Remember the old musical Brigadoon? The story involves two American tourists who accidentally discover a mysterious Scottish village called Brigadoon. The village appears for only one day every century. It’s locked in time—beautiful and safe. The problem is there is no place like Brigadoon— hidden, perfect and safe.
Grand Island sure isn’t Brigadoon. In the last month alone we’ve had several scary incidents, like the break-in where powerful weapons were allegedly stolen and used to attempt crimes in Buffalo. And then there was the confused young man who allegedly threatened a Sherriff, not to mention the heroine epidemic. Both the aforementioned crimes, by the way, were committed by Grand Island boys—born and raised; exporting crime to the city. Yes, sadly, Grand Island is beautiful and special, but not perfect. And I’m pretty darn sure it never was.
Were the good old days really that good?
The past that we are often sentimental about never really existed. I saw a film advertisement recently for a time traveling movie. In the ad an African American man says something to the effect, “Why would I would want to go back in time? I’m black.” The point being, of course, that being overly nostalgic about some distant time only works depending on who you are or how willing you are to close your eyes to the details of the era you are longing for.
We often hear about the “greatest generation.” But part of the reason that generation was so “great,” is because they lived through hell. In the 30s and 40s unemployment in the United States was at times flirting with 50%. Between farm failures and the dust bowl, we were on the verge of a national famine. And beyond all these domestic problems, dark forces were rising internationally. Hitler was growing in power, and Imperial Japan was colonizing Asia. All this led to the worst war the world has ever seen.
Doesn't sound so great, huh? And we can look at any era or time and do a similar exercise. My point is there really is no such thing as the good old days. Every time has its challenges and opportunities.
I am determined to not let ‘what might have been’ be our future story.
I visited River Lea at Beaver Island State Park recently for a private tour. A woman who volunteers there, (whose Father was a Town Supervisor), shared with me many beautiful stories about the Island. One thing she said made a particularly strong impact on me. When she said it, I could feel the words burning into my soul with permanence. Looking at me directly she said, “Grand Island’s story is too often the story of what might have been.”
I am determined that the West River Bike Path not be yet another “what might have been”. I did not grow up on West River Road. But I used to walk there. My mom and Dad used to go on dates driving along the very parkway that I’m hoping the State closes. I had a man call me the other day very distressed that the parkway might close. He said, “Nate, you don’t know what it was like. We used to lay on the parkway and watch the stars. I drove all the girls I ever dated up and down that parkway. Where were you? You weren’t here!”
He’s right. I was not here. But I have made Grand Island my home. I chose it. And you chose me. And I have a duty to prepare Grand Island for what’s next, rather than working to preserve what's been lost. I cannot and will not allow Grand Island miss out the next set of opportunities.
Despite resistance, our future remains bright
These are the "dog days" of summer. It's a time marked by the rise of the Dog Star Sirius, which the ancients believed afflicted mankind with hysterics and frenzies. Has there been some seasonal madness on Grand island? Yes. But make no mistake, from supporting local agriculture, to the roundabout upgrade, to term limits, we are getting things done--quickly. I will not quit on getting a multi-use path along the waterfront. Nor will I quit on helping next generation technology companies invest here or working to complete a Master Plan that will prevent things like unwanted monster-sized apartment complexes. Plus, I'm making finding solutions to combat drug abuse (though a community center, etc) a top priority, and the board has my back.
Right now is the best time for Buffalo since Grover Cleveland swam at Beaver Island. It seems almost every week, some national newspaper or travel magazine is writing about Buffalo being this rediscovered gem of a city. Today, Buffalo is sort of the Pabst Blue Ribbon of medium-sized cities—lost but found, old school cool. But if we want to be more than a fad, we need to make Buffalo’s resurgence a regional story. We need to make Grand Island a place our kids want to be and stay and a place that people (yes, outsiders) want to visit. It also has to be a place where our golden generation can stay and thrive!
You can curse me if you'd like. But I'm fighting for you Grand Island. This time, the story will not be about what might have been or what was. Instead, it's about what will be.
With highest regards,