This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, October 27, 1999

October 27, 1999 - Communities that Care Follow-up

Some 70 people showed up on October 15, at the Douglas County: Building Communities that Care community forum. The highlight of the day was Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar's discussion with 12 Douglas County high school students. Salazar was an amazingly sensitive facilitator. Our students were articulate and impressive. It's clear that we should give their views -- and the opportunities to express them -- more attention than we have.

For instance, there was strong consensus among the students that physical security measures do not tend to make young people feel safe. Rather, such measures make them feel like inmates of a prison.

The community forum was the brainchild of Rich Bangs, publisher of the Douglas County News-Press, and had two purposes. First, it sought to raise awareness about the environment in which our youth find themselves. Second, forum planners urged the adoption of a formal model for assessing and improving the communities of Parker, Castle Rock, and Highlands Ranch. (These areas were chosen by broad high school "feeder" area.)

Parker has participated in the Communities that Care model for the past year, allocating Town resources to the task. Castle Rock, to date, has not. Highlands Ranch lacks a municipal government, but members of the Highlands Ranch Community Association, the Metro Districts of Highlands Ranch, and board members of the school district have all shown an interest in the program.

But as one of our presenters made clear, the issue of too many risks and too few supports for our young people touches all of our communities in Douglas County, whether or not community leadership has gotten around to admitting or doing anything about it.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Metro Districts, the News- Press, and the Douglas Public Library District all offered to send interested community members from Castle Rock and Highlands Ranch to leader training in the Communities that Care model. The training will be held in Littleton on November 9, 1999, from 8 to noon. The slots have been filling fast, but if you're interested, call the Metro Districts at 303-791-2710, extension 237, the News- Press at 303-688-3128, or the Douglas Public Library District at 303-688-8752.

Since the October 15, meeting, I find that I've been thinking about our communities in a different way. The defining characteristic of Douglas County in 1999 is growth, meaning the rapid influx of people. But I've come to realize that such growth often overwhelms existing social patterns (in the case of a small town), or finds a void (in the case of a brand new one). The smallest and most durable social unit is the family. But what else is there? Well, there are neighborhoods, and neighborhood associations. On the other hand, when the defining home architectural style involves three car garages, operated by remote control, it can be tough to make a connection to your neighbors.

Other choices include: civic groups, recreation centers, churches, schools, libraries, political parties, and various job associations. But all of these have their drawbacks: sometimes the sheer number of people using them makes it almost impossible to develop a genuine contact.

The more I've thought about this, the more I'm convinced that the most pressing problem of the new millennium will be the balancing act between freedom of speech and action VERSUS the need to belong to an integrated and mutually supportive social web. It's the tension between individualism and the public good, and there's no easy answer. But talking to each other (and reading about it) is a good place to start.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on this newspaper for future developments and coverage.

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