Wednesday, September 26, 2018
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Straight Talk

Crested Butte News editor Mark Reaman took off for a beach in South Carolina this week, where the heat index is reportedly 103 degrees. That didn’t garner much sympathy around the office, considering the pictures he sent of ocean waves.

To be fair, Reaman has definitely earned himself a week off—even if it did leave me to write the editorial, something I have avoided heretofore. Reporting the news is one thing, but the idea of expressing my opinion in such a public setting has always made me nervous.

This isn’t a surprise, given my personality. I like to avoid conflict at all costs, so why give someone a chance to disagree with me? I was reminded of this last week when the evening entertainment in my house involved taking the Myers-Briggs test, which profiles your personality, and comparing results. (16personalities.com has a nice rendition of the test if you’re curious.)

Under my strengths and weaknesses, my test results clearly said that I take things personally, which leads me to avoid conflict as much as possible. “INFPs will put a great deal of time and energy into trying to align their principles and the criticisms into a middle ground that satisfies everybody,” it read.

If you are like me, then you know how exhausting that is (since it’s impossible) and understand why I’ve avoided the editorial. Profess an opinion about the housing crisis? Or land use? In public? I’ve seen the community debates on Facebook. I’ll save my opinion for the comfort of my living room—and maybe not then.

So faced with the editorial this week, I debated running an extra page of letters and leaving it out. But there’s something else about my personality type that changed my mind. I like to observe—not just what one person says, but the tenor of what’s going on in a room and the emotions underneath what people say.

As a newspaper editor, there are plenty of opportunities to do that, and I had the chance again at last week’s housing meeting hosted by the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce. By all accounts it could have been contentious. With talk circulating of a housing strike on July 4th weekend and many people desperate to find a place to live, emotions understandably run high. And since not everyone is conflict-adverse, the potential for discord was definitely there (heck, even I forget about my dislike of conflict under certain circumstances).

What I saw was a room full of interested, passionate and concerned people who wanted to understand the full breadth of the situation. Some came with ideas and wanted to talk about short-term solutions. And while I definitely heard some emotion on a couple of occasions, what struck me even more was the lack of drama and the candor in the room from both the presenters and those in attendance.

Have you thought about this? 

What about that?

This is where we’re likely headed. 

Instead of conflict, there seemed to be a shared understanding that it was an opportunity to look at the current situation, take stock, and continue to address the issue head-on. That I can definitely get behind. There’s a difference between conflict and being straight with each other, and if there’s a situation that demands straight talk, it’s housing.

It can be easy to get caught up in the drama that is social media. And yes, some community meetings get contentious (sometimes rightfully so).

But my vantage point in public meetings has shown me that our community is about more than drama. We’re also really good at having the honest, tough discussions and looking for ways to find resolution and move forward.

It’s why, even though there is a housing crunch, there are so many housing projects in the works in town and in the county, plus ideas for the future. It’s why people came to the meeting with questions and ideas, not complaints. It’s why they were listened to and got honest responses.

It’s also why, even as we grapple with something like housing, we can also be surprised by announcements like the one that came this week: Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) is dedicating $10 million toward the conservation of the Trampe Ranch.

A lot of people have worked hard for a long time to make and keep those connections with GOCO, and ultimately, the conservation of nearly 6,000 acres of ranchland doesn’t come without a whole lot of honesty and discussion.

Do I know what the answers are to the housing situation? No. Will it be harder for some of us than others, particularly those scrambling to find a place to live? Unfortunately, yes. But I also know that people will keep voicing their concerns and looking for solutions because that’s what I’ve seen happen with so many other issues in town. As a town, we are more than our disagreements.

It seemed worthwhile to take the plunge and write something here, since I can’t take a plunge in the ocean, and to remind all of us that we have what it takes to say what needs to be said.

—Alissa Johnson

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