One commenter writes:
I have lived in Mt. Lebanon for almost four years, having moved here from the Boston area. Each year, I dutifully submit my resume and application [for volunteer boards in Mt. Lebanon] on time. The only difference is that this year they actually sent me a ding letter. In previous years, I was told if there was any interest someone woudl [sic] contact me.Clearly this is all about who you know and your political party. In my town in Massachusetts I was an elected Town Meeting Member, was the Chair of the Personnel Committee, was appointed by the Board of Selectmen to our Vision Committee, and was a member of the economic development planning group. As an Independent in Mt. Lebanon,h owever, I am invisible.
A second commenter writes:
I've come to believe that in Mt. Lebanon, your opinion only counts if you grew up in the area. There are lots of new fresh ideas from people who didn't grow up in SW PA, but for some reason, those ideas aren't valued.
In many respects, my own experience as a non-native resident has been different. I don't feel invisible here; I don't feel that my ideas aren't valued. Lots of people disagree with me, but that doesn't mean that they don't listen, at least some of the time.
The fact that newcomers to Mt. Lebanon do feel invisible and value-less is a serious problem nonetheless. Mt. Lebanon cannot survive, let alone thrive, if any segment of the community feels unwelcome. And there are clearly segments of the community that do not feel welcome here. No matter how friendly and warm Mt. Lebanon claims to be, it is often not perceived as a friendly and warm place.
Specifically, I have talked to and heard from or about "unwelcome" individuals who are renters, and/or non-white, and/or non-English speaking, and/or non-straight, and/or non-Mt. Lebanon natives. That is, pretty much everyone who didn't grow up here and settle and raise a heterosexual family is in the Potentially Unwelcome category. Plenty of those people turn out to be happy and welcome, too. But welcome status is hardly a given.
Of course, over time, many of those Potentially Unwelcome people leave Mt. Lebanon. Doesn't that solve the problem? No - that's mean-spirited, and short-sighted. It is possible that the myth-making machine of Mt. Lebanon will continue to attract people anyway. This community does have strong schools, impressive community resources, and a tradition of neighborliness that's frayed at the edges, but still there. The net of happy newcomers over disillusioned newcomers might still favor a stable in-town population. It is also possible that the disillusioned will share the grim news with others, and the flow of newcomers will slow. Read online message boards about Mt. Lebanon; there are plenty of people who are happy to have moved here or to have returned. There are also plenty of people with regrets.
And regardless of the outcome of the inflow/outflow calculus, I simply don't like the idea of living in a community that excludes people. Mt. Lebanon does exclude people, and I don't like that, and I make my own peace with that conflict, like we all do. But that doesn't make it right.
Watch how these perspectives play out in the upcoming School Board election. That election is likely to be a referendum on the future of the community. Welcoming? Or exclusionary? In recent public meetings about Mt. Lebanon High School we've seen how the sides shape up. On one side is a large group of people who want to invest a giant sum of money to rebuild the high school and continue its tradition of excellence, who are willing to raise taxes -- perhaps considerably -- to accomplish that goal, and who see this as necessary to maintaining Mt. Lebanon's attractiveness to new families. On the other side is a large group of people who are reluctant to invest a giant sum of money without a clear demonstration that the educational content of the school program would be improved as a result, who can't imagine raising taxes in the current and forecast economic climate, and who believe that current residents will be forced out of their homes because they can no longer afford to live here.