Except that it is also intertwined with today's reading from the Rule of Benedict:
In all things, therefore, let all follow the Rule as guide,
and let no one be so rash as to deviate from it.
Let no one in the monastery follow his own heart's fancy
Benedict is speaking of the monastery, not of the city block where we happen to reside. He wants decisions to be made in community--big decisions should be brought to the whole community and everyone be given a voice. Small decisions can happen just with the abbot's/prioress' closest counselors. But if it's big, if it will change something about the way the monks live, then they'd better have a say in it. Even if the leader decides to go another way, s/he has been informed of the spirit of the community and does not make decisions blindly. Nor should any random community member decide to do whatever the "heart's fancy" wants. Communities are affected by renegade members. Communities are stronger when folks work together towards a common goal. Or at least know that when decisions are unpopular but must be made, that respect should be paid to those who didn't get their way.
I don't read the Rule every day--I click on the link on the right side of this blog on occasion, usually when things get busy or overwhelming. Sometimes it doesn't seem to apply--it's not a magic 8 ball, after all--but sometimes it makes me pause.
Many of you know why I'm close to my neighbors. Not why I continue to be close, but how it happened in the first place. I should frame our first block call list, with the add-ons and the notes. The cell numbers of DEA agents on the back and random jottings of things Anne said to me on the phone that I wanted to remember when I called the police again. Cab numbers, descriptions. The notation: "Cell phones do not show on log!!!" at the top. We used to have khat dealers and prostitutes on our corner. I suspect some human trafficking. I took some gross photos of basement detritus one summer afternoon right before the end of it all. The things you wind up doing when you're scared that Bad Men live on your corner. The Secret Service agent flashing a badge on my front porch. The, I'll be honest, total thrill about having the Secret Service sitting in my living room passing me photos and taking my information.
The activities at Halliday and Grand brought us together. Seriously. Suddenly we had a map, with phone numbers and names. We knew who people were. We could figure out whose cars were whose and which ones were dumped here after being stolen. It was an instant conversation starter: "Welcome to our block. We're so glad you bought this house. Here's our block list, there is some trouble on our corner but we're working on it..." And we did work. For over a year of consistent monitoring, knocking on the doors of every law enforcement agency we could think of. Talked with a lot of bozos at those agencies. And then were finally listened to. The rest is history.
The building sat empty. Life was GOOD. Then a developer bought the property, and the old police station at Magnolia and Grand. We were hesitant. We bargained. We fought. And finally, we came to the realization that there wasn't much we could do to stop development--beyond illegal activity that we weren't interested in--and we as a block started to work with the developer. Asked questions. Looked at plans, other projects he'd done. He hired good sub-contracters and we were satisfied.
Except that one neighbor really wasn't, and from my point of view, it seemed really personal. I stopped listening to her complaints, stopped worrying about what she had to say--we liked what the developer was doing, and that neighbor didn't live on our street, but on the next block.
We still like what the developer has done--granted, we would have done it differently, we would have done different things with the density, but we already lost that battle. Time to move along. And we did. He's sold 3 of the condos and the others look promising. I've walked through one. Small but very nice.
Then the developer poured a concrete pad in the front yard of the building. Made a parking pad, a driveway, where there had been front yard. This had been discussed before--how to work parking into this project with no parking spaces. The project on Victor was comparable, in some ways, but this wasn't like Victor. The driveway goes right across the sidewalk. The gutter is blocked by the apron. The concrete is blindingly white and the workmen park right on top of the sidewalk.
He didn't get a permit.
Not only that, he would never have gotten a permit for what he did, according to several folks, including Steve of Urban Review (he took photos but hasn't posted yet about it) and the neighbor whose voice I'd stopped listening to because it all seemed so personal for her. And so there's going to be a public meeting on June 6 to discuss the end result of this illegal driveway. I'm going to post some photos later--once I can get down to the corner without people (contractors, developers, real estate agents) asking me what the heck I'm doing.
I had a conversation with that neighbor yesterday. Sat in the alley for an hour. And she convinced me. So we're going to have a block-wide meeting, with the Tower Grove East Neighborhood Association board, soon.
I've been a vocal part of this block--I'm a block captain and I don't keep my mouth shut. Pretty much at all. And I fear (don't reassure me) that I've been too vocally supportive of the project. That perhaps I have railroaded folks into thinking this parking pad, with the alderman bundle of money for end of the street monuments rolled into it, was something that was inevitable. We had to live with it because we had no method of revolt. But now, maybe we do. And because the messenger was irritating me, I wasn't listening to the message.
So I'm going to our block meeting, and I'm going to listen. Perhaps we just don't care. Perhaps it isn't worth it--there used to be drug dealers there--but perhaps we can work things out so they work for the developer, for the new neighbors, and for us. Perhaps there is a middle way. And I'm hoping I can keep my mouth shut long enough to hear people talk. Remember that newcomers sometimes have the clearest view. Keep in mind that I'm not the boss of this block, even if my voice is pretty loud and I easily slip into middle school math teacher mode. How easily a strength becomes a flaw.
I don't know what I'm trying to say here. I guess just that I've changed my mind, and I think that's a good thing. But that I'm also not going to take my change of mind and make other people think the way I do.