Dismayed by the name-calling that is starting over Gold Rush Ranch, I thought I ought to weigh in on the side of civility and respect. Below is the text of an item I sent the Amador Ledger-Dispatch, shown as published online.
Recent letters to the editor and op-ed columns are a good reminder of how passionately people feel about the Gold Rush Ranch Resort proposal. Some think the project is too big, too destructive and too costly for Sutter Creek. Others think that Gold Rush is the best solution for a range of challenges facing the town and its businesses. I have friends in both camps.
The disagreement is a reminder that good people can and do come to very different conclusions about important local issues. That's normal and healthy provided it leads to civil and respectful debate. But when the disagreement turns into personal attacks, it's not good for Sutter Creek or the larger community. We are too small to allow issues like this to divide us so dramatically.
Everyone involved in this discussion has legitimate concerns. The individuals, groups and public agencies concerned about Gold Rush are worried about public safety, fiscal accountability, habitat destruction, overcrowded schools, sprawl, jammed intersections, air quality and more. Gold Rush supporters are concerned about downtown business, local recreation and city wastewater facilities. All of these issues matter. And we all want Sutter Creek and Amador County to stay a wonderful place to live, do business, work and retire.
If we remember that we share common goals and treat each other with civility and respect, we can move through and beyond Gold Rush Ranch to build a stronger community, one more capable of constructively addressing challenges and solving problems. But if the conflict deteriorates into stone throwing and name calling, all of us will lose, regardless of the ultimate outcome.
Instead, we can try to understand each others' points of view, focus on the facts about the project as determined by independent analysts and follow a key principle of win-win negotiating: Be hard on the problem and soft on the people. We may never agree on Gold Rush. But we can disagree in a way that preserves the sense of community that is the ultimate expression of our local quality of life. In my opinion, that's the true path to a successful and prosperous future for Sutter Creek.