Two pieces of e-mail arrived in my inbox on Sunday. One was about the recently-launched effort to recall Mayor Tom Bates. It asked “What is Tom Bates doing wrong?” The second was for an Oct. 15 benefit for the Elmwood Neighborhood Association, which is suing the city for its approval of the huge restaur-ant and bar complex at the old Wright’s Garage. I couldn’t help but laugh, because this e-mail had so simply answered the question posed by the first. If Tom Bates had been doing his job, ordinary people wouldn’t have to sue our city to get justice. They wouldn’t have to stage benefits when a letter to the mayor would have sufficed.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a good party, and I’d love a chance to hear Mal Sharpe’s Jazz Band and Eric and Suzy Thompson. For people who don’t know, these musicians live right in our neighborhood, and they must really care about what’s happening to donate their time this way. That really makes me want to make the effort to go down to Anna’s Jazz Island and contribute to this cause, but I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say that my anger towards Mayor Bates is also motivating me to go.
Our City Council representative is no better than our mayor, maybe worse. Gordon Wozniak gave this moronic idea high praise on Kitchen Democracy, but when it comes to taking care of the people who live in the Elmwood, he remains silent. He ought to be recalled, too.
Last week was a sad week in the Elmwood. The hardware store closed for renovations and may not open again. We have lost the kind of businesses the people in the Elmwood want to patronize. We once had a shoe repair store, a produce market, and a health foods store. Now we’re going to get a big fancy overpriced restaurant for people outside the neighborhood, and oh yeah, it will have a big lounge, too. So now after these people take up all the parking in the neighborhood, they’re going to endanger us all when they get behind the wheel to drive home.
Personally, I don’t move as quickly as I used to, and I don’t like dodging cars in the crosswalk. The traffic is getting worse, and the pollution is unspeakable. I’m sweeping dust and grime off my porch on a daily basis. A restaurant and bar of this size (5,000 square feet) is not going to be filled with neighborhood diners; it’s going to be patronized by people driving here and leaving intoxicated late at night. They’re going to be loud, crude, and rude. We’re going to pay the price for the developer’s profits.
How did developer John Gordon get this project past the City Council and Zoning Adjustments Board? I refer back to my first e-mail. Tom Bates is not doing his job. Mayor Bates should have sent this project back to the zoning board, but instead he insisted that this item be heard last on the City Council agenda. Then he kept trying to shut the meeting down before residents had a chance to finish their statements. Is it any wonder that people want to recall him? A mayor who has such disdain for citizens and their concerns shouldn’t be surprised when people finally get fed up.
Even if this recall effort fails, I hope it sends a message to Mayor Bates, Councilmember Wozniak, and the other anti-neighborhood members of the council: Citizens are sick of paying high taxes and being treated with contempt, as if our concerns were a nuisance to you and your developer friends.
Gus Lee is an Elmwood resident.