Fight for Your Right to Parity

Tim Becker at ParsNova disputes an interesting precedent in precisely who gets to weigh in on public discourse for public agencies:

That statement is at best a gross distortion.  No matter where you stand on this particular issue, you should not believe for a second that the public does not have any say in what AIDA does.

I’ll let you read the full post at ParsNova but what Tim is rightly railing against is the assertion that critics of AIDA have no say in what the agency does. Period.
Ironically, this lack of say does not apply to the supporters of AIDA in the mural decision , namely the editors, nor does it apply to the supporters of AIDA who wish the mural removed — their standing to advocate or stake a platform remains sacrosanct. In other words, certain folks lack standing and legitimacy to even weigh in on the matter as so determined by certain folks who apparently have an inherent legitimacy , simply because, well,  they assert so. And who are we to question?
Needless to say, I find this standard rather interesting, or more pointedly, wonderfully hypocritical.
Let’s look at all the things for which we should not advocate for or against:
— The Pedestrian Bridge : it is owned by the State Canal Corp
— Downtown Traffic Patterns: State DOT Project
— Route 30, Route 5, Exit 27: owned by various county and state entities
— AIDA C&D Landfill: another AIDA project so critics kindly STFU
— Walter Elwood Museum Building on Guy Park: GASD property
— Rec Center at Bacon School : GASD
— Municipal Golf Course: how dare you even ask?!
–Chalmers: option to private developer
I could go on.
What irks me with this claim to legitimacy is not only the failure to understand the role and governance of public agencies — which Tim highlights quite well — but the unchallenged assumption that some folks simply lack legitimacy to weigh in on public matters. The reason for this is simply that we must defer to established authority and protocol and ideology– how dare you challenge AIDA, GASD , or for that matter, a public institution advancing their agenda , not your agenda?
Let me issue a pointed challenge to see if we really believe in this claim to legitimacy. Let’s use our public schools as an example. It appears to me that the only people with true legitimacy in public school decisions would be parents whose kids go to school there. I mean, they’re not your kids. So let’s pen that editorial and let’s get on the airwaves and tell all the seniors and those with no kids in the system to just STFU. Seriously, what legitimacy do you have to weigh in on school matters when you have no kids in the district ? You have no say and really just STFU.
Note how this claim to legitimacy gets wielded to advocate for, let’s say, demolishing Chalmers over the interests of a private developer while at the at the same time wielded against those seeking transparency into the Golf Commission. Like AIDA, how dare you seek from public oversight or challenges to the Commission vis-a-vis its public mission ? You don’t own the Golf Course and you have no say over what they do!
Interesting how “legitimacy” gets wielded to advance one’s position and ideology without needing to engage in the specifics of the policy debate or the broader public interest. It’s a wonderful three-card monte parlor trick.
Maybe if folks had staked a little more pride and a little more resistance to the blatant disregard for the principles of historic and artistic preservation, or even a basic awareness of its significance to the fabric of a city, we might be faring somewhat better. But then, we’d have to invest and believe in a viable city which fundamentally challenges an entrenched and virulent mindset that the city should cease to exist as a city. Tim is precisely right: this mural is in many ways a litmus test.
Read the piece at ParsNova and the comments to see what I mean. Also especially note that the very people who, on their own time as volunteers working to improve the aesthetic of the city, fare versus those with “legitimate” claims to inveigh on the matter. 
Litmus test, indeed.

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