By Greg Dobbs
I was opposed to the fire district’s plan to put up a burn building obnoxiously and maybe perilously close to people’s homes in Bergen Park. Not that it affected mine — for me it will be out-of-sight, out-of-mind. But in a place like Evergreen, we’re all neighbors. So on the behalf of neighbors who would be directly impacted, I did everything I could to prevent it.
But you know what? My side lost. The district’s five directors saw things differently than we did. They don’t believe the burn building will jeopardize the homes of people living nearby; to the contrary, they believe it will enhance the neighbors’ protection, as well as everyone else’s in the district.
The trouble is, some of those neighbors just don’t know when to cry “uncle.” So they’re proceeding with an effort to recall the district’s directors.
I don’t question their right to demand the recall, but I do question their wisdom. Their basic argument is that despite months of discussions and negotiations, the directors didn’t listen to the opposition. That’s a shaky supposition. They listened, but disagreed. It is pompous to assume that if someone simply hears your logic, they’ll do a 180, abandon their own argument, and concur instead with yours.
It also is a falsehood. There were plenty of meetings between the opposition and the directors. Public meetings, private meetings, meetings of the committee jointly created to resolve the dispute, even a field trip or two to examine alternatives. The directors heard our reasoning; they just didn’t agree with it.
And it’s potentially counterproductive. Right now, the directors have pledged to spend money to mitigate the impact of the burn building. Its height, its design, its buffer zone, the hours of training exercises, the accessibility of an emergency response team — these all have been added to the plan, all designed to alleviate the aggravation of neighbors. That’s an outgrowth, I’d add, of what the directors heard, which belies the argument that they didn’t listen. How will the recall’s proponents feel if any of these offers disappears?
Throughout the debate about a burn building, some on each side claimed that a majority of constituents supported their arguments. The fact is, though, nobody knows. All a recall can achieve, besides the waste of an estimated $70,000 of taxpayers’ money, is to divide us further.
What the question comes down to is, does the directors’ decision to go forward with the burn building rise to the level of a recall? Generally, recalls are staged to combat misconduct or malfeasance. When elected officials simply come to different conclusions than some of us want them to come to, that hardly seems to qualify.
We’re lucky. In our society, disputes typically don’t end with guns. But does this one even have to end with a recall? I think not. If we opposed the burn building, we lost. It might enrage us, it might feel unjust, but we lost. The continuing campaign to force a recall isn’t going to change that.
Greg Dobbs is an Evergreen resident.