Monday, February 18, 2013

Tale Of Two Cities

This begins with two similar events, traffic accidents involving school children, the first over three years ago and the second, more recent, little over a week ago. Both have resulted in public outcry and a call for action.

The first accident resulted in an a serious injury and what has apparently been viewed at City Hall as a never ending chorus of whining and requests for increased traffic enforcement and other safety measures. To the City's credit they would respond with a patrol, the mobile speed trailer with associated sanitized eighty-fifth percentile reports and installed a now dead and buried middle-of-the-road crosswalk sign. To the resident's point these patrols have become little more than feeble placations and the obvious conclusion of a destroyed crosswalk sign seems to have escaped our Public Safety team at City Hall. The residents being persistent have even reached out to a Councilman to come to the scene and witness first hand the hazardous conditions that persist to this day. This request was denied.

Little over a week ago all this changed. This same Councilman's son was involved in a similar accident, saved from potentially mortal injury by the quick thinking and deliberate action of a crosswalk guard. And let's be very clear on one point: at any time since the creation of this city were one to stack rank our elected officials based on any objective criteria this Councilman's name would appear at the top. Not near the top. At the top. This Councilman has now put the full force of his office and credibility in the community behind addressing the traffic safety issues and the hazardous conditions that prevail throughout our community. Not just his neighborhood but citywide.

This Tale of Two Cities is not so much about the contrasts of two traffic accidents or to disparage the fact that the City may now finally do the right thing and do it well or to in any way discourage them from that course of action.

What these events speak to is a widening rift between the elite class in Dunwoody and the plebeians they rule.

Were a parent or concerned citizen to approach Council to speak up about the first accident and what to do about it, they would be limited to three minutes of Council's precious time whilst a Councilman endures no such restriction on his freedom to speak. When a tragedy befalls a mere citizen the City has a muted reaction, but not so when it touches one of their own. It is this separate, this unequal reaction to and treatment of people and events that has created a class separation so distinct and so wide as to be missing only a proclamation from the Mayor of "Let Them Eat Cake".

This was evidenced in the recent council meeting when the Councilman recounted his son's accident and made recommendations for Citywide action. He was interrupted, rudely and inappropriately by what could easily be dismissed as a heckler. Though the behaviour was inexcusable it is explicable. There is an undercurrent of anger born of disenfranchisement not seen since citizen anger directed towards DeKalb was leveraged to form this City. There were or should have been adults in the room and this "heckler" should have been asked to leave. Instead there was a literal call to arms, a demand from the Chair that this person be removed by the police implicitly by force if necessary. This does little to show respect to citizens, any and all citizens, by this City.

It is imperative that we understand these events have revealed two separate problems. We have traffic safety issues in Dunwoody and while we can lament that it took a near tragedy affecting an elected official for this to get the attention it has long deserved we should not sacrifice the good that may come because this also exposes a growing chasm between our City and those they are to serve.