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January 2, 2018 > Editorial: Auld Lang Syne

Editorial: Auld Lang Syne

Scottish poet Robert Burns, provided the ultimate toast of the New Year with his famous poem, known primarily in its melodic version, often sung as the clock strikes midnight on the cusp of January. Lyrics, described as Òan old song of the olden times,Ó collected by the Scottish poet and submitted to the Scottish Musical Museum in 1788, expressed remembrance of the past, recognizing an inevitable arrival of the future.

Translated as "old long since", "long, long ago", "days gone by" or "old times", it doesnÕt necessarily welcome the new year, rather toast the past and remind us of friendships and common experiences that bind us. A review of the past year in local politics can also give pause to honor the past and remember not only the foibles but also the diligence and work required of good representation by elected officials and staff.

Without the gratuitous Òthank youÓ given at council meetings to almost every staff report, it is important to recognize the time and effort given by all in local government to further the common good. Performance reviews of all staff including department heads and top management has hopefully been an exercise of constructive criticism that reveals not only strengths, but exposes weaknesses and areas of concern to create more cohesive and sustainable organizations. When compliments are gratuitous and vapid, little is accomplished and evaluations lose their value. But assessments of past actions, if balanced, can become a solid foundation for future growth and prosperity.

With that in mind, the last year has seen significant growth and change in the Southeast Bay Area. Gaining in notoriety and perceived importance to the health of the Bay Area and the State of California, it is apparent that growth of industry and population in our area not only brings economic advantages, but adverse impacts as well. The gold rush of exorbitant housing costs filling city coffers is offset by the woes of urban crowding Ð traffic, frustration, crime Ð as well. With the influx of new workplace opportunities comes the challenge of housing and transportation. Without firm plans to address both issues, our cities will ultimately fail in their responsibility to provide constituents with clean, safe and affordable living spaces.

As election season begins, those in office and others vying for space in the limelight of elected positions should be prepared to respond to challenges of the future with due respect for the past. Too often, vision is firmly fixed on a possible future without adequate respect for its foundation. Communication and transportation corridors are critical elements to allow Òsmart growthÓ minimizing the strain of overcrowding of living spaces and connection with work, recreation and essential services. As each bit of vacant or underutilized land is consumed, how are these issues addressed? Or are solutions simply assumed in the name of progress and hope for future advancements?

For those of us living in the present, future and past loom large since we are asked to deal with both simultaneously. Pointing to a world of driverless, flying cars and whiz-bang technology may ultimately solve some challenges, but conversion takes time and residents need intermediary solutions as well. For instance, modes of transportation may evolve over time, but traffic congestion and safety are contemporary problems. FremontÕs Vision Zero planning has made strides in neighborhood safety by rerouting app-assisted commuters and addressing bicycle safety lanes, but significant zoning changes to accommodate residential development needs to be closely examined for flawed reasoning.

Pressure for more housing Ð affordable (?) and market rate - has skewed regulations and influenced traditional considerations and, at times, common sense. Examples of rampant, barely regulated growth are visible within sight lines and around the state. Will our cities sacrifice their integrity and basic sense of community for a buck here or there? Will our educational systems be prepared and, in turn, prepare us for technological advances while retaining a broad appreciation and understanding of the world around us? Will an emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education obliterate the ÒAÓ (the Arts) and let the STEAM out of our lives?

As we Ð elected officials, staff, businesses and residents Ð grapple with these issues, it is heartening to know that within our communities, a solid foundation exists. Hardened by resolve and fortitude, a significant cadre of citizens give their time and resources to ensure the survival of core values and our true wealth - natural and historical resources, and humanity. Service clubs, a myriad of volunteers, nonprofit organizations and many who donate to them, illuminate the depth of this commitment to ourselves and neighbors. As Burns put itÉ

And theres a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o thine!
And well take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Éwe'll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Happy New Year

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