Tough battles are good vs. good conflicts
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:48 PM
"A wise and wizened law school professor once made the following observation on the first day of class:You think that you will be involved in struggles of good versus evil, he said. But that doesn't happen very often, and those conflicts are easily resolved.The hard ones, he said, are the conflicts of good versus good.That principle is constantly on display in our city government. The most recent manifestation may be a proposed historic preservation ordinance as it applies to downtown Winslow. On one hand, it would be good to preserve all of the historic structures in the neighborhood that are still structurally sound. If it were a simple question of doing it or not, then our vote would unhesitatingly be a yes.But the downtown Winslow area is also where we as community have decided, through our comprehensive plan, to concentrate residential density. That is also good, because in addition to preserving and enhancing a vibrant downtown core, close-in density (we hope) decreases the demand for homes outside of the core.The conflict is between good and good. Examples abound.We like our narrow, winding, tree-lined roads. It's good to preserve the island's rural appearance. But we also want the roads to be bike and pedestrian friendly, which requires a wider right-of-wayWe want to preserve our liveaboard community. But we also want an attractive, navigable and environmentally sound Eagle Harbor. Good vs. good.We want salmon. But we also want our docks, the fertilizers and pesticides that enhance the appearance of our gardens, and our freedom to use our property. Good vs. good again.When you get the hang of it, you see good vs. good everywhere.We want less traffic, but no more roads. Ball fields and forests. Low taxes but good service. Local ownership of business, but abundant varieties of goods and services, and at low prices.The good vs. good conflicts are hardly unique to Bainbridge, but they somehow seem more acute here. Maybe it's because so many islanders think the place is so special. And since it's not easy to know exactly what the elements are that make the island work, the fear is that any change may irrevocably destroy the island's unique nature.We don't have a recipe for avoiding good vs. good conflicts, much less for resolving them. But we do think it's important to identify conflicts as good vs. good, not good vs. evil. It helps to remember that the folks on the other side aren't evil. And it helps to remember that if your side loses, the result isn't evil, but simply a different kind of good. "