If you try, sometimes you get what you need

When the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 (Thornton dissenting) in favor of Mountain Springs’ proposed reduced unit alternative, a number of people said, “Well, we didn’t get everything that we wanted, but neither did they.” That perspective focuses on what was lost and ignores that most folks did in fact get what they needed to agree to the project.

We teach our kids to share early-on based on the principle that sharing is good for them and getting their way all the time isn’t good for them or for others. If we don’t teach these important lessons of restraint and self-sacrifice, they become accustomed to prevailing, don’t play well with others, and get extremely cranky when anything threatens their perceived entitlement. No one likes being around a two-year old in an adult’s body. So we teach our children that selfishness is an unworthy and unacceptable character trait.

But somewhere along the way, we justify that in adulthood it’s a badge of honor to go for and get what we want – the whole pie. We adopt a mind-set in many areas of life that the goal is to win at any cost and if we don’t, a good secondary goal is to make the other side pay in spades. In the process, we totally disregard that often when we get what we want, others’ interests are damaged or denied.

When we operate from a get-what-we-want-at-any-cost, take all the marbles frame of reference, we don’t stop to consider alternatives that might meet multiple needs. We see everything as do or die and in land use decisions, often end up in court appealing unfavorable outcomes or defending our victories to a higher authority.

In the case of Mountain Springs, developer Bill Barrett and his partners did a wise thing. They pulled back from getting all of what they wanted – a larger development – to ask Voters Choice and others opposed to Mountain Springs if there was a way to satisfy their needs and still build a project. Barrett offered to reduce the developers’ share of the pie to increase the share of others.

I don’t know who was more surprised: Voters Choice, the lawyers, the Board and county staff, or the community. Ultimately, developers and opponents arrived at something they did support and together asked the Board of Supervisors to approve. And that’s a very good thing.

Mountain Springs has been a divisive project for years. When I ran for office, many wanted to know how I would vote – pro or con. Because the Board of Supervisors has long been regarded as the chief pie-divider, both sides wanted assurance that I would vote for them to have full possession of the pie.

To the surprise of both sides, I was an advocate for sharing the pie, for looking for ways to make it bigger (exploring other options), and for making sure that both sides got what they needed, if not what they wanted. I was and am for demonstrating to our children that there is honor in consensus and working to meet mutiple needs and goals.

Not only did the agreement cause each side to take into account the needs of the other side, but it also allowed the community to begin to move past conflict to heal.  It showed our children that we can walk the talk by sharing, playing well together, and looking out for mutual interests.

The Rolling Stones were right on this much: you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you do get what you need.

Kudos to Bill Barrett, his partners, and to Voters Choice and their allies for getting what they need and for allowing others to do the same. Well done.

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