A reminder of rants past, this one from November 4, 2016.
Charles Marohn’s testimony isn’t a perfect analogy, but it’s a reminder of how at times, voices raised in opposition to sacred cows are the most progressive ones of all.
MY “DISINGENUOUS” PUSH TO SAVE A NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOL, by Charles Marohn (Strong Towns)
… Without knowing what else to do to nudge the school district towards sanity, I started a Facebook page to save the historic school. My thought was that if I could raise the profile a little bit, I could get the school district to, perhaps, open up to the potential of repurposing that building.
Two things happened. First, the response of this community was overwhelming. As I write this, the page has over 500 supporters — enough to tip the vote in my small town. I’ve been inundated with people wanting to talk about these issues, find ways to improve our neighborhoods and, most importantly, save the school from the wrecking ball. I’m ashamed that I did not anticipate this, but it has been a heartwarming surprise.
The second thing that happened has somewhat offset those good feelings. Not only has the school district doubled-down on their off-street parking rhetoric (and I feel somewhat compelled to say, stretched the truth beyond what I think is friendly in a situation like this), but the collection of insider voices — the newspaper, the chamber, local dignitaries, even some personal friends — have joined to ridicule, when they weren’t outright condemning, any efforts to question the approach.
People I’m very close to have suggested that I’m hurting our area students, threatening the future of the community and basically being a “disingenuous” jerk for not getting on board with the official plan. The newspaper even rolled out the tired bully tactic common to small towns: you didn’t bring up the concern years ago, so shut up, because it’s not valid anymore. I’m a little sickened by it.
I look around and I’m starting to feel the momentum shifting in this place. A sleepy old railroad town that accepted decline and second-rate status is waking up to possibility. The people in charge are no longer aspiring to be a cheaper version of the big box strip in the (showing the early signs of failure) city next door. They are starting to embrace our strengths. So are my neighbors, some of who have put their time and money into fixing up buildings in our struggling downtown. The list of things we can change is growing.
I owe it to them, and I owe it to the future residents of this community — kids and adults alike — to not support a $200 million investment that would irreversibly turn large parts of their neighborhoods into parking lot. I can’t support any more scars to the fabric of these neglected places. I won’t approve of my tax dollars making student’s walks any more dangerous, let alone their parents and those who must walk to get to where they are going. I find these site plans disrespectful.
And I won’t pay for a perfectly good, historic building to be put in the landfill instead of being repurposed, just so we can have a few more parking spots within convenient distance of the front door. The suggestion feels shameful and I can’t imagine what my Depression-era ancestors would say.
We’re making a once-a-generation decision, borrowing money for 25 years in this proposal. With the people of this community finally standing up to push back on the long-accepted decline, I don’t feel compelled to settle for a choice between neighborhood schools and neighborhoods. They go together, and I’m going to keep saying that until school district officials grasp it.