Erickson: Let's forget labels, start listening

  • Shelly Erickson

I enjoy taking phone polls. I enjoy answering the questions, and not answering the boxes the poll tries to fit me in. For example, when I am asked for my race I have to answer “American,” because that is what I am. I am an Alaskan. I am a Homerite, a resident of 99603.

Labeling a person by political, religious, racial, from a different state, or whatever our label is, will make us unwittingly judge someone. When we judge, we quit listening. We don’t hear the thought process that brings us to healthy conversations, the middle from extremes, or the right to change our minds about issues. Sometimes we find that the label is completely misrepresented by the media and other people.

Oftentimes if we listen we find we both agree about the outcome, we just get to that outcome different ways. That is not necessarily wrong. People, who have experience or are experts in areas from actually doing the work, will see things through a different lens than those that just have the theory. We have to have both for creative solutions in hard financial times.

In this time of economic stress on our community, we must put down the labels and freely listen to each other. We can expect that we won’t all agree about the process, but if we take the time to listen, I believe we can come to decisions to help us weather the unpredictable economic time we are in. Not only that, we might create friendships that will last for a lifetime that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

As I have been contemplating my answers to questions, I have been reflecting on my childhood on Kachemak Bay, my kid’s world, and my grandchildren’s. I am thankful for those who have preserved the land, who worked to keep the trails open to the backcountry that we all enjoy on either side of the bay. For those that are preserving properties in the world that quickly fills up with buildings, because “land is cheap.”

I appreciate the farming, ranching and fishing that allow us to be more self-sufficient. How the marine industry has been growing, and providing jobs year round. We have contractors that are creating beautiful buildings and artists that enhance our visual perception of our world. I am thankful for the people that have worked hard and sacrificed to provide the goods and services that keep our town moving forward.

Our tourism community has put us on the map. We are a great destination. We can be proud of our work together as a community.

I am thankful for the people who pushed through the hard times when I was growing up here to get to where we are today.

Through my time on the planning commission there are issues that I would like to see us address for the future. They will take us working together in an effort to ensure safety and wellbeing for our neighbors.

I would like to see the water shed area, which is our only source of water, be either purchased by the city, put in a land trust or get grants to buy the uninhabited parcels of land that has such stringent rules associated with it to preserve our water. The people, who bought the land before it became the watershed, have not been able to use it like they intended but pay taxes. They need to be given a way to pass it on to conservation without penalty. Those that already live in the watershed should be able to use their land as others can in other parts of our city.

I would like to see the churches or other non-profits able to have places of refuge for short-term homeless people. I realize that there issues involved with the homeless, but it would give us a way to care for a segment of our community that needs shelter in the winter without the city itself carrying the burden.

The harbor expansion is vital to developing the port. I believe that we need to push ahead with this project and use the asset that the Spit is to enhance our town with long-range economic stability. We need the infrastructure to bring freight into Homer as an alternative to other ports.

I look forward to the future and being a part of the great things that Homer has to offer. To see a community that rallies together for the good of the future generations.

Let’s listen, learn and work together. Great things will happen if we do.

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