Thursday, March 25, 2010

Streetlights, Nightlights and a Congressman

by Walter Blevins

Part 1: Quiet Night, Nightlight
For some reason I woke up at about 2 a.m. this morning after having dozed off again on the couch. The quietness got my attention. By quiet I mean that there was no traffic noise, no kid noise, just some night birds out on their rounds. So I went out on the balcony to absorb it. I loved the peacefulness of that quiet.

Looking around while breathing in the fresh nighttime air, I noticed something that I first spotted about a month ago. The City of Vista, California where I live is building a new $55 million City Hall (in California they’re called “Civic Centers”). OK, nothing wrong with that because the City has been using an old decrepit elementary school for a City Hall for about 25-30 years.

New City Hall at 3:00 a.m. Turn out the lights!

So what’s bugging me? Well, the new City Hall is about 300 yards in a straight line from my balcony. It’s 3 stories high so I can see it from where I live. Why do the construction people have to leave the lights on in the entire structure 24/7? Can’t someone turn the lights off at night except for necessary security lights? How much is that costing the taxpayers?

Part 2: Dark Tunnel, NoLight
One stinking, lousy streetlight. That’s all I wanted and all I asked for. What I got was a painted line. A painted line is better than nothing. But it doesn’t diminish the darkness.

What the hell am I talking about? Just a little difference of opinion I had with the City of Vista, California where I live. You see there’s this intersection a couple of blocks from where I live. The intersection of South Citrus Ave. and Eucalyptus. It’s 2 blocks from the downtown. There are no streetlights. And at night it’s dark. Real dark. Spooky dark.

I’m consider myself to be a really good driver and this intersection (especially turning right from Eucalyptus to Citrus) is scary. As soon as you start to turn right, the street starts to descend to where you can’t see the right shoulder. You have to know it’s there and how far you can or can’t get over.

Just a stinking, lousy streetlight--Please!

So, I sent an e-mail to the City Street department which got bucked over to the Engineering Department which contacted me to tell me that there wasn’t any money in the budget for a streetlight there but that I was welcome to contact the power company and pay for it myself. Say what? My response that I was referring to public property was met by an offer to paint a white line along the shoulder at the turn to mark it better. OK, better than nothing.

Well, I hadn’t driven through there in a good 6 months until recently. And I had forgotten just how dark it is. It’s dangerous dark to the point where I’m uncomfortable driving it. It’s also dangerous for any pedestrians who might be out at night. And, there’s been at least one mugging there too.

Is it too much to ask for one stinking, lousy street light at this intersection and for the damn city to turn off the lights at the City Hall construction site at night?

Part 3: To My Congressman
Darrell Issa is the Congressman for my district. He lists his address as the city where I live, Vista, California. Rep. Issa was vehemently opposed to the new HealthCare legislation recently passed by Congress.

Now, if and when Rep. Issa is “home” in Vista, I’m sure that he lives in a pretty good neighborhood. (Let’s put it this way, if you’ve ever bought a security alarm for a car, there’s pretty good odds that it’s a “Viper” made by Issa’s company). This guy is, according to Wikipedia, the wealthiest Congressman.

So, I’m guessing that Rep. Issa has rarely, if ever, been into my neighborhood of Vista (it’s an area that my wife described as “semi-barrio” when we first started dating). He’s got his. And his constituents tend to be the affluent Republicans who tend to flock together in this area.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of them and all he has to do is keep them happy. The type of people who live in my neighborhood tend to be less likely to vote and less likely to complain. They’re too busy trying to make ends meet.

But, I’ve always had this thought that a Congressman or Legislator or City Council member needs to represent all of his or her constituents (pretty damn na├»ve for someone with a Master’s degree in Political Science, isn’t it).

So here’s my point—it’s an invitation. Congressman, come on over to my apartment. It’s just a half-block off Vista Way and you won’t have to go too far into the Hispanic Townsite neighborhood that the paper invariably refers to as “hardscrabble”.

Let’s hang out on the balcony for about an hour and just observe. I’ll even throw some burgers or sausage on the grill. But, let’s observe the people of this neighborhood. They’re your constituents too. Who are they? What are they?

They’re overwhelmingly brown. They’ve got families. They walk more places than you do because they don’t have much money. Many don’t have cars. The hold their children’s hands as they walk. The little girls look like gorgeous dolls and the boys like mischievous rascals. You can sense and feel the love they’re given. Love has nothing to do with economics. Except that if you don’t have much to give, you can still give love—it’s inexhaustible.

The teens are typical and normal. Even though they might not have much, they’ve got i-Pods and cell phones. Someone sacrificed to get them too. It’s not like a lot of other neighborhoods were there is no economic sacrifice and people have plenty.

So this is our neighborhood. Notice the young Moms with toddlers who are pregnant again. I wonder what kind of health insurance they’ve got? I wonder what kind of pre-natal care they’re getting.

Come on over, Rep. Issa. We won’t make a big press deal out of it or anything—that’s not the point. Just observe (no entourage or security). And maybe you can wander out and talk to a few. Find out what’s on their minds. Don’t worry, most speak English. It’s cool to listen to the kids going to school or coming home seamlessly switching back and forth from English to Spanish all the while sounding like what they are—kids.

And after you hang out for a bit, head on back to Shadowridge Country Club. Maybe some of the guys there who are trimming the bushes live in my neighborhood. And maybe, you’ll be able to understand just a little bit better.

Come on over, Rep. Issa. Just for an hour.

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