Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Proud Of My Town After Popeye's Spinach

I am so proud of my town right now I could just bust.
There was a time when I felt the complete opposite.
I used to joke that the official bird of Mesquite was the ostrich, because so many of its citizens insisted in hiding their head in the sand, pretending everything was not only quite hunky but extremely dory.
Then in 2007, a large contingent of locals made a stand and joined together to protest the treatment of the Boy Scouts and their door-to-door canned food drive, which the city government at that time had banned with one of their idiotic new anti-business rules.
When the people showed up at the city council meeting with bags of canned goods in a "silent protest," they were stripped of their protest food at the door, muzzled by the mayor, and humiliated by the council for daring to speak out.
It was a long time before the people of Mesquite joined together again to take on the "powers that be." 
But with incredible courage, they did exactly that.
It started in 2010, when the corrupt and broken Virgin Valley Water District leadership was dismantled and replaced.
The people of this city came together again in 2011 and spoke in a united voice that rumbled with thunder and authority.  Not only did they throw out the offensive mayor, they served back a little of the 2007 humiliation when she received only 19 percent of the vote and was bounced from office during the city primaries.
Since then, it's as if the people of this community have reawakened, ripped open a can of Popeye's mythical spinach, and become energized by their own collective strength.
During the last two weeks, that vigor has been electric.
It begins with the outrage over the Overton Power District's proposed four percent rate increase.  Instead of just rolling over and accepting this most recent gouge, which has been the modus operandi of this community with every rate hike and new fee imposed by the city, the water district, and the power district over the last 10 years, the people have erupted in anger and protest.
A couple of weeks ago, people were lining up at a city council meeting to denounce the increase and demand that the Overton Power District hold a public hearing where people could speak their mind about this rail job.
A few days after that emotionally charged outpouring, the autonomous OPD board finally capitulated and agreed to hold that hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Mesquite Council Chamber.  It's the first time in years the OPD has agreed to hold a meeting in Mesquite, instead habitually opting for the quieter and safely remote confines of their offices in Overton.
No matter how the issue turns out, it is a proud day for this community, because the people spoke up and insisted on being heard.
It's an even prouder day because the Mesquite City Council listened, and has taken the lead in doing the people's will and pushing back against OPD's move.
Then in the same week, news broke about the proposed plan by Mesa View Regional Hospital to close their labor and delivery department.  It would mean that mothers would no longer be able to have their babies delivered locally, and would have to brave a trip through The Gorge while in the throes of labor to have their children in St. George.  It is a slap in the face to the people of Mesquite who begged for and have supported this for-high-profit medical facility.  It's also a dastardly attempt to engender class warfare by pretending that the hospital needs to close the labor and delivery department used by young families in order to pursue an oncology department for the town's senior population.  The truth is that it doesn't have to be an "either/or" proposition.
Instead of just "taking it," which is the way it used to be done in Mesquite, a large contingent of angry citizens are standing up and shouting "no!" 
Best of all, this vocal and angry group is being led by local mothers, usually the quietest and least political segment of any population.
Within days of the announcement, a new Facebook group of protesters has swelled to more than 600 members.  And they aren't just complaining online.  The group has mobilized, printed T-shirts, distributed thousands of flyers, and has made solid plans to make a limited but visible appearance at tonight's city council meeting, and promises to make a much bigger showing in a few weeks when the council tackles the issue of signing off on the hospital's plan.
The message is clear, and I couldn't be prouder of my community:
Mesquite has found its voice, and its citizens will no longer sit idly by while corrupt elected officials and soulless, distant corporations make their nefarious plans to abuse and run roughshod over the people of this community.
We are no longer ostriches.  We are no longer sheep.
We are the people of Mesquite.  And we will not go quietly into that good night.

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