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Getting people working together on anything is a positive step. But until each of us really understands that caring and doing more for others and for the community is vital to our own well-being, the current "visioning and design process to shape the future of the Port Washington Peninsula" will result in little of significance.

It is what each of us does in our daily lives that will determine whether the attributes of our unusually talented population are used to turn our hometown into the shining light it can be.

The primary definitions of "vision" include "the act or power of imagination" and "unusual discernment or foresight." These, along with selflessness and the pioneering, "can do" ethic our country was founded on, are the qualities needed to think of, plan and implement a worthy vision for ourselves and for the place (community, state, country, planet) we call our own. Alternatively, we can be sheep.

If we want our local community to be a pioneer and a leader, each of us needs to be a pioneer and a leader in what we do. Here are just a few possibilities to start a real visioning process. Each of you can come up with more and probably better ideas you can act on.

* Stop using chemicals, pesticides and nitrogen-based fertilizer on your lawn and garden. These are a prime source of pollution of our waterways and aquifers. Encourage manufacturers to create alternative, non-polluting substitutes. In the meantime, help make non-perfect lawns into a status symbol. Also use plantings and grasses that require less water.

* Buy a vehicle that uses less fuel and if possible uses renewable, alternate types of fuel. Help make these status symbols also.

* Replace your wasteful incandescent bulbs with mini-fluorescents.

* If you mix cold water with the hot water in your faucets or showers to reach the water temperature you desire, your hot water heater is wasting energy by making your hot water too hot. Adjust your hot water heater temperature down in five-degree increments until you don't have to mix in much cold water when you use your hot water.

* Help turn Port Washington's downtown into a people-friendly environment that doesn't rely on cars and parking spaces.

* Re-think how your child is being educated. Are we afraid to act even when our children are involved? Do you want the federal government and state government deciding what is done with your child in school or do you think our own administrators and teachers, in consultation with the local community, should make those decisions? Do you want standardized tests to play an increasingly important role? Do you think schools should teach the importance of being a good person or should that be left to the parents? If you're not happy with the public schools would you like information available about home-schooling your own kids, at least in the early grades? It's just one option among several but many more people are successfully home schooling.

* Would you like our schools and our local governments to refuse to comply with state and federal mandates that are not completely funded by the level of government that mandates such programs?

* Let's say that the state or federal government withholds all payments or grants to our schools or governments because Port Washington or North Hempstead or Nassau County does not comply with their unfunded mandates or unsatisfactory policy dictates. Would you support elected officials who encourage withholding of tax payments to the state or federal governments in the same amount they are withholding from us?

* We are often told that "growth" is needed on Long Island. Do you think that more people and more businesses, industries and stores are the proper direction? Or do you prefer seeing if there are ways to make things better for the people and businesses already here?

* What percentage of your time do you spend thinking about and helping others and what percentage of your time do you spend thinking about and helping yourself? Do you try in some small way to help at least one non-family member each day?

* Do you think that by working together, local residents, physicians, businesses and government officials can develop a superior health care program that covers all residents?

* Do you think we can develop a program so there's no need to kill healthy dogs and cats in Port Washington and North Hempstead?

Almost everything of importance starts with the actions of individuals. That includes any visioning process. There's little we can't accomplish if individuals first act benevolently and intelligently in their own lives, and then work together to meet the challenges of society.

Robert Berens


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