Saturday, June 04, 2011

It's All Related

I don't usually take Eddie to off leash park hours at night. I feel more comfortable being there closer to 9pm when they start but that doesn't fit very well with our schedule. For the past couple of days I've had Bobby staying here. As I've always said, one dog is one dog and two dogs is ten dogs. These particular dogs are mostly like five dogs but they have their moments. I like to keep them nice and tired. So I enlisted Alex to come with me to night time off leash since it's hard to watch two dogs at a time in the daylight but it's terrifying at night, even with their awesome light up collars. I could not live with myself if anything happened on my watch.

Apparently the lights have been messed up in the park. Thursday night, the first night we went, they were all out in the "safe" area where the dogs play at night. It was like a planetarium rock and laser show. You couldn't see the dogs just whatever version of flashy collar their person had strapped them into. Sometimes you'd get some back light from the street so you'd see a little collar-sized light bright and clear through a haze of dust kicked up as they wrestled.

All of that is delightful ambiance but the truth is that a park in an urban area with no lights in it is flat out dangerous. It is far, far less dangerous in this park now and with a dog than it was a few years ago but still, it's not cool. Last night we arrived to see a cop car parked outside and police, almost literally, beating the bushes. As we kept our eyes on the bouncing lights of our pets other cop cars drove through the park in different patterns, searching and searching. One officer asked if we'd seen someone running through the park. We had not.

Talk turned to the lighting issue. Apparently it had shown up in the NY Times blog for our area. The Parks Department had been called. They said that the Department of Transportation was responsible for lighting in Parks. Later a beat cop arrived and struck up a conversation with some regulars (including Alex). He had called 311 to report the outage (as had many dog owners earlier in the week). They had told him that it could take up to 30 days to fix (read blog post linked above for an in-depth explanation of that estimate). He agreed this was a terrible public safety issue. When he found out that the lights had been out at some level since Monday he called again.

A few months ago someone I went to school with ages ago announced on social media that he had collaborated with a politician on a biography. As time has worn on he has stumped not just for the book but for the candidate so strongly as to seem almost fanatical. It's a candidate I thought I knew wasn't my cup of tea but couldn't remember what he'd done. Finally today I did the research to find out that I was right. Up front on his platform, along with important social issues, he lists his strong financial leadership of a midwestern state. Apparently he reduced (possibly balanced, I am honestly too sick about the social conservatism to go back and check my facts) that state's budget without raising taxes, making bold cuts in services.

I am on board with a balancing of the budget. However, I recognize that it's a far more complex issue than anyone ever says when they're stumping for votes. The lights in the park have become in my mind an example of why all his hearty, self-congratulatory chest thumping must be a bunch of dog poo (left in the grass because the lights were out and the owner couldn't see to pick it up).

A popular first cut in any city budget is almost always the Parks Department because it's seen as a privilege not  a right to have public space. A second choice is often the Department of Transportation because you can raise fares and tolls which are not technically raising taxes...they just impact the poorest among us in a way that can't be avoided since they have to get to their jobs to pay for things that the government is cutting funds to as well. (Like Planned Parenthood but that's another post I'm too angry to write...yet) So, with this candidate's presumed plan (I'm not linking because I don't want to crack on my old classmate, just use his guy as an example) you cut the Parks Department because it's a bonus item, you cut the DOT because it doesn't raise taxes and then the lights go out and there aren't enough Parks employees to care about getting it fixed and the DOT doesn't have the funds to fix it because they have to concentrate their limited resources on getting people places so the park becomes dangerous. Anyone committing a crime nearby knows that they have a decent chance at escape into the park and that there are easy pickings inside of it, too. Without lights you have to send more cops with their own lights in to patrol and/or to chase someone because you can't just write off the park and anyone in it. This means at night and in that neighborhood the police need more funds. Where are you going to get those? Will you cut from the Parks Department or the DOT? Maybe there's a politician with a brilliant plan to properly reorganize these sorts of responsibilities but what department in their right mind is going to willingly take on more tasks while their budget is being slashed like Atlanta circa the third act of Gone With The Wind?

It's complicated. Untangling it is going to take more time than anyone wants to wait for. But wait we must. We must look not to the future of a month from now and then get furious at a politician who doesn't deliver sweeping results in that short time frame. We must look to the future of years from now. The problem is, doing that, the politician will be long gone by the time we can tell if his or her plan worked. It's a gamble.

We're gambling with our future.

I fear it's unavoidable but I do know that I'm not putting my money on that old nag.

*All photos taken in Fort Greene Park during morning off leash hours when God, Mother Nature and the Universe provide the light.

1 comment:

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