Thursday, May 26, 2011

Back after an absence

Essex Street Mall 2011-05-26 007, originally uploaded by dmoisan.

Via Flickr:
Nature finally turned a switch to "Summer" today, as these folks are realizing.

And I've turned a switch, too.

I haven’t posted in almost six months.  I’m dispirited.

Last winter, my building had the bedbug hysteria that has affected many households in recent years.  Dealing with bedbugs has combined the worst aspects of moving and losing your house to fire or flood.  The Salem News covered the story in my building and it brought out the worst aspect of pest infestations—the moral opprobrium that comes when your betters can look down on you for being “dirty” and “unclean”, even though bedbugs, roaches and mice are blissfully unaware of class distinctions.  

In a building with a shared laundry space, like I have, I’ll never know how I got bedbugs and I just don’t care who or what “gave” them to me.  I just know that pest infestations don’t make me or my neighbors “immoral” or “unclean” or “lazy”, but that was on the minds of many of the Salem News commentariat.

There’s more, too.  Last spring I had quite a screaming match with my ward councilor Mike Sosnowski over a parking proposal at the Jail.

What I learned from that affair is that it doesn’t matter what neighborhood I live in, or what stake I have in anything, if someone more important than me thinks different.  At that meeting, a person from the Northfields neighborhood association asserted that me and my neighbors did not want commercial use at the Jail no matter what.

It doesn’t matter that that Northfields guy probably doesn’t even have a view of the Jail from his house.  And he never cared before about the apartment complex I live in.

As far as I can see, Mike Sosnowski has more or less aided and abetted groups like Northfields.  If you live in cheap rental housing, you will not get representation in Salem.

You will not get it.

Better that you show Mike your mortgage statement—or proof of McIntyre architecture—before coming to him with a problem.

I was at a meeting this past Saturday of the Alliance of Salem Neighborhood Associations.  It was held at the function room of Beverly Cooperative Bank, which is where the Downtown group meets.

I had my own problems with that group, and didn’t want to attend this meeting, except that I made a verbal commitment on recorded video and had to go. 

(I know the camera is on during our Commission meetings.  If I make a gaffe or a curse, then I do.  I don’t try to walk back what I said.  I said it and it’s on tape and that is that.)

Several people in the Alliance complained about being “outsiders”.  I wanted to say to them:  “Where’s Lucy [Corchado, head of  the Point association]?  Where are they?  The Point is a neighborhood, isn’t it?”

Those people have their own advisory board at the highest level of city government.  They have Jason Silva’s [Mayor Driscoll’s chief-of-staff] private number on speed-dial.  I have no doubt that someone like Michael Coleman can have Mike Sosnowski swing into action at 3 AM on a Sunday if he so commands it.  If Teasie Goggin wanted to repeat Mike Bencal’s Al Haig moment (“I’m in control here”, after the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981) when he tried to take charge of City Hall when the mayor was away a few years ago, she has more than enough social capital to do so!

They have that advisory commission in addition to the Alliance!  Tell me they are outsiders again?

As it happened, the meeting was a waste of time for me and and my colleagues on the Commission on Disabilities, since it was supposed to pertain to the MBTA parking garage, but was instead an unfocused rambling about pedestrian access and getting traffic usage stats, only to find out the state had already done that but nobody from the Alliance even read the report.  The Commission probably could have used that, but the person presenting that report didn’t bother to tell us where we could find the data from the state website.

(I’d filmed video of the meeting.  It would have been nice of them to tell us when the MBTA part of the meeting would get under way so I wouldn’t have to guess how long the batteries in my camera would last.  Not long enough as it turned out.)

If I can’t be involved in the workings of my own city, the one that I have spent 47 years in, I think, why am I bothering to blog?

I’ve asked myself that question over and over during the past six months.

The only thing keeping me going is the Commission—whose purpose I believe in with all my heart and soul—and Salem Access Television, where I have been applying my IT talents for 11 years.

I’m very proud, in fact, that SATV now has much of its local programming available over the Net.  Public meetings—including the Commission’s—are now available through our Government page.

I worked very hard with Sal Russo and the staff over the past year to make this possible and I am inordinately prideful.  I’ve been delighted to flip the figurative “bird” to a few former board members who thought this was a “fad” or “something for Dave and Sal to spend money on”.  (In fact, video-on-demand has been a roaring success at SATV.)

There are many other thoughts, ideas and initiatives at SATV and the Commission to make fodder for many more years of blog posts, which is why I’m continuing to blog.

But I will never, ever, let myself believe that I have a stake and a say with what happens in Salem.

I don’t.  And I won’t.