Monday, August 22, 2011

137th Week Update - Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project

Hi Folks,

That Wasn’t Pretty…
But There Was One Beautiful Resolve

A week before the Miles Neighborhood Association meeting, Bill Richards, Co-chair of the Association sent out a notice encouraging everyone to attend the season opener. He also made it abundantly clear that he did not approve of the BMX park, a hot issue on the agenda.

Generally, six to eight neighbors attend Miles Neighborhood Association meetings and the most interesting thing on the agenda is the snack tray Josie from 13th Street provides.

This month was different, really different. Five minutes after the meeting opened all of the seats were filled and folks were still streaming in. There were more than 30 people sitting in or scattered around the circle of chairs.

Instead of starting with a discussion of the BMX park, Bill selected less controversial subjects on the agenda. Renaming the new footbridge in the Arroya Chico Park in honor of Luis Gutierrez, our neighbor and long-time Tucson city manager, for example That motion passed unanimously.

About then, Richard Fimbres, our neighbor and Ward 5 City Councilman entered the gym with his wife Mary. He stopped to shake my hand as he passed along the wall on the way to take up a position behind the circle of chairs. In a few minutes he and Mary sat down.

Bill continued with the agenda. Do the neighbors want turf or natural landscaping in a section of land buttressing 12th Street? This conversation dragged on and on because Bill wanted to make sure everyone understood that although it was a Pima County Flood Control project, the Parks Department would maintain the plot of land.

Half way through the stimulating dirt or grass discussion, I surmised that Bill did not intend to recognize Mr. Fimbres from the floor. I walked up to Andrew, the other Co-chair who stood ten feet away from where Bill was and told him he should interrupt Bill and introduce our Councilmen. He did not know Mr. Fimbres by sight but said he would.

I went back to my wall post and waited. Again no action except Andrew stepped a few feet closer to Bill. My impatience grew more impatient. I raised my hand and interrupted the proceeding.

“I have two items, Bill. Can we move the proceeding along and make a motion on the grass. Also, I would like to introduce our Ward 5 Councilmen Richard Fimbres. He is accompanied by his wife Mary. Mr. Fimbres does a lot of wonderful things for our community and I thought all of you should meet him.”

On Thursday I talked to Bill about his lack of decorum and mentioned that I have a real problem with people disrespecting people, especially leaders in the community. I asked that in the future, since he knows what is right, he must do what is right. Bill apologized.

Nearly an hour into the meeting Bill turned to the BMX park. He began by explaining that Barrio San Antonio, our neighbor to the east, had expressed to Pima County Flood Control that they like the BMX park. Then he went on to say he has heard that there are some who want to open the BMX park to the whole city. He is against that. And then there is the parking issue, the drugs, the fact that the BXM park is not in the Pima County Flood Control plans.

That stimulated the audience a bit since the BMX park has been in existence for 5 years, hand built and maintained by BMXers, adults and kids. And not a speck of trouble reported to anyone. The drug issue was brought up a number of times by the same few. I thought that comment was really funny. Myself, I would love to see druggies on BMX bikes. They would sober up one second before they took their first jump or perhaps end up wrapped around a tree somewhere, never to bother us again.

An articulate 14-year-old girl named Willa who lives with her mother Shannon on Cherry Street countered the parking question.

“I have lots of friends who use the BMX park and their parents just drop them off on Saturday so there is no parking.”

The focus of the discussion narrowed when Greg who lives on Cherry Street made a motion. Based on his knowledge of Barrio San Antonio’s sentiment toward the BMX park, Greg’s motion stated that dirt trails were okay, but no concrete, no fencing and no lights is acceptable to our neighborhood. In other words, we like it as it is. That’s all he wanted to get into the record.

In the next 45 minutes, Bill stated his opposition in varying ways that included, “Who knows what will happen?” The Pima County Flood Control is in charge. They have no plan for the BMX park. And so on.

Greg moved around a bit in back of the circle of chairs slightly softening his motion each time two or three neighbors gave him support. I thought moving was a great strategy because it appeared several people were making the same motion. Later Greg told me he moved because he was frustrated. I’m going to give him credit anyway for a neat idea.

As it became more apparent that most of the neighbors in the meeting liked Greg’s motion and that Bill did not intend to represent the majority’s opinion to Pima County Flood Control, Andrew stepped in as Co-chair and offered a compromise. Actually he said the same thing as Greg but coming from him it went to a vote. That vote, 22 Yes, 6 No and 9 Abstain, highlighted the bewilderment of the neighbors. After the meeting the conversation turned to: “What was that all about? What’s the big deal?

The next day I spoke to Bill and Jamie at their home but listened first. Jamie said he had “witnesses” that one or two non-neighbors entered two Yes votes. That was our fault I said. It is apparent we don’t know our neighbors on sight.

Bill maintained that the Pima County Flood Control was in charge and they will have the final ruling on the BMX park. That’s all well and good, I told him, but it is his job as Co-chair to represent all of the neighbors, not his own special interest. We get enough of this kind of behavior out of the Congress in Washington. And we can’t do much about that, But in the Miles Neighborhood, my neighborhood, we’re not going to let that happen here. Kids are first, and they will get their parks and they will get their playgrounds.

On Sunday many neighbors talked to Kym, Barbara, Lenny and me as we made our One Can A Week rounds. They were surprised and concerned about the tension in the neighborhood meeting but many said they are going to attend more neighborhood meetings and will engage more to make sure we all remain civil. Now that is a beautiful thing.

More Thinking About the Kids
This Sunday it was apparent folks were considering kids when deciding on what to donate. We got lots of cereal and three toothbrushes. (Follow the red arrows.) One was a princess that runs on batteries. Some little person is going to really like that one.

We collected a total of 160 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $47.10, a $25.00 check and $22.10 in cash.

See you Sunday,


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