My good friend recently reminded me of the Dr. Seuss book, Yertle the Turtle; a story of rhymes about a turtle who thinks he is the king of the pond. Yertle demanded the other turtles stack upon each other’s backs to build a tower so that he could sit on top and see for miles and declare himself the King of all that he sees.
“Beg your pardon, King Yertle. I’ve pains in my back and my shoulders and knees. How long must we stand here, Your Majesty, please?
The higher the tower the more Yertle barked, “SILENCE!” at the others and called to make the throne even taller. Then, at the bottom of the heavy stack came a groan from a little turtle named Mack.” Your Majesty, please…I don’t like to complain, but down here below we are feeling great pain. I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, but down at the bottom we, too, should have rights.”
Yertle was a bully, and we all deal with bullies in our lives who want to be King because they believe they are right. Sometimes bullies work behind the scenes, and sometimes they are right in your face and act as if you have 100% responsibility to correct what they feel is wrong. They control through fear. But, when we step back with an open mind and try to see the bigger picture, we can understand why the bully may be short-sighted.
At the end of the story, Mack burped, and the tower tumbled to the ground, and the turtles lived happily once again. I appreciate the way the story illustrates that considering everyone’s needs before making a decision creates a happier community.
Let’s face it, we all have things we want to accomplish, and it is important to recognize that we all have blind spots too. And that’s the value of involving the public in the work of the Board of County Commissioners; because, when we widen our view, we may see things more clearly.
Our Board is regularly faced with making decisions that serve our community of 400,000 people.
Last week the Board voted to remove a portion of a major roadway from a 30-year planning map. The road had been planned for 20-years and right-of-way was systematically acquired over the years to connect the road between two main corridors. I sympathized with the residents who showed up in red shirts and wanted the road removed so that it would not impact their neighborhood. But, I also thought about the others who will now be faced with traffic flowing through their local streets instead of on the main roadway. What about the next generation of people who will wonder why we didn’t better plan for growth?
Look, these red-shirts were not bullies – far from it – but they were only focused on their wants, and closed to the needs of the county at-large and the next generation. And, this is an example of why I encourage the public to get involved in their local government; because, when we have the spirit of being in this together, we achieve sound solutions that are vetted by the people who represent different areas of our community.
Redistricting is another opportunity to get this right.
Yertle missed the early lessons on teamwork, compassion, and community, but I’d like to think he learned these values in the end, albeit the hard way. What is the old proverb? “To do fast, go alone. To go far, go together.”
Misty Servia is a Manatee County Commissioner who represents District 4. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org