I was interested to read Luke Lavoie's analysis of the Columbia Council elections in the context of Symphony Woods. While I agree that the Inner Arbor Plan does "raise the stakes", I take some issue with the idea that it is "polarizing" any more than any public issue may create opposing view-points. When does a disagreement rise to the level of "divid[ing] residents"? What is the denominator?
Let's look at a few facts. First, Gregg Schwind and myself were not challenged for our seats. We have both been the most vocal supporters of this Plan from the beginning and will clearly be just as vocal going forward. We sit on the committee that supposedly "rammed through" an 8-2 vote. If the community really was outraged, you would expect there to be a bevy of candidates waiting in line to put us in the gallery for CA Board Meetings.
Second, there was an 8-2 vote. How do you explain an 8 of 10 Board Members voting in support of the Plan if there was any inclination that the sentiment was even between those who oppose the Plan and those who support it? Residents were heard on both sides of the matter and a very strong case was made that a large segment of Columbia wanted this Park, was excited by the Inner Arbor Plan, and agreed with CA's proposal for moving forward. To suggest that the community was overwhelmingly against a Plan that the CA Board overwhelmingly favors is wrong.
Finally, the premise is wrong. Surely, if you quote those who oppose the Inner Arbor Plan, the tone of the news coverage will be of outrage, but there are facts that exist outside of their characterization. The Plan was released to the public on January 18, 2013, paired with articles in the Flier and Patch. There was a CA Board meeting on January 24, 2013, at which time the Plan was discussed. A four-hour community-wide information session was held on January 31, 2013 in Wilde Lake, which was well-attended by interested members of the public. After nearly one month, over two dozen letters to the editor for and against the Plan, petitions for and against the Plan, and e-mails sent directly to the Board for and against the Plan, the CA Board voted on February 14, 2013. I think readers should have the opportunity to decide for themselves whether one month, and nearly ten hours of deliberation, constitutes "rammed through with little chance for input".
I will certainly concede that this has been an adversarial process, but have a much different idea as to how that occurred. A small group of 20-30 people, who have become accustomed to telling the CA Board what to do, were overruled. It is as plain as that. From my perspective, this was done respectfully and after they were fully heard through all available means of communicating with this Board. Resident Speak Out was never curtailed and all opinions were heard. We just disagreed. Now, because mere disagreement is not a proper basis for outrage, this has become a matter of "closed meetings" and illicit influence. We are told we "rushed" the decision (because, clearly, we would have come around to their opinions if given more time). My opinions disapproving of Cy Paumier's tactics are "slander" and cause for resignation. See how this escalates?
The bad news for these folks is that there is only one bullet in that gun. The Elections on April 20. They will have to presume that their view on things is correct, because if people are excited about the Inner Arbor Plan, believe the CA Board has shown progress over the last year, and show up on Election Day, well, then, you've just empowered and invigorated a set of Board members that you tried to take down.
We're going to disagree. Now and into the future. I hope we can find a more civil way to do so. The ten people that forfeit hours of their Thursdays to community matters present no other motives than to do some good for their neighbors. No one is getting paid. No one is trading influence. What these individuals have had to endure over the past two months has been shameful. But I assure you that if the eight votes in favor of the Plan had to do it all over again tomorrow, they would make the same vote. They were doing good.
VOTE!! APRIL 20th!!!
That's all for today. Have a great Thursday doing what you love! How bout dem O's!