I very rarely write here about unpleasant things, either in my life or in the world in general, because I want to keep this blog a place where the most stressful thing for me is having to unravel a piece of knitting or not having enough wool to finish a certain patch of needlepoint. I am also, though, a bluestocking both by nature and by designation, and as such I can't help waxing philosophical at times -- so instead of going into specifics, I'm going to ponder this morning the general nature of city politics.
Here is what I came up with last night: "Question: At what point does a concerned citizen become a gadfly? Answer: When he or she stands up to speak against a development proposal at a planning commission meeting." Is this truly the way it works? (And is this a theory or a theorem? -- it's certainly a sidetrack.)
I couldn't help noticing, at this first city meeting I have ever attended, that the proposal procedure went like this: the representative of a certain development corporation spoke for as long as he wanted, with slides of idyllic architectural renderings, about a proposed high-density multi-story structure, then citizens in attendance at the meeting were allowed to speak for a maximum of three minutes each, yay or nay but without any visual aids, then the public forum was closed and the developer's representative was allowed to respond, again with visual aids, to these compliments or concerns for as long as he wanted, and then the commissioners offered their closing remarks and voted. Well, yes, this is certainly democratic, up to a point at least, but is it quite fair?
Nor could I help remembering, when one of the commissioners observed that few opponents of the development had bothered to come to the meeting, that when the commissioners were making their closing remarks, many of them thanked and complimented the citizens who had spoken in favor of the development ("when Mrs. Jones spoke -- is she still here? oh, too bad, isn't she wonderful! what a great citizen of our fair city! --") but in response to those who had spoken against the development they merely brushed aside the citizens' concerns ("well, Mr. Smith, it's actually irrelevant that you currently live in a similar high-density development and your common spaces that were intended to be open to the community at large have since been fenced off and locked from said community because of misuse and homeless congregations, because this one is going to be different"). Mrs. Jones is therefore a stalwart citizen, and Mr. Smith is an annoyance -- QED. Is this really the nature of things? was Orwell right, that some citizens are more equal than others?
I don't know -- I hope not. But I do suspect that the only way I am going to understand city politics is to become deeply cynical, and my whole being resists this like anything.