Saturday, November 21, 2009

Neighborhood associations run amok

So, I live in Southside Park neighborhood. I like the area a lot... and since I've lived here, I've kept in the loop with the neighborhood association (SPNA). I even volunteered for the board of SPNA one year. I'm going to vent a bit here about my experiences with this organization. I suppose someone from SPNA may somehow come across this blog post & have issue with it. So be it. I've voiced these concerns there to some chagrin, and am merely reiterating them in more detail here.

I'll start by describing a bit about how SPNA runs. There is a Yahoo Group where open online/e-mail discussion occurs. There is also a monthly meeting. There is a board of (about four) who meet in addition to that. My issue with the SPNA is that there are a few (one in particular) person who devote significant time and energy on getting involved with any issue in the area and representing a position to the City or media on behalf of SPNA. The problem is... repeatedly, the communication to the City or media "on behalf of SPNA" seems to be greater than the communication to the actual residents in the neighborhood. The other fact to note... the individual lives in "co-housing", which is a commune style set of homes in the middle of a city block - very different from the way most of us live. So, "SPNA" is somewhat of a farce... one or a few people driving their own agendas. My neighbor who's lived in the area longer wholeheartedly agrees, and stopped involvement because of this.

Here are just a few examples of issues I've had conflict with SPNA on:

Online Voting
I have voiced concern over the renegade representation... requesting that SPNA use Yahoo Groups voting/poll feature as a requirement before representing the neighborhood. This was met with resistance, and the board members stated that only meetings & the board truly represent the neighborhood. *laugh* Hardly... just because someone is in the extraordinary circumstance that they have time to meet in-person every month doesn't mean you get to speak for the all the busy property owners in the neighborhood.

Broadway Bridge
The "co-housing" is on 5th St, a one way street heading north from Broadway into downtown. For a long time, people around Sacramento have suggested that a Broadway bridge would help develop the riverfront and improve the blight along west Broadway next to our neighborhood. When this issue was being considered, I read in the paper that SPNA was against a Broadway Bridge. WHAT? No discussion or poll had been done. This was another case of co-housing NIMBY's along 5th St serving themselves rather than the whole neighborhood and speaking on our behalf.

Green Waste Bins
The same co-housing folks don't have "claw" leaf pickup, and they don't really have trees or leaves to rake. The same individuals contacted City Utilities and drove a change to move our neighborhood to green waste bins. Many residents have been outraged by the change, since bins don't make sense in the city. Read more about my thoughts on that here.

Other stuff
I am a proponent of freedom to develop the area. SPNA seems to support the dozens of approvals and bureaucracy, such as Historic Preservation Committee, that any person must navigate before changing anything on their house - let alone building a new house on an empty lot! Hell, last year there was a decrepit rotting building causing blight on S St, and the SPNA renegades actually tried to fight the City and save the building! Another time, a convenience store across from Old Ironsides had changed ownership and the new owner was removing these ugly tiles from the side of the building. The SPNA individual proudly announced on the Yahoo Group that they had reported the incident to the City, as permission wasn't granted to remove the tiles! The clubhouse in Southside Park is used for SPNA meetings and when the Sacramento Police Department wanted to use the clubhouse certain evenings for peer counseling... the SPNA folks raised a territorial raucous of concern. It's not theirs.

Although I've agreed with SPNA on some issues, there have been and will be other conflicts. If I live here long enough and get irked enough, I may take things into my own hands. I could walk the streets of the neighborhood with fliers for a new organization... say "Southside Park Representation Committee" which would actually poll/vote on these issues to let the City know how we really feel. Or I suppose I could just make it a one man club of myself, and it would be nearly as viable as SPNA in terms of representing the neighborhood.

Spoiled brats

I was thinking about the concept of parenting... probably since I'll have to face that role soon. My thought is: parenting is analogous to any relationship in society where one person/group (the guardian) is responsible for another person/group (the subjects).
  • Parent-Child:
    The parent is responsible for the behavior of the child and for providing for its basic needs.
  • Supervisor-Employee:
    The supervisor is responsible for the employee's work, setting expectations and fairly compensating them for performance.
  • Government-Citizen:
    The government is responsible for protecting it's citizens from threat of foreign invasion and enforcing equal law among citizens.
In each case, the guardian must determine a set of rules to apply towards their subjects. Applying these rules will involve reward or discipline of the subjects based on their behavior. So, what happens in any one of these relationships when the guardian is inconsistent in applying the rules? What happens when the guardian is influenced by whining, swaying on the rules and principles? In each case, the subject would become a spoiled brat... someone who's been taught 'the squeaky wheel gets the oil', and that the guardian doesn't uphold a consistent set of principles (such as rewarding work with payment, or supporting property rights). Most private companies will not survive if they operate this way, so spoiled brats don't thrive there. However, you will see lots of whiney spoiled brat employees in public sector or government protected union jobs. You also will find spoiled brats in a nation where the government has decided to provide "free" services for citizens. You see this today in every protest against the government cutting socialist services. You see it amongst the public health care supporters. The "Nanny State" is a bad parent, and raising a nation of whiney spoiled brats. It's time for government to get back to it's proper role and stand for consistent rules and principles... like any good parent or supervisor.