Monday, May 23, 2011

"No wonder you don't want to talk about this." [Testimony at tonight's Board of Ed meeting]

Good evening President Barclay and Board members,

My name is James Pekar. I am a resident of Rock Creek Hills, and a neighbor of Rock Creek Hills Park. Like other park neighbors, I had no notice from you that you were considering taking our park.

On April 28th I got four hours notice, via neighborhood email, that our park was under threat. The Kensington Park retirement community, built on much of the site of the former Kensington Junior High School, had three hours notice.

Although he had been told that speaking slots were full, and that no one from Rock Creek Hills would be permitted to speak, the Vice President of our Citizens' Association came and pleaded. Eventually, he, another neighbor, and the Manager of Kensington Park, were allowed to speak. We watched on TV, as they told you we had just hours’ notice of your proposal, and pleaded with you to table your motion, to allow time for community input.

We have since learned that County Executive Leggett wrote to you earlier that day, urging you "to undertake an aggressive community and public input process to ensure that resident concerns are discussed and addressed before action is taken."

We watched you on TV. Deaf to the pleas of our community, and in disregard of the recommendation of the County Executive, you voted that night to take our park. How shocking, and how foolish! Our park fails all your site standards. No wonder you don't want to talk about this. It just doesn't make sense. It's a deeply flawed process, a mistaken decision, a deficient site, and it would be an inadequate school.

But let's not talk about acreage, roads, sidewalks, retaining walls, or parking garages. Let's talk about American values: The right of citizens not to be deprived of liberty without due process; the right of children to schools that are good, safe, and equitable; the right of communities to have input into local decisions, rather than having them made by people from other communities; our right to have government decisions made with integrity, not via a secretive, arbitrary, and inaccurate process; taxpayers’ right to have investments wisely stewarded.

Take a deep breath. Table this motion. Re-open the middle school site selection process. Conduct a proper evaluation of legitimate sites with public consultation – none of that has yet been done. Now is the time to start.

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