Speaking up

Published 11:52 am Wednesday, August 12, 2009

By Staff
Don’t believe government listens to those it serves?
Think again. On Monday night, moments after it heard 423 people had signed a petition opposing a proposed location for Washington’s new police station, the City Council dropped that site like a hot potato.
And that is what it was, a hot political potato.
With the mayoral and City Council elections in Washington coming up this fall, it’s a safe bet that members of the council — each of them running for a seat on the council or the mayor’s seat — translated those 423 signatures into votes. Supporting the construction of the new police station on part of the former P.S. Jones High School site could cost candidates votes from the black community, which, according to William O’Pharrow, does not want the new police station at that location.
O’Pharrow, long a spokesman for the area’s black community, said residents who live near the former P.S. Jones site don’t want a new police station there because “it would take away the only open field in our area.” That field is used for recreational purposes such as sports and picnics, he said. O’Pharrow urged the city to search for a more suitable site for the new facility.
O’Pharrow said he collected the 423 signatures on the petition in less than eight hours, adding that he could collect as many signatures in the same amount of time.
“I think this pretty much seals the fate of this site,” Mayor Judy Meier Jennette said.
She’s right. The city, which had asked the architects hired to design the new police station to evaluate two sites (including the P.S. Jones location), will now explore other places as possible sites for the new police station.
Those 423 signatures show the power that people have when they choose to exercise their right to speak out against something they do not want.
Perhaps they learned a lesson from the recent rallies across North Carolina at which people told the federal government to keep its hands off their health care.
If you don’t speak up, your voice won’t be heard.