(Jeremy’s liveblog; Lee Hammel’s article)
There was a gentleman who sat in front of me in the gallery last night. He, like me, lives in the neighborhood near 1398 Main Street. He, unlike me, was opposed to the proposed triage center there.
He overheard me talking with Jo Hart and proclaimed that I was “his kind of girl” because I sounded like I didn’t take crap from anyone.
When those who opposed the 1398 Main Street site tried to shout down Barbara Haller, he told the folks nearest him that that was inappropriate behavior for the Council chamber. That took guts, even for someone on their side. He was my kind of guy.
So much of the debate surrounding the proposed triage center has involved folks shouting others down (and worse). I’d like to thank that gentleman for reminding me that folks can disagree without being disagreeable, and that people like us can shake hands at the end of a hearing.
Yes, the triage center will be moving to 701 Main Street.
But the real news is that we have rewarded folks for their anger, fear, and bad behavior.
Folks have a right to be angry. I think the lack of communication is cause enough to be angry.
But anger does not give you the right to shout down people who are trying to speak at a meeting.
Folks have a right to be afraid.
But fear does not give you the right to spread misinformation and to stereotype others.
I have rarely been so disappointed in my fellow citizens as when I heard them shout down Barbara Haller last night, when she pointed out that the 1398 Main Street location had multiple community hearings (as a contrast to 701 Main Street, which will have had none).
Folks said that those weren’t community meetings because they weren’t allowed to speak.
But who didn’t allow them to speak — elected officials, or their own neighbors who acted in an absolutely uncivil manner?
I said this last week: “when things get ugly, it’s very easy for the Manager to ignore everyone, or to shut down a meeting. And then the voices of the more reasonable or more quiet among us are silenced.” And, as I predicted, plenty of us have been silenced by the shouts of our own neighbors.
The losers in this are not just the neighbors of 701 Main Street, but any of us who long for a real dialogue about homelessness, and for those of us who believe that civil discourse is an essential part of our democracy.
An infrequent reader let me know that it wasn’t clear whether I was for or against the triage center in my neighborhood. I apologize for my lack of clarity — I was not opposed to the triage center, for a variety of reasons. I tried very hard to show how the lack of communication fanned the flames, and I tried (perhaps too well) to see things from the point of view of those with whom I disagree.
There have been so many little topics swirling in my head: whether neighborhood councils would have helped or hurt in this situation; why folks seem to (over-)emphasize the negative aspects of city living when there are so many positives; why more people showed up at these meetings than actually turned out to vote…
…but it’s past my bedtime.
More to come, I’m sure. And hopefully in a lucid manner.
For further reading: Mending Fences, as discussed a long time ago on P&C, and Opening Doors to Group Homes in Worcester