Something in the Water

July 18, 2008
Letter to the Editor
Ukiah Daily Journal
by Rick Le Burkien

It's about 11:36 AM on Friday, July 11, 2008. Today I'm at Mendocino Community College in the Little Theater participating in a Water Conference put on by MendoFutures. I am positive this means nothing to any of you. What if I mentioned that the top water leaders in the county were attending, that the outcome was creating actionable, realistic, "can do" Monday morning solutions and everyone is working and making decisions as if the county's good comes before their individual views? I know what you're thinking. This can't be Mendocino County. Well, I am afraid it is. That's right, people are communicating through their differences based on stronger relationships, shared values and operating for the common good. Hey, I just tell them like I see them.

The people attending are the movers and shakers of water. The title and theme for the Conference was, "Water Commons." The term is new to me but I think the definition goes something like this: Citizens of Mendocino County work towards community empowerment to advance alternative thinking and shared use of water along with governance towards a more sustainable and prosperous Mendocino County. Simply put I think it means we're all related. Other important themes heard throughout the conference were flexible, small, resilient, local, community and integrated. Well, that defines us doesn't it? Looks like this old dog is going to have to learn some new tricks.

These participants are people who have dedicated decades of service to building a sustainable place to live and prosper. I could list their names and impressive titles but that wouldn't be appropriate, respectful and not the point. Just know they are the leaders and decision-makers, what I call the "glue people" the connectors. They are the planners, volunteers, community leaders and just people with passion for public service. I have never seen such a group of citizens in one place who love what they do and do what they love. And, what they love is Mendocino County.

This is a group of people where personalities don't overshadow what is really important. Can you imagine? People are actually listening to each other. Ok, you really want to be impressed, no proud? Mendocino County is looking more like a model, progressive, citizen-oriented community. I mean take a look at their operating principles: 1. Our strategies address the changing economic, environmental and social needs of Mendocino County; 2. Utilize a way of communicating through differences based on strong relationships, shared values and common ground; 3. Build on and support the good things, the good works already existing in Mendocino County; 4. The interests of the county come first where when necessary personal interests and biases are set aside for the greater good; 5. Decisions are made based on long term vision and plans; 6. Connect and engage people with divergent ideas; 7. Build a strong coalition through the "glue people" to move forward. Cooperation, respecting differences, setting biases aside for the greater good? This is outrageous, we're not going to stand for this are we? MendoFuture's first conference was titled, "CHANGING THE GAME." It looks like this Mendofuture group is walking their talk. They're even talking about Mendocino County having a "Water Ethic."

I joined MendoFutures because I wanted to help build an entity where decisions could be made where people's personalities were not the focus and the interests of the community came first. Been there, done that. I wanted to be integral to an organization where the talent, commitment and dedication to a higher quality of life in Mendocino County were optimized. I wanted to be part of a group of like minded people who wanted more walk vs. talk in the areas of sustainability and economic development. The reason I am so involved in the water aspect of MendoFutures is that I believe water is at the center of creating solutions for all other initiatives and is actually the "common denominator." We solve our water challenges and everything else falls into place. Just an opinion. I surly could be wrong.

Here's kind of a summary of their outcomes: 1. Create a series of projects throughout the county that will demonstrate the feasibility and practicality of water conservation and storage; 2. Create a series of doable water conservation and storage demonstration projects and; 3. Create increased stakeholder and community involvement.

So, the old Mendocino County way is changing. Same passion, same desire for sustainability and prosperity, same respect and honor of the past and the culture but not the same way of doing business. It's about collaboration and respect. It's about forward and creative thinking. It's about a citizen-based approach. It's about seeing the bigger picture of community and acting on the common good. It's about partnership and it's certainly about time. If you want to become part of the solution email us at Remember the rules of engagement though: 1. Communicate through differences based on relationship and; 2. Put interests of community first for the common good.