Reflecting on the past two years of the pandemic and its impact on Mt. Lebanon, I’m pleased with how the municipality handled crisis after crisis. While we made mistakes, we learned from them along the way.
Even before we saw the first case in Mt. Lebanon, our emergency management team was prepared with a plan, which ensured first responders had adequate personal protective equipment throughout the pandemic.
We started Neighborhood Aid, a neighbor-helping-neighbor support system staffed by municipal employees.
We communicated regularly with residents through our website, social media, magazine and other channels, providing trustworthy information for residents.
We modified our recreation programs to fit the ever-changing county, state and federal regulations and guidelines.
The municipality supported our local businesses by listening to their needs, providing them with grant information, and in partnership with our local community development corporation, the Mt. Lebanon Partnership, spearheaded Love Lebo, temporary parking spaces, the elf hunt, farmer’s markets and much more.
And through all this, we maintained fiscal responsibility and accountability despite changing and uncertain revenue projections.
Our community came together and rose to challenge after challenge. This should be cause for celebration, yet we don’t feel like celebrating. We are collectively grieving all we’ve lost over the past two years. We face uncertainty about our future and grapple with existential questions as we view our lives through new lenses.
During the pandemic, we increased our screen time and decreased our face time. This makes it all too easy to amplify our complaints, and for our thoughts to be influenced by the loudest, angriest person online. It makes it easy to forget that real humans are on the other side of the screen.
The division is along red and blue lines, but it’s also within the red and within the blue. It’s even within all our institutions, and the trust residents have towards these institutions.
How can we bring our community back together? How can we best support each other, instead of tearing each other down? How do we lean on our assets and strengths here in Mt. Lebanon? Is it possible to insulate ourselves from the political wars happening across the nation?
I’d like to ask you all to join me in taking a “Community First” approach. Put our community first against the political divide. Against the media scare tactics.
How many times do we pick up the phone to talk to someone versus picking up the phone to scroll through social media? The culture of our community is in the relationships neighbors have with neighbors. I’m asking you to join me in organizing in-person gatherings with neighbors or family members, to pick up the phone and ask for clarification before getting mad at an online post, and to once again be vulnerable with each other.
Community First means putting our community above the noise of political parties. Instead, use that time and energy to work together with similar goals to improve our community for the future. Volunteer with the organizations, schools and groups we care about. Or if there isn’t a group you care about, start one.
Community First means every time we post on social media, ask questions and listen to answers instead of accusing or judging. Before we post, ask “is this adding negativity or positivity to our community?”
The main strength of our community has always been its residents—so many people who care so deeply about Mt. Lebanon. I am asking us all to lean into that strength, to continue to care, and to make sure your intention is to improve our community and not drag it into the mud.
I know this approach will work because it worked for decades before the pandemic. When I watch a neighbor teaching my 6-year-old how to bat for the first time, with much more patience than I ever could ever muster, I don’t care who he voted for for president. I don’t even care if he voted for me. He’s a volunteer coach who is helping my kid learn something my kid really wants to learn, and this makes me tear up. We are a community for life.