We had hoped that headline would feature a hyphen instead of the conjunction “and” — a marker of Tuesday’s election results that determined Lewiston and Auburn would remain separate from each other.

That small word “and” is significant, and its meaning is something that all of us, as citizens of our two cities, must think about as we move forward.

How do we unify? How do we work together? Those were questions that existed before the notion of a merger ever came to formal consideration, and they are still worth our attention and efforts for the prosperous future of our community.

We always knew that change would be hard. We started to figure that out soon after the merger campaign launched on April 6.

As we stood in DaVinci’s on Tuesday evening surrounded by our supporters, optimistic and hopeful, it became clear that the results were not in favor of our initiative, and we quickly realized that change was going to take more work — work on ourselves, working together, and work to show others across Maine and New England that we have something special here in Lewiston and Auburn.

The goal behind One LA was never to diminish what is special about each respective community. It was never about Lewiston versus Auburn. It aimed to leverage the unique and strong qualities of both cities and redefine as one to develop our economies with more power instead of competition; foster an environment for our children that is rich with diversity and resources; and tell the national audience what is possible when you break down walls as opposed to building them.

So, where do we go from here?

The challenges we faced before the election still exist. How do we attract businesses and proceed with economic planning? How do we improve our schools? How do we actualize and celebrate a positive image?

After this campaign, one thing is clear: we need to critically reflect and work on how we view ourselves. Unfortunately, we were not surprised that many of the reasons we heard not to unify the two cities were based on misconceptions and untruths about our two cities. If we aim to show others how wonderful we are, we have to believe it ourselves.

On some level, we don’t need a marketing campaign to convince visitors to see what Lewiston and Auburn have to offer, but to convince people who reside within our cities’ limits. If we are to move forward productively, we have to think and talk about Lewiston and Auburn in ways that speak to the vibrancy and potential of our cities. We can’t continue to view our communities as “us versus them.” It is not one side of the river against. the other; it is, in fact, the same river.

As parents, we are both cognizant that we have a responsibility to make choices that will not only help create a positive future for our children while we are able to do so, but we also hope our choices will inspire them to lead with love and welcome change when it is founded on inclusiveness, synergy and prosperity for all.

One of us proudly sends children to public school here. One of us has just welcomed her first child into the world here, excited to watch him grow in a community she has called home — a home that has continued to shine brighter and brighter with the energy of progress. It is important to us to raise our kids to be individuals who see the value in making the world a better, more peaceful place; who have positive attitudes; and who aren’t afraid to be ambitious enough to make a difference, no matter how big or small.

These aren’t just wishes for our children, they are wishes for our communities as well. We love Lewiston and Auburn so much. Our platform for economic development, the richness of our children’s life opportunities and our capacity to attract talent to our area are strengthened in unity. What is good for Lewiston is a win for Auburn and vice versa.

Even though we are not a unified city, we still have the opportunity to move forward together. We can achieve more together than we ever could working alone. Working together is hard, but the results are worth it.

While a majority of the voters didn’t believe in municipal consolidation, we will never stop believing in our Twin Cities. One of us grew up here. One of us chose to come here. We both live here. We both work here.

We both vote. We both volunteer. We both love this community and see the true opportunity ahead of us.

We’re not alone. Both of us, with all of you, can move forward together.

Carl Sheline and Gabrielle Russell are the co-managers of the One LA campaign. They both live in Lewiston.


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