Sunday, March 19, 2006

Flying Over The Cuckoo's Nest

With bullets whizzing around the neighborhood, young parents picking up spent cartridges off the street, and another shooting victim being rushed to the hospital early Friday morning, one might assume that the "new, more open" Inner City Civic Association would be cranking up to rally neighbors to join Mayor William D. Euille on his upcoming walk and public meeting in Parker-Gray on April 1. Mayor Euille has agreed to walk with the neighborhood on Saturday, April 1 from 10 AM to 12 PM, commencing at the Durant Center.

Yet the ICCA has maintained complete silence on the walk, now less than two weeks away. No fliers, no E-mails, no request for community input -- not even a description of the route. The Growler is dumbfounded that the walk wasn't even an agenda item at the March ICCA meeting, and was only mentioned in passing when a city employee said she would be working that day. At the very least, this shows a singular lack of respect for the Mayor.

The mistake is in assuming that the ICCA is new, open or at all improved. The association still represents only a few dozen of the more than 1,000 households in Parker-Gray and the current officers were self-elected in November 2005 at a meeting where fewer than a dozen members were present. This isn't representation, it's a self-perpetuating oligarchy.

But the alarming difference between the administration of past president Amy Harris-White and current president Patricia Schubert is a new emphasis on tight-fisted information control.

At the same March ICCA meeting, Ms. Schubert alluded to the fact that she had received a number of E-mails requesting a police satellite station in Parker-Gray but then announced, in her best and most dulcet Nurse Ratched tones, that "the satellite station is a moot point." How does she know? Who exactly did she ask? She said only that one would not be established because she had talked to City Council about the issue. No details were provided and no reason given why she hadn't approached Police Chief Charles Samarra first.

The Growler surmises that ICCA officers were taken aback at residents' vocal complaints about crime and quality of life issues at the January meeting. In fact, the issue of crime so dominated the January meeting that other speakers and a discussion of development were pushed off schedule or to another date.

While this may be the messy essence of democracy, it seems it is disconcerting to Ms. Schubert and her fellow officers, who apparently do not see themselves as representing the neighborhood so much as controlling it. Control may explain why no fliers went out for the February or March meetings and why the flier distribution in January – the first and only ICCA flier handout in literally years – "missed" significant blocks like upper Queen Street where crime is an issue.

A responsive and representative civic association would take the community's concerns and run with them. Most of all they would capitalize on the Mayor's generous offer to give time and ear by publicizing the walk. Instead, everything seems to indicate that Ms. Schubert and Co. are trying to limit discussion and spin issues, which might explain why they are so hushed about the Mayor's walk.

But why would a civic association downplay drugs and crime when their members are clearly concerned? Whose interests benefit from a denial that a problem exists?