"Beauty confronts us with the requirement that we place ourselves among...the redeemers, the leaders in the protection of life. Once you have seen the bush on fire, you are not going to get out of the assignment unless you close your eyes to the beauty.... [You] either have to close your eyes or go back to Egypt and set the people free." - Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, "Rising to the Challenge of Our Times"

Friday, October 07, 2005

winning friends & being popular

I agreed to make a comment at the planning commission meeting last night. I get nervous about doing things like that but I know it's supposed to be good for me; also I was the only one from our office who could go. When I observe the citizenry who stand up to give their $0.02 about whatever it is I feel silly for being scared; some people are innately more able to vocalize their ranting and not worried about being completely one-sided. Sometimes I wonder if I would be a better judge than lawyer. (Hey, why not shoot for the top...I hear the Supreme Court is having open auditions. Maybe I could get nominated on the basis of my singing voice. I guess you have to know the right people though, who thankfully I don't.) Maybe I'm a little averse to taking sides in a really vocal way, right from the start of an argument, because I don't like to be wrong.

So part of why this public comment was a good exercise for me is because it gave me the opportunity to say things that potentially angered a complete stranger and convinced him that Legal Services is out to make life difficult for innocent, taxpaying businessmen. I didn't engage in a personal attack, I just said Mr. So&So ought not be able to benefit from failing to comply with state mobilehome park closure / change of use laws. Having heard his rant for the hour previous (WHY they let him carry on that long, I don't know) I gathered he had a different take on the issue. Poor guy was planning eventually to get rid of the trailers and build apartments there, but before he could obey the laws, everybody just up and moved out of his park! Imagine that.

The story is a little more complicated, of course. I sat there thinking, ok, what if he really acted in good faith and was just in a tough spot, what with the state coming in and finding that most of the residents' trailers were out of compliance, and threatening to pull his operating permit? Then I thought, well, it's up to the commission to decide what to do with his story, and maybe there are other versions of the story they should hear, even if we don't know which version(s) are the Real story.
My story was that he wanted to change uses all along and that he paid people small varying sums of cash to leave the park (which is true) when he could just as easily have paid them small sums to bring more of their trailers into compliance. Since he said how he thought they were mostly good folks (who mostly spoke Spanish). He was SUPPOSED to give them a year's advanced notice and invite them to a public meeting where the city council would decide what kind of relocation benefits he was supposed to provided them. Instead, he just told them that the park was closing and they would need to look for a new place to live. Then he wonders why they all moved away?

The best and worst part of the meeting was that the Planning Commission was not very sympathetic with this guy, and stuck him dead-last on the agenda. He got up to the podium around 8:30 or so. At 10:00 they finally told him he'd said all he could say, several times over. Then I got to stand up. I was a little past my prime by that point in terms of being tired, starved, and annoyed, and I don't know if I was coherent. But at least I got on the record. I couldn't stick around long after my speech so I don't know what they finally decided (if anything). Didn't really want an opportunity to chat with the park owner either so I picked up my chicken legs and left. If I find out what happened, I'll let you know.

NOTE ON TRIATHLON RESULTS: the split times are out. I'll put in a new link to them ASAP, meanwhile if you follow the link in the last post you might be able to find them.

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