To help out a fellow reader, I asked you for examples of local governments that act in an Idea Friendly way. Y’all came through with some good examples and even a list of principles that any local government could use.
If you’re facing some challenges with your local government, you’ll want to read these stories!
Dublin, Texas – volunteer reviving the local airport
Ask for small things, never broadcast disagreements
Hello from Dublin, TX!
I’m serving as the volunteer airport manager for our town. When I took on the task of trying to revive our airport that had been neglected for 15 years give or take, we really had to start thinking out of the box. Without some budget line items set up in advance (as in years in advance), there’s nothing to fund the operation.
So I asked if I could simply set up my computer software business out in the little building out at the airport. [Notice how he didn’t ask for a million dollars first. Take Small Steps! –Becky] The city was enthusiastic to let me try. Since then, we’ve become the first airport in Texas to offer Swift Fuel unleaded avgas, we’ve established an annual gyro fly-in during St. Patrick’s Day, we’ve had the first Light Sport Aircraft Expo in our region, and we’re starting to add merchandise to sell. Plus, Dublin Bottling Works helps us keep a stock of sodas, making sure that every pilot and passenger that lands at our airport has the opportunity to get a taste of Dublin for free!
Other things that happened after we started: a small refrigerator was donated, an L-shaped leather couch was donated, and many man hours have been donated to get the airport running again. All because the city said yes.
The city provided an old police car as a loaner car for pilots who need to get around town after they arrived. This is standard practice in municipalities that are larger, so it’s certainly not unprecedented. But for the town to be eager to think like that is super valuable!
Idea-friendly at the government level is not going to be about funding. Arguing over who gets everyone’s money is the purpose of the procedures we have in place. But when the townspeople want to do something to make the town a better place, the city has no say outside of ordinances.
Sometimes, we have to be smart about it – in the case of the artwork story, somebody needs to allow it to be placed in a parking lot or some other property they own personally. If the city comes up with an ordinance to prevent it, the artwork gets set outside the city limits until that issue is resolved (preferably at the town’s busiest border). It’s still beautiful, people will still stop, and they will still visit the town. And when they ask why it’s not in the city, we can simply let them know that we’re working things through the proper channels, but we wanted to show this piece immediately, and get the word out. And the townspeople doing it anyway will make the conversation continue.
HINT: Never broadcast your internal disagreements! That’s private family business. Speak well of those who really think they’re doing what’s best for everyone. Everyone who visits will understand the speed of government.
There’s always a way.
Thanks for all you do for small towns. We’re all out here listening and learning!
Dublin TX Municipal Airport (9F0)
Superior, Arizona – overcoming internal conflicts
10 rules Town Hall uses now
We love following your blog and videos here in Superior, AZ. Our community is small, 3,068 residents, less than two square miles. We have many challenges and have had all sorts of internal conflicts. You can do a Google search about some of our issues, we are an example of how any community can overcome those conflicts.
In 2016, an election took place and soon after that election we convened a community retreat with our Town Council, School Board, Chamber of Commerce and our newly formed nonprofit Rebuild Superior Inc. The focus of the discussion, how could we all work together to build our community.
We wanted to share some of our ideas with your readers on how we have stayed idea friendly. This is mostly an attitude and philosophy but has proven to be helpful for our success. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to dream big and communicate as often as you can with everyone.
We had two issues we wanted to tackle up front. Blight and Youth retention. We did not have a huge budget for either special program but we committed $10,000 for blight and $5,000 for a Youth Leadership program. It was a start, and both programs are making significant impact. We also did not over study either program.
Here’s our Top Ten rules on how we try to run things from inside Town Hall.
- Always keep an open door and be willing to help individual citizens solve their problems.
- Support community giving organizations through non-financial means, such as using the influence of Town leadership to support events.
- Make town facilities available and optimized for community programs as cheaply as possible.
- Participate in and honor the contributions of community organizations.
- Always be willing to do what you can (within the rules) for your fellow man.
- When you find an ordinance or policy that is unfair, don’t be afraid to change it.
- Look for ways you can work with other groups and individuals for positive change.
- Be willing to take a back seat to others ideas, do not insist on complete control and be open to putting time and resources behind those ideas.
- Insist that all code and zoning reviews are completed in a timely manner, with no backlogs or waiting lists. This makes expedited permits unnecessary.
- Look for ways to say yes. Things that are impossible as written may be possible with a simple change of approach. Know the code well enough to be able to navigate the customer through that process
Keep up the great work that you are doing. Thanks for the inspirations.
Bruce County, Ontario, Canada – County gov example
Supporting all their downtowns, local entrepreneurs
Please check the county government projects “Spruce The Bruce” and “Business To Bruce“ for Bruce County in Ontario, Canada. I have been fortunate to be able to participate in the workshops and committees (yup, we have some!) over the past ten years.
Last month, an entrepreneurial friend and I in Southampton contacted the owners of a shop that had been for sale for almost a year to ask to rent the store for a month. (Tiny, together, temporary…) They agreed and we have had 4 days open so far. We have upcycled items, “elegant, rustic, practical and whimsical”.
We have had very positive comments from the building owners, the community and the dozens of people wanting to downsize to move to smaller homes (retirement/tourism, lakeside area). At least two others are considering opening a consignment shop and we are collecting the names and contact info for those who ask. Some folks are even giving us stuff to sell!!
Thank goodness ideas are contagious and there are some terrific supporters on the main street. Partly due to the County staff who are insightful and committed to change and ideas; who gathered their crowd, and did lots of the things you are promoting. IT WORKS.
All the best for a great Christmas season and keep up the good work
Southampton, Ontario, Canada
Pullman, Washington – how one city council member thinks
Here’s an example I want to share. Brandon Chapman is a city council member I met in Pullman, Washington. He shared this story about a downtown mural project in his newsletter. (Yes, a city council member publishes a newsletter. It’s awesome!)
Read Brandon’s downtown mural story, and watch for all the Idea Friendly principles he uses.
Why can’t our town have people like this??
Feeling inspired? Maybe just a little jealous of these towns with their Idea Friendly local government people? It’s understandable. All you can do is be your best Idea Friendly self. Gather Your Crowd, Build Connections, and Take Small Steps. You’ll get there together.
Keep shaping the future of your town,
PS – Did you know we set a regular schedule for our videos? Every month, a new one comes out on the 1st and is available through the 15th. This will make your watch parties much easier to schedule! Here’s the latest one: Seeing the Small Town Future