Monday, June 27, 2011

My love/hate relationship with Gilbert

I've been doing Daily Challenge thing for several months now. It's ok. Basically you get a small "challenge" to accomplish each day. The idea is each small change will lead to bigger, positive changes in your life. I've learned a few things along the way, but it's certainly not life changing for me. Just a fun thing to do.

This one really happened to get me thinking:

Connect to your community and learn one bit of trivia about your city or town.

How to do it

Type the name of where you live (city or town, state/province) and the word "history" into your Internet browser's search engine. Then take a step back in time and learn one bit of trivia about the place you live.

Why it matters

As people move from place to place, they shed attachments to communities. Knowing a bit about the history of your community will increase your bonds to it and help you feel more connected to your neighbors. It may even help you feel more civically engaged the next time you decide whether or not to take the time to vote on a referendum or attend a town meeting.


I am pretty good about keeping up with what's happening in Gilbert. When an election comes up, my friends are usually asking me what's going on because they aren't paying attention (no, I don't fault them for this. No one cares about politics the way that I do. I'm an odd breed.). I was hoping to find something interesting in the Town's past. Turns out the most exciting thing was "once the Hay capitol of the world."

All righty then. As for other stats listed, it's like any affluent suburb. White, high income, family-centered and a whole lot of churches. Honestly, had I had the interest in politics in 1999 that I do now, we might not have ended up settling down here. But we are here now, and I can't deny that I love my home and the life-long friends I've made, and am always thankful we have the space we do to raise the kids. I definitely grew up with much less. So I've been thinking about what I love and do not really love about Gilbert. Let's start with what I don't like.

Lack of diversity. I know, I know, I live in a middle to upper class suburb. I can only ask for so much. But honestly, my kids get more diversity in thought and people in both of their schools then in their neighborhood. They go to school in Mesa, btw. Not to say Gilbert schools are bad. The Gilbert school district is one of the best in the valley.

Conservative government. Duh, like you didn't see this coming? However, when you know you can't sway voters to consider that perhaps running a town like a business is not a good move, it's kind of fun to watch conservatives duke it out with each other using pretty much the same ideology. They can be pretty nasty though, as we found out during our last Town election. Though this time it took a turn backwards and became even more childish. Hand-written signs on the corners, really Gilbert residents? The median income is $90,000, and you can't have a sign made? Or at least better handwriting?

Religion rules. The next time you are driving on Greenfield Road, count the churches. I certainly haven't done any sort of serious survey, but I don't think I've ever seen as many churches crammed in a town the way they are in Gilbert. I'm not just talking Mormon, but churches in general. Church isn't separate from state either. The Mormon Temple that will be built a few miles from my house got a special waiver from the Council to add their extra 95ft. steeple. Even more recently, the Town gave over $7,000 to a church to save costs on the Town's 4th of July event. So now the event will be at a church. Yes, they saved money by doing so. Yes, I know that I don't have to attend. I happen to be a fan of separation of church and state, and when money starts being given to a church by a town or city, well that just sets a precedent.

Even my atheist friends acknowledge that it saves money and think I should chill. It's just the principle of the thing that bugs me. It's just accepted as ok, no one even thinks "hey maybe we shouldn't have a Town event at a church". Why not have the church donate and help sponsor the event at a neutral location, like one of the beautiful parks in town? Just a thought. Anyway, that's neither here or there, I know where I live and I am one small voice.

Could you see me running for Town Council? That would be hilarious. The thing is, I don't have strong attachments to places in that way. I care enough about my town to vote and encourage others. I care enough to stay informed about decisions being made, and being vocal about things I don't agree with. That really is about it. Again I know where I live. Only 16% of voters bothered with the last town council election, and they were pretty much the same people who wrote the hand-written angry signs all over town. I prefer working on change in other ways.

Now you're all convinced I'm just another angry, bitter liberal, and a lot of the time I am. However, there are many things I love about Gilbert as well. These are the reasons why, even with all the conservative politics and more churches than Circle K's (I kid), I love this town.

Parks, Trails, Paths. When it isn't as hot as the surface of the sun, there are plenty of places to go and be active. The canal paths are amazing, and I run them all the time. They probably save my life on countless occasions, because I don't trust the drivers in this town at all (stick that on the don't like list- Gilbert drivers SUCK. They do not watch for people on the road, and they think you have no right to be there. I'm sure this is other places in the valley too, but the topic is Gilbert. Write your own post about your town if you'd like.)

My favorite run is to take the canal up towards the Riparian Preserve attached to the library. On cooler days, I feel like I'm not even in AZ, and I love that feeling. You see lots of cool birds too. And you can run through the preserve and around the library too if you like. Same with the other parks. Freestone is the biggest park, but they also have Cosmo park which is a dog park.

For the hotter months of summer, the Gilbert pools have been a life saver, especially when my kids were younger. And I can't leave out the Freestone Rec Center. Rock wall, racquetball courts, pool (the one with the sticks), table tennis, and a RUNNING TRACK. It really kicks other gyms' asses, because there are things the kids can do while you're doing your thing (though the kids do like running the track with me). I'm also giving my money to the Town rather than some private chain, which leads me to the next thing I love about Gilbert.

Local Community. Gilbert is a big place, but it doesn't *feel* like a big place. If you just drive down Gilbert Road from Guadalupe to Ray, you see mostly local mixed in with the bigger chains. In the downtown stretch from Elliot to Warner, it's all local. Just south of Warner across from the Civic Center/police station it's more mainstream, but still mixed with a local flair that makes you forget you're eating at Buffalo Wild Wings. Then you have what I like to call the local trifecta: Joe's BBQ, Liberty Market, and Joe's Farm Grill. There's even a fairly new farmers' market, which gets bigger every week- even during these awful summer months. If you want the big box everything, you can get that too. San Tan Village/Mall now takes care of all the things you used to head to Chandler for, and you're pretty likely to run into someone you know. It happens to me all the time, whether at the grocery store or the movies, and even the gym.

So dear Gilbert, I take your good with your bad. I have to- it's silly and selfish to uproot my family just because I don't agree with the politics. It's a safe place, there are plenty of things to do as a family. Their friends are here (as are mine). It's a test (and at times a challenge) of tolerance to live in a place that I feel could be so much more. I feel that way about Arizona in general, not just my town. However I have to choose my battles, and from a family perspective, the good of Gilbert outweighs the bad.

That doesn't mean I have to be quiet about what I don't agree with. ;-)

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