Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Ran to the Fields, a Donkey, Trumpeting and Brandishing My Grievance, Until the Sabine Women of the Suburbs Came to Throw Themselves at My Neck

That sign is posted on almost every front lawn of a stretch of the main road through the neighborhood I live in. It is one of the few streets in the neighborhood that doesn't have sidewalks, and the county has decided to build sidewalks on the road. The residents potentially affected aren't pleased, so they had these bullshit signs printed and distributed. They've been up about a week, I've been itching to call bullshit, and yesterday, when the first message below appeared on the neighborhood listserv I subscribe to, I did. Each of the listserv entries is a different person responding, and I dropped a letter of the neighborhood and road names and one MOCO employee to save myself potential google grief:

Listserv: The meeting with county officials to discuss the construction of a sidewalk along Arkwood Drive has been postponed until September.  The original meeting date was August 9th.  Elric Ohnston of MC DOT will inform the community of the new meeting date in the coming weeks.

Me: Could I ask a question about the signs? The implication is that the funding for the sidewalks is being diverted from education (as in the money is being taken from money previously allocated for education) to build the sidewalks. Is this literally true? I'm sympathetic to homeowners not wanting their front yards dug up, especially those who would lose years of gardening, and I'm sympathetic to their rights up to a point, but if the signs are bullshit re: what they imply, that's um, bullshit.

Listserv: The signs look like election signs and, in my opinion, completely misrepresent the issue at hand. The new sidewalk would actually look better! I certainly HOPE those signs were paid for by the residents of the homes sporting them, and not by ARA monies!

Listserv: The Arkwood Residents Association had absolutely nothing to do with the signs that appear along Arkwood Drive.

Me: Good to know. Again, it's a simple question: is money that had been designated for schools being diverted from schools to build these sidewalks? Is there any contractual evidence that if the sidewalks are not built the money that would have been spent on them will be spent on schools? If not, the signs are dishonest.

Listserv: I believe the people that are opposed to the sidewalks felt compelled to get their message out. Looks like the majority of the people on that street dont support sidewalks (for the variety of reasons stated on this listserve previously).  So the real shame is that they have had to spend their own money and very precious time fighting the county for something they dont want.

Me: I don't mind - I fully understand why - they don't want sidewalks. Some of the gardens and plants that would need be destroyed have taken decades to grow. If it was my yard (I live on Aul and have a sidewalk) I wouldn't want the sidewalk. What I (potentially) find bothersome is that the signs suggest that money that would otherwise go to schools is being diverted for the sidewalks. I don't believe such a cause-and-effect exists, and would like to know if it is true. If it is, then I agree, it is a waste of money as well as building sidewalks where they may not be wanted. If it is not true, then it's a shameful attempt at shabby emotional blackmailing.

Listserv: The funds to be used are in the county's Dept of Transportation, within the General Operating fund - they are not at all connected at all to the School Board budget; these two budgets are about as separate from one another as you can get and still both be within county govt.

Listserv: My understanding of how this works is that the sidewalk construction comes out of money already allocated to transportation improvements. I suppose one can argue that overall more should be allocated to education and less to transportation. But that allocation is made each year by the council. What happens then is that DoT prioritizes various transportation projects and decides what can be funded in a given year.

Me: Thank you all for your responses, your understanding of the situation is the same as mine. My intent was clarification for my own sake. They are certainly welcome to protest the sidewalks; as I said, I wouldn't want them in my yard if I'd landscaped and planted for years assuming there wouldn't be any. They are also welcome to put up any signage in their yards they please, even signage that's deceptive and makes them seem petty and small.

Listserv: (I used to work in MC's Ofc of Management and Budget, so I offer these comments on that basis...) Peter is correct as to the separate budgets and the separate allocation actions by the County Council. The School Board budget is completely separate - about as separate from the County's General Operating Fund as you can get and still be in county government. Sidewalk funds come out of county General Operating Fund, transportation budget. It is I suppose possible that this particular is coming out of the Schools budget, but they have never this, to my knowledge, and it would be highly irregular. Additionally of note, all communications on this project from the county are coming from Transportation, and no one in the School Board admin is being copied in.

Listserv: I was under the impression that sidewalks are not for just the people on that street. Sidewalks serve anyone, regardless of residence address, walking on Arkwood. Also, I thought the reason for fighting the sidewalks was because of the "not in my front yard" ploy. But now it seems the focus is on schools. Where were the signs supporting schools before this? Give me a break.

Listserv: Are your taxes higher if you have sidewalks?

Listserv: taxes are much higher, and they take money away from schools and the elderly to fund them. It's OK to have and express and opinion on issues, but when people spread blatant lies and falsehoods, such as using school funds to pay for sidewalks, that is an embarrassment to our nation and children.

I got three personal emails thanking me for raising the subject. No one has posted defending the signs, the thread has dried up, but the first political activity I've done in two years and I'm a hero to the nation and its children, and all it took was an impulsive and petty and self-indulgent need to call bullshit on someone in a forum in which I risked nothing. I couldn't give a flying fuck about the sidewalks or the signs.

Should you think I'm the cynic in the family, I said to Earthgirl the Gardener, I don't blame them for not wanting to have their gardens dug up and their trees cut down, and she says to me, don't be a dope, they don't want to shovel them after a snowstorm after the plows go through.

Daily Gaddis:

How were they all so certain? calling her "Esme": they knew she was Esme when she did not know, who she was or who Esme, if both were the same. every moment, when they were there, or when she was alone, both she. But she could not deny that they were right, for who would be making that denial? and if who could not be no one, it must be Esme.


Arthur Rimbaud

Translated by John Ashbery

Since reality was too prickly for my lavish personality, --- I found myself nonetheless in my lady's house, got up as a great blue-gray bird soaring toward the ceiling moldings and dragging my wing through the shadows of the soirée.
     At the foot of the baldaquin supporting her beloved jewels and her physical masterpieces, I was a large bear with purple gums and fur turned hoary with grief, my eyes on the crystal and silver of the credenzas.
     Everything turned to shadow and a passionate aquarium.
     In the morning, -- a bellicose dawn in June, -- I ran to the fields, a donkey, trumpeting and brandishing my grievance, until the Sabine women of the suburbs came to throw themselves at my neck.


  1. No Barton at DCU? Imagine the blogging possibilities!

    Ludicra, we hardly knew ye. Good stuff, pre- and during drummer. I gotta start listening during my midday slack.

    Gardens, yay, but who the hell shovels sidewalks? Just turns to slippery glaze; much safer to trudge through snow piles.

  2. There's places around Columbus with no sidewalks (because many Columbustians don't do any walking except to and from their automobiles).

    I've found it a pain (I mostly walk everywhere, in fact I don't think I've gotten in my car in over a month...again).

  3. sidewalks blow, are unnecessary, and make things all Edward Scissorhands/Agrestic.

    they also will bankrupt me... literally.

    you must know that public education is not perfect, is bloated with useless administrators, and could easily withstand fat-trimming while at the same time your wife and kin are employed there. I'm sure you know this as you're a smart dude, and realize nothing is perfect nor perfectly run.

  4. Oh, I'm aware it's not perfect and have heard so from the teachers in my life for four decades. Believe me, I've heard about useless administrators (and shitty teachers) daily. And I really couldn't give a flying fuck about sidewalks one way or the other.

    My aargh at the signage was their blatant dishonesty and hypocrisy - no doubt many of the people decrying lack of education funding would complain about overpaid and coddled teachers who get the summer off.

  5. Dood, a boatload of the sidewalks (though not yours) in your neighborhood were an icy mess two winters ago. My neighborhood is even worse. Cheers to EG for fingering the issue. Dope.

    I respectfully submit, KFO, that it's difficult to make the "bloat" argument in our county--and I know you know our county--when the county has chosen to violate its contract with the teachers for three years running. Not that my bias is any different from our host's. Actually, I read further and just realized that my bias is cited above.

    I guess I should further admit that my view on the "bloat" argument come from...well...uhm...trying to make it while the county was violating, etc....

    How can Esme not know who Esme is? Any Pratchett fan does.

  6. I wonder why I just got around to reading The Keep.