Fair weather citizens
Sadly, these folks seldom experience the weather, unless it’s for a handful of seconds while moving to and from their homes. For the most part, they’ll remain enclosed and isolated from the weather they arduously study; inside their homes, underneath heater-warmed awnings or in a vehicle moving from place to place.
Most people stay similarly isolated from the transgressions of their own local government. The main difference is that they don’t bother to painstakingly follow City Hall happenings, even though they may exert drastic and lasting repercussions on daily life. While most people are more than willing to spend more than an hour a day studying weather, they’re generally unwilling to lend even a few moments to review matters that may have a “quality of life” altering affect on their lives.
Take for instance the recent uproar over Mayor Scott Johnson’s plan to develop a 42,000-square-foot recreation center on a grassy lot near the public housing development at Jefferson Terrace. In what was quite literally his first move in office five months ago, Johnson publicly advocated moving the project from a site by the Wiebel Avenue ice rinks to Vanderbilt Avenue.
At the time, the proposed move was broadly applauded by the few residents who were listening. And it seemed to make a lot of sense: Bring the recreation center within walking distance of a housing project where underprivileged kids can walk to it. The test balloon floated into the air and hovered unscathed throughout January.
Johnson publicly broached the idea several other times throughout the winter and into spring. Most notably, Johnson raised the concept again at the state of the city address in February, even though few residents attended the broadly publicized speech. To put it mildly, one would’ve needed to avoid newspapers, public meetings and local gossip to not hear news of Johnson’s plan.
Still, there are those who say they simply didn’t know. Ray Giguere, who lives adjacent to the proposed site, told the Post Star he and his neighbors were never contacted about the idea.
“The neighbors are all kind of shocked by this,” he told the paper.
Now there’s a growing outcry against the project, more than five months after Johnson first brought up the idea. Neighbors of the project are genuinely concerned over the plan because it will quite literally transform nearly an acre of green space into something unknown. But why are they raising this issue now, more than five months after the mayor first announced the plan?
Perhaps it’s because they simply don’t care enough to pick up a newspaper and read. True, there is much to be said about the quality of coverage in the Spa City. However, all four area newspapers have lent their ink to Johnson’s proposal. And the idea has been kicked around at just about every city meeting since the mayor took office.
So it’s a bit perplexing to learn someone simply didn’t know what was going on until surveyors start measuring up the property. Had they bothered to allocate 10 minutes a day to read a newspaper –or the much more ambitious hour at bi-monthly city council meetings –they would have known about the project long in advance of architectural plans being concocted.
But maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the most recent 3 percent dip in newspaper circulation across the board. These days, the public seems largely reliant on fickle local news coverage on television; the same sound-bite reports they get while waiting for the weather to come on. And that’s if they bother listening to anything local at all.
While it’s easy to fault the sorry state of the media on shoestring budgets and corporate greed, some of the blame must be heaped on the shoulders of the public, which seems increasingly more apathetic to events shaping their immediate surroundings. The newspapers carrying the life-blood of American Democracy are failing, public meetings are sparsely attended, and yet people seem more concerned about the weather.