A penny is change!

The New Yorker has a great article this week called Social Animal in the annals of Psychology section. In it the author postures for a “Composure Class.” The Composure Class in America, he suggests, is not so much about money and connections, as about ideology and open-mindedness. And what baffles “trend analysts” is that this class of people are not judged so much on intelligence, academic performance, prestigious schools, or outstanding accomplishments, but more on traits in humans that are not taught no matter how high the tuition at the school they attend. The attributes of the Composure Class are: “the ability to understand and inspire people; to read situations and discern underlying patterns; to build trusting relationships; to recognize and correct one’s shortcomings; and to imagine alternative futures.” (pp. 26, Jan 17, 2011). The author concludes a remarkable journey through research about the human bio/psycho/social landscape by saying, “Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through us covertly very day and year.”

I aspire to be in the Composure class!

Yesterday I had a marvelous experience of feeling information and affection flowing. I work with amazing men and women whose goals are “best practices,” innovation, and education at the highest level. I am blessed to work for such stellar organizations and such amazing individuals. From developing a start-up cable network for the health industry to starting a museum, to working with media artists, my days are rich and vibrant (when I remind myself it’s not all just for a buck).

I am coveting, after being bullied and attacked online by my antagonist for over a week, my desire to openly share information and affection. Going out on a limb here, it would seem that the words of one penny may have the ability to assist in creating civility in a small town. And that civility was really the result of nothing more than reading situations, and imagining an alternative future to tomorrow. It is about the re-positioning of the discussion of “extremism” in our country. Most hopefully, it was a result of local people listening and absorbing, and understanding Obama’s words for the future of America last week. I’ll take either one– the fat middle-aged jersey housewife’s blog or Obama’s speech; either one as long as a shift to civility occurs. Wow. Feel my high.

So let’s get down to this chapter’s nitty gritty– the specific practical details of the next phase of utopia building. There are 5 issues that need to be addressed as a result of my laptop notes. But In an attempt to be shorter winded, in my long-winded way, I will present one issue today. Recycling, appointments of all men, lawsuits, and the intensity of solar, etc., will have to be each their own entry to pay each critical topic enough attention.

In their utopia, we have a new DPW building and a new recreation facility, in the coming two years. Wow- both those are pricey, ambitious, and a possible tax hike. Just take a look at Allamuchy right now trying to cope with the capital investment they made in their fire station (a stunningly beautiful building) but a building that is strapping the community and dividing the community. But hey even knowing that, I can get on board with bigger and better. I am impressed that these initiatives are being discussed relative to the hiring of a grant writing team. Cool! Progress! I can endorse both these development trends; but here are the conditions that run parallel with support for these big brash initiatives:

1)      New facilities must be completely self-sustaining and “green” and high-performing (since we know what solar is selling for, for the next 15 years in NJ), and run on solar or wind power so that the buildings do not add general operating costs to the township;

2)      Collaborations and partnerships are built in advance of buildings; this is not a “mine” situation but an “ours” situation. A facility use plan, and a busines plan, is generated for both facilities. Let’s think bigger than basketball as the “need” for a new building in our town!

3)      A clear and innovative use is developed for the existing DPW facility in downtown Johnsonburg. How do we think about is old facility as a real opportunity for preserving the character of downtown, and enabling great services and uses for our citizens;

4)      Innovative “income generating” ideas are created with the school and the community as part of construction projects. For instance in Colorado, they have started a program where local farmers and “artisan product makers” can use the “industrial kitchen” at the town school 3 nights a week. For instance, Jan makes lemon curd for sale in markets and specialty stores; Jim makes goat cheese and yogurt, Ginny makes bread. Each participating pays a monthly rental fee to the school, plus an annual fee that assists with cleaning crews, insurance, and general building overhead. But this creates a vibrant local food economy to develop using an industrial inspected kitchen in its unused hours, and creates an innovative funding stream for the school and town/taxes. And so on and so on… there are so many innovative possibilities. Like the townhall field development project, we need to send out a town-wide survey; and be innovative with the “cottage industry” or small business development planning.

Tonight’s conclusion is affected by my husband driving home right now from UPENN/Phily where he attended an all day Canadian Poetics symposium. I am thankful for the attention our town is paying to the road, and paying to the road is felt quite literally with a $11,000 price tag discussed yesterday, because my husband has been travelling home at 10pm many times this week. But let’s layer safety with environmentalism. I went to Frank’s to get a pizza after going to the library (yes I am one of those people who takes a suitcase to the library every week- so ask me if I am getting my tax dollars worth? YES YES YES! sorry- I digress… so anyway, we go to Franks…) and my children and I are gagging in the A&P parking lot. Why? Because of the chemicals that have been applied to the lot. My kids are saying “Mommy what is that terrible smell?” And I respond “it is chemicals I read about it on the Blairstown facebook page, we are walking through a chemical soup to get our pizza. Hurry!” It was horrifically bad. So while I am grateful for the attention to the ice, with salt and chemicals, I am in no doubt that we all will be drinking them in the spring and summer- and for that I am not so appreciative.