Thomas Jefferson said “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” He was referring to the early stages of our nation, no doubt, but there is still plenty of application to that sentiment when we think about our own community in 2019.
The past is not our future here in the city of Tehachapi. The past is not who we are becoming. It’s a respectful remembrance of our core values and the historical efforts that got us here today. The past will certainly not define this city as we address the challenges of the future. These challenges come in many forms, whether it’s the state of California telling us how to build homes, what natural resources we can and can’t use and so forth. The state will not be lowering standards and regulations anytime soon, so, as a city we must decide how to adapt to those standards, push back when necessary or simply learn to embrace the challenges in the most fruitful way possible.
We’ve made many inroads in that sector in the last several years, coming up with creative solutions for water usage, law enforcement, environmental standards, road funding and others areas where the state of California has tightened its belt. Utilizing grant programs to build active transportation projects like sidewalks and bicycle lanes is a prime example of “taking what they give us.” In the process we indirectly benefited property values, school children’s safety on their way to school, opened up recreation opportunities and took care of a few eyesores.
With the demand of meeting modern-day challenges comes the necessity of change, a dirty word for some, often misused to describe the unknown, the uncomfortable and as a safety blanket for the insecure. Change can be burdensome when it’s done to us, when we’re “mandated” by a state or federal law to do something we might not agree with. But on the other side of the coin change can be exhilarating when it’s done by us, with our vision, our benefit and our future in mind.
The dreams of the future are being planned and put into motion today by the team at the city of Tehachapi. We’re aware that this once quiet small town has drawn the attention of potential residents, business owners and the next generation of families who will call this place home.
How do we address that inevitable change? We certainly can’t shut the gates, stop building things and try to go back to the way things “used to be.” Mandates by Gov. Gavin Newsom tell us to meet housing needs or else other funding will be withheld. They say to go through exhaustive environmental processes for the simplest of projects or end up in lengthy court battles. They say “you must, you must, you must…” often without considering the “how” it can actually be done. Those are the issues we address and the problems we solve on a daily basis.
We will continue to navigate the waters of change and be proactive by working toward exceeding our goals and delivering quality projects. Soon we’ll be starting work on the rail safety corridor project, enhancing the safety and quality of the rail crossings downtown, while also installing sidewalks, curbs and fencing along H Street. This grant-funded project helps raise the quality of life for residents on the north side of the railroad tracks and provides safer at grade crossings for motorists, cyclists and pedestrian foot traffic. It’s is expected to be one of the biggest improvements in the history of our Downtown revitalization; it will, in fact, help shape the future.
It's one of many examples of how we continue to look forward in this city, how we work with what we are provided and deliver quality projects that add to the desirability of Tehachapi. Our future depends on this attitude of change, while our past can certainly respect it.
Greg Garrett is Tehachapi's city manager.