3/16/2010 3:13:00 PM Guest column: With Tusayan election over, find common ground
Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Craig Andresen speaks during the incorporation celebration at Sophie's Mexican Restaurant March 9.
By Craig Andresen Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce Executive Direct
It's not easy being stuck in the middle, caught between two sides of a heated debate in which the balance of the future of a community hangs. Not easy at all.
The two sides to which I refer are those in favor of the incorporation of Tusayan and those against it. As the Executive Director of the Grand Canyon Chamber and Visitor's Bureau, a position which requires working with business owners on both sides of the fence, it was necessary to remain publicly neutral and focus on promoting our community and the National Park as a destination for visitors from around the world.
The campaign was hard fought by both sides, each showing courage in their convictions and each taking their message to the voters in various ways.
Democracy, said those in the pro-incorporation faction, was coming to Tusayan on March 9. To me, this meant, in their eyes, the outcome of the vote, should it go their way, would mean democracy had spoken. To me, this is only half right.
Democracy is indeed what we've seen throughout this entire process. Democracy is exactly what allows us, all of us, to seek the outcome we desire through the process. Be it campaigning, holding community meetings and forums, hosting parties, putting up signs, sending information to constituents, Web sites and through social media. Democracy is standing up for what you believe in and doing whatever the laws allow to try and reach your desired outcome. Both sides and the community of Tusayan should be commended for putting democracy on display throughout this arduous process.
Those who campaigned against incorporation were acting in what they believed was in the best interest of Tusayan. Those backing incorporation were acting in what they believed was in the best interest of Tusayan.
The best interest of Tusayan.
Let that be the first piece of common ground from which we all proceed from this point on. Tusayan now has an amazing opportunity. Not just an opportunity for businesses and housing but also an opportunity to show what can be done when two opposing sides come together for the common good.
The county will appoint the first Tusayan town council. Who will be on the initial council is as yet unknown, but that council should provide Tusayan with varying viewpoints, checks and balances and the best opinions on how to proceed. All entities, working toward a common goal, in the best interest of Tusayan, would set an example for others to follow.
The vote to incorporate Tusayan is not the end of the process. In fact, it is only the beginning. There is much to be done in a short span of time. Aesthetic changes in Tusayan will not happen overnight. Yes, our highway, Main Street if you will, is slated for a facelift this summer and yes, the new Western Discovery Museum will appear, but those lay outside the scope of incorporation. Substantive change will only come after zoning, ordinances and guidelines are set by those appointed and later, elected to serve and by the voters of Tusayan.
The best way for this to happen is through mutual respect by all parties. Incorporation opens many paths. Some paths should be taken and some should not but no path can be traveled if the fences of division remain in place.
Now is not the time to call for either the pro or anti incorporation groups to cross to the other side of the fence, now is the time to remove the fences altogether. For too long, Tusayan has been a community of businesses divided over what should or should not be done. Now, we have the opportunity to become a town of people working together to show what can be done.
There are good people in Tusayan. Good people who have represented both sides in this process. These are people who, in the past, have worked together on many important projects. They have built a fire district and a water district here of which we can all be proud. They have created businesses, worked on bringing shuttle service to and from the national park, produced a plan for street improvements and created community events. These are pieces of a framework on which to build because they have done these things together.
Hard feelings, finger pointing, accusations and those divisive fences, produced by both sides, should all be buried in a hole as deep as the Canyon itself. The good people of Tusayan can do just that. Together, we stand at the path of opportunity, the opportunity to be better than we've been, more than we've been and stronger than we've been. This path will have hills and valleys but if the people of Tusayan choose to work as a team, pulling each other up those hills and bridging those valleys, we can accomplish great things.
The Grand Canyon Chamber and Visitor's Bureau, respectful of the outcome of this election and respectful of those on both sides of this important issue, stands ready to assist in any way possible as we transition from a community into an actual town. The election and its outcome, to incorporate, will become a dot on the historic timeline of Tusayan. It's what we choose to do from that point in time forward that will define us as a town.
The list of people who showed what could be done at the Grand Canyon is long. The native Americans who found ways of living here thousands of years ago, John Wesley Powell who led the first expedition to chart the Colorado river, the brothers Kolb who took the Canyon to the world and those who founded our very community. Now it's our turn to show what we can do and we should do it together, on that first piece of common ground, acting as one, in the best interest of Tusayan.