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We can meet any challenge by working together

With the fresh New Year just days old, we hope that 2018 brings local residents joy, hope and fulfillment.

Like any year, there will be highs and lows — terrible tragedies and inspiring accomplishments. Throughout it all, we hope the the country, state and county will maintain a spirit of optimism, buoyed with the belief that we can rise to any challenge by working together.

Here's what we hope 2018 will bring:

• Better communication between those who hold opposing views. Instead of all the negative name calling and attacks that take place on Facebook, imagine a respectful, open and honest discussion of actual issues and problems. Let's have conversations that fuel ideas and solutions, not useless anger.

• Less political sniping. Not every discussion has to veer off into whether someone is liberal or conservative. A good idea or a good point should not depend on the political stripe of the person making it. This doesn't just apply to politicians. If the average Joe or Jill immediately derails a discussion with a spiteful slam against someone solely because they're a Republican or Democrat, how can we expect our elected leaders to behave differently? Let's be less quick to judge and more open to considering other viewpoints.

• A calmer, more productive election year. Candidates, at every level, should strive to take the high road on their campaigns. They should stick to issues and solutions instead of sticking it to their opponents. Voters, too, should demand candidates talk about their positions and solutions instead of bashing their opponents' views. This election season, let's prove that the barrage of negative TV ads that will undoubtedly air are insultingly ineffective.

• A revitalized "We the People." Citizens have to do more than just vote (and only 60 percent of them did in 2016). They should get involved in the process, take time to know who represents them and objectively study the issues. They need to express their views at the local, regional and state level. Let's fill more of the empty chairs at city council, school board and county board meetings.

• A time to tackle local issues. There are some daunting problems in our area — homelessness, opioid addiction, lack of mental health care, a worker shortage, not enough affordable housing, low job pay, threats to the water quality on our lakes, and more. Local and state leaders are trying to address these issues, but they can't do it alone. They need help, suggestions and encouragement from residents who are affected, which is just about everyone. Let's give them that support.

• Lastly, a clean slate. The New Year is the perfect time to let go of old grudges by turning the page to new opportunities. Dwelling on past mistakes or missed chances doesn't change anything. Let's look ahead to the coming year with invigorated optimism and a new sense of cooperation. A year from now, let's look back and say 2018 was a pivotal year for getting things done.—Alexandria Echo Press