Romer: View your ballot through the lens of community resiliency
It is increasingly apparent that regional economic prosperity is linked to an area’s ability to prevent, withstand and quickly recover from major disruptions to its economic base. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic reinforced this, but that is just the most recent reminder. The 9/11 attacks and the Great Recession were also reminders of the need to focus on resiliency.
How exactly do we build resilient communities? Some considerations, adapted from the National Preparedness and Response Science Board’s Community Health Resilience Recommendations are:
- Strengthen — and promote access to — public health, health care, and social services: Strong day-to-day systems can be better leveraged to support health resilience during disasters and emergencies. In capable systems, people know how to access care and are not limited by real or perceived barriers to services.
- Promote health and wellness alongside disaster preparedness: Information and education that involve public health, behavioral health, emergency preparedness and community health resilience interventions can help people face everyday challenges as well as major disruptions or disasters. Optimal levels of physical and psychological health and well-being within the population facilitate the community’s rapid recovery.
- Expand communication and collaboration: Build networks that include social services, behavioral health, community organizations, businesses, academia, at-risk individuals, and faith-based stakeholders in addition to traditional public health, health care, and emergency management partners.
- Engage at-risk individuals and the programs that serve them: Engaging individuals with potential vulnerabilities to take an active part in protecting their health and aiding their community’s resilience strengthens the community as a whole. Assist programs that serve at-risk individuals to develop robust disaster and continuity of operations plans.
- Build social connectedness: People are more empowered to help one another after a major disturbance in communities in which members are regularly involved in each other’s lives. Building social connectedness can be an important emergency preparedness action.
These key points are focused on health but are applicable to larger resiliency efforts. Communities that are resilient are able to minimize and quickly bounce back not only from health pandemics but from disasters such as wildfires or economic downturns making the return to normal life as quickly as possible.
Community resiliency is a much larger effort than any single focus area; it is incumbent on the public sector, private sector, nonprofits, and every individual citizen. How can you help ensure Eagle County and our towns and communities are resilient into the future?
As individuals and as a community, we need the courage to confront challenging issues and take responsibility for our collective future. Courage starts at the ballot box and the act of voting on ballot initiatives and elected officials that embrace resiliency by working to address our affordable housing issues, are focused on early childhood availability and access, push for transportation and transit infrastructure, support air service development efforts, focus on water issues, and in turn, help maintain our high quality of life.
Resilient communities seek to be more competitive by supporting high-quality education systems that address community workforce needs through innovative programming. At the ballot box, we have the ability to vote for town and school district elected officials who will help fight for the tools and resources necessary to lead locally, regionally, nationally and globally.
A community that adapts to change is resilient. But because communities and the challenges we face are dynamic, adaptation is an ongoing process and requires voter engagement at the ballot box. I encourage you to consider voting your ballot through the lens of community resiliency.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.