to these groups. They each embody that most precious quality of this community — the connection, the compassion.

A thread’s a frail, fluff of a thing — like a small, individual donation. But weave those small threads together and you have a rope — a life line: The thread by which we hang — and hang together.

Two sides of Democracy

The slow progress of the rezoning of 222 acres included in the airport land exchange offers a fascinating glimpse into how democracy works at the local level — for better and worse.

The council last week approved the first reading of the zone change ordinance, after making a final flurry of changes to satisfy half a dozen people living on Sherwood Drive concerned about how an extension of that street will affect their neighborhood.

On the face of it, that’s reassuring. Even a handful of people willing to show up, articulate their concerns and participate in the process can force real change. Granted, they couldn’t stop the necessary extension, but did win changes to ensure a minimal impact on the peace and quiet they so treasure.

So the system works — if you show up.

Too bad the future residents who will be living under the flight path didn’t show up — not knowing they should have. For instance, early discussions of the land exchange included a big public space. But what could have been a precious park got turned into a buffer strip to placate current residents. The big park is gone.

Moreover, the council accepted a plan that minimized commercial and light industrial zoning. Granted, the landowners wanted the residential zoning, thinking they’d have an easier time selling the land after the torturous 16-year Forest Service land swap process.

But the town council should have considered the economic future of the town, which remains critically short of space to build year-round businesses and industries that will provide the jobs we need to escape our boom-bust tourist addiction. This recession has taught us the perils of remaining a second-home tourist town. The town council has addressed that problem on many fronts, including the Blue Ridge pipeline, repeal of unworkable growth controls and the embrace of the visionary plan to build a college campus here.

But when it came to laying plans for a vital expanse of empty land, the council spent more time on a street extension than the economic future of the town.

But that’s democracy for you. As Winston Churchill observed — it’s the worst system of government in the world ... Except for all the others.

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