This weekend marks the opening of the Twisp Civic Building. It’s a long time in the making to finally cut the ribbon and welcome the employees, elected officials, and citizens back into a community space where the work of civic life can flourish.
Like all public construction projects, this endeavor had its challenges, its detractors and its critics. Many asked, why are we spending so much money on a town office? Couldn’t that money be spent on more important things like the new pool, housing or cheaper water and sewer rates? Why does it have to be so big and grandiose, like a shrine unto itself? Here’s my take on the whys of this building.
First and foremost, government employees deserve to work in a professional and comfortable setting. Let’s face it, government work isn’t the most glamorous, its underappreciated, and largely underpaid. They need to feel dignified by their surroundings and motivated to come to work. Those who dedicate their work day to public service should not be subjected to substandard working environments. Poor lighting, ventilation and cramped offices can kill the morale of a work force. While the old building had its charm, it had reached its lifespan with chronic roof leaks that ultimately threatened the safety and security of documents and equipment. An upgrade was in order.
Second, the new building provides emergency management space that was non-existent previously. Responding to the growing need for better coordination of emergency response, the new space will provide adequate technology and logistical support during wildfires, floods, winter storms and other calamities the world may throw at us. The building also supports the public safety and police more adequately.
The improvements to the building reflect the work of a voluntary committee that has met for nearly a decade, thoughtfully considering the details, the needs, and the costs and benefits. It reflects forethought for the next half a century.
Most importantly, the name imparts an important ideal that seems to be under threat in American democracy and needs to be reinvigorated. Civic duty.
Civic duty means participating in a civil society. It means working towards peaceful coexistence among a diversity of voices and perspectives for the greater good. It means participating in the life of a community beyond a personal gain.
Be it politically, artistically, or physically, citizens are responsible for the betterment and the livability of town. Individually, it means picking up dog poop, shoveling snow off sidewalks, raking leavings, picking up trash, and staying informed and voting. It means joining boards and committees to deliberate how to move policies forward that enable progress.
Those actions can look like advocating for fair housing, limiting night sky lights, requiring new building standards, job creation, or scrutinizing and limiting spending. It means standing against injustice and hate.
Citizens need to participate to make this work meaningful and the civic building offers a place for it to happen. Both inside and outside, the new site has gathering spaces for public speech and meeting places. As the valley grows, more voices will come to the table and Twisp is now well-poised to offer a safe and reliable place to support of the growth of civic life.