Hard Candy – Change

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
– C.S. Lewis
Several people have asked me what I thought of the additional volleyball court on Gulfport Beach. Honestly? It seemed like a really stupid idea at the time and I still think it’s still pretty dumb. I like the idea of having the courts located by the Rec Center – that just makes more sense to me – but five of them? Why not build something more of us would use, like a fitness center with a weight room in the Rec Center that police officers and residents could use, or a splash zone for kids?
Nevertheless, I’m not going to stomp my feet and list all the reasons I take issue with turning our waterfront into some sort of volleyball nirvana for the vice mayor, who seems more concerned with having ample court space than he does making sure the men and women who keep the courts in good repair have a affordable health care, but I digress. I don’t support the idea, but I chose not to fight it, because I do support change, and I’m trying – with clearly limited success – to not be the person who naysays any idea with which she disagrees. This is not to say that I think any change is good change – we need to choose our change carefully – just that I won’t throw a tantrum over ideas that weren’t mine, over ones I find perhaps not in the city’s best interest.
It’s hard for a community to evolve, especially a town as passionate as Gulfport. The problem, at its core, is that we all love this little town so much that we have very strong ideas on how to help it. And when we don’t get the way we want, we tend to get even more passionate (some might call it “nasty”, but I’ll stick with “passionate”) about the ideas we didn’t support. It’s no secret that I want to see a boardwalk and Coney-Island style entertainment on Gulfport Beach, complete with a ferris wheel and a merry-go-round, because who are we kidding in thinking anyone with any sense would ever choose Boca Ciega Bay over Fort DeSoto, so why not make our beach into a waterfront carnival?
Aside from Ward Two Councilwoman Christine Brown, though, no one seems to want to jump on my new and improved old-school waterfront. I just know deep in my heart that it’s a great idea. As is the mooring field, a bike overpass across Gulfport Boulevard, a boutique resort at our marina, and outlawing plastic bags at all Gulfport businesses.
And just as much as I know that with every fiber of my being, some of you know, with every fiber of yours, that I am a total idiot.
Change hurts. For those of us with a stake in the beach and the sand and the water, it’s a miserable process. We fear the city will make a misstep and screw up everything about our future, and so we feel we must fight every idea to the death until we get our way.
Which is an excellent way to get nothing accomplished. Stagnation in a changing world is just another form of moving backwards.
Let me seem to switch gears for a moment here. A couple of years ago, council was a contentious group. Lines were clearly: Sam Henderson supporters on one, and on the other, his non-supporters. But then former councilwoman Barbara Banno extended an olive branch, and Sam was the first to grasp it. Very few of us who sat through the “As Gulfport Turns” soap opera every other Tuesday night believed in the durability of the truce, but those two seemed willing to perpetuate the farce, so we played along.
And then a funny thing happened: council meetings started to be less horrible. Things started to get done. We stopped fighting about lawn furniture and started talking about bigger issues. I sat at a meeting where Sam told Barb he appreciated her willingness to meet him halfway on something, and while I don’t remember the issue at hand, I remember the sense of working together.
Maybe it’s our turn now. Let’s stop fighting about every little thing. Let’s stop picking at each other over every volleyball court, or every penny spent for a playground. We have bigger issues: a failing sewer system and an amazing amount of petrochemical runoff meandering into Clam Bayou and Boca Ciega Bay. To me, no two larger issues face the city, but I’m hearing precious little about them from most people.
I’m not saying that we can’t disagree. I can fret that we’re one step from adding a volleyball to the city seal; you can believe my idea of licensing landlords is stupid. But let’s save the fights for the big stuff.
Let’s allow the little change to happen and maybe, just maybe, when it comes time to deal with the big stuff, we’ll have figured out what really matters.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.

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I write. I take pictures. I love my dog. I love Florida. My 2016 book, 'Backroads of Paradise' did really well for the publisher and now I feel a ridiculous amount of pressure to finish the second book.