Sidewalks Are Good for Picketing

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I have been away. I have been playing Mommy to my brood from June until September. I have also been taking up a new hobby: engaging in Me time, which heretofore was unknown. I have learned that I love to row on the water. More on that later.

Rowing and motherhood didn’t stop me however from staying involved / babysitting in the ridiculousness that is the Burke Centre Parkway Task Force as well as its arch-foe, the two keystone cops: FCPS School Board and FCPS drone/pawn in the Office of (un)Safety and (in)Security.

It will be hard for me throughout the existence of this Blog to stray from the random meanderings of these organizations and believe you me, I have tried to not make this a political RANT blog; there are enough far-more qualified ranters out there who have sponsors and get paid and all that good stuff. My payout is dissension and continued fight. I feel like I will not rest until this school gets a mother-lovin’ school zone light. This battle predates Montague v Capulet. People have died (of natural causes) during the life of this battle; they’ve also gotten divorced, married, had kids, moved, changed their hairstyles, been promoted and assumed new lives. All perfectly rational and normal experiences.

Me? I dunno. But they didn’t have then what we have now: a sidewalk.

To do what we could to dance around this situation and still seem … genteel, a near-unanimous (guess who didn’t agree? the drone) quorum of the TF asked the School Board (SoB – I know there’s no “O”; I’m invoking a trash-talkin’ acronym when I use SoB… ) to consider on a case-by-case basis the policies (you like this? see how egg-shelly, tissue papery we’re being?) that steer the decision to install Wink-O-Matics (WOM) at the schools. We’re not asking for much. We’re simply asking for someone to think about thinking about something that requires more people to think about before anything is even… responded to.

Remember: this school has no identifying sign (now going on 15 months), is UNDERground, and now has a sidewalk next to it, but STILL (despite the endorsement by VDOT and the powers that be at the SoB that the children should now walk on that sidewalk NEXT to the superhighway) no “school zone” speed reduction signs.

Oh, I know the rationale. I understand the so-called reasons for these WOM systems. And no one is suggesting or even making the link that if you slow down traffic in front of the school on a posted 40-mph, 7-lane superhighway that sees 32,000 cars daily traveling averages of 57.9 mph that a WOM will suddenly enable the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the heartless to care, and the stupid to be smart and walk across the road at safe crosswalks. No. No WOM will ever get college-educated, war-hardened, classroom-challenged, carpool-hazed adults to NOT cross at the juncture points between their place of employment and Starbucks. It just won’t happen. Lattes overrule Intelligence. Count me in as one of those people who is idiotic enough to cross at that point. I boast my cinnamon-sprinkled foamy mustache with pride.

But this WOM isn’t for the foamy adults amongst us. The WOM is for the children; who by all standards really shouldn’t have latte face, but whose school should have safety and fair treatment, regardless of whether it fits into a logarithm to assess suitability.

I won’t bother to show the letter (maybe I will) penned (really, it’s a form letter, I’m sure, with macro settings already embedded to expedite its dictum): “Dear [PROLETARIAT / RABBLE NAME]” thank you for your “[STUPID REQUEST]” that dares to usurp our 20th Century brilliance. After a moment’s consideration, we offer the following and outmoded information that reminds us why we laugh at your proposal: “[ENTER REASON CODE(s)] FOR [REJECTION] or [DENIAL] of [BASIC RIGHTS HERE]” Ut prosim, “[BUREAUCRAT LOSER]”

The WOM systems cost about $100k. A high school kid was struck by a car and died about 3 years ago in the area where the WOM could be installed. Crickets. Not saying the WOM would have saved his life, but you have an 80% higher likelihood of dying from being hit by a car traveling at speeds at 40mph or greater than you would at 25mph. (These are some of the unpleasant facts I’ve learned on this TF.)

In an alternative to the WOM, the VDOT rep performed a traffic study to warrant another intervention: (a $350k) red-yellow-green stop light between the school and the Starbucks et. al center. The study proved the situation warranted it, based on vehicular traffic. This was good news, we thought we had something. Guess who said no way: The Office of (un)Safety and (in)Security. How? Because the school is supposed to be renovated in 2 years based on $16.6 million in bond funds coming from a vote this November. What? Yes, it’s Monopoly money until that bond request is approved. While these requests have been approved historically, the economic reality might make this yet another wedgie in the underpants in the underground ass of our school. But we’ll see as I am hopeful it will work out.

Tell me this though: even if a stop light were installed, how much ya wanna bet (I’ll wager a latte too) that even if the light says, “DON’T you dare WALK!” and traffic is light that people will cross anyway? I would. I know I would. They’re doing it now with NO light, so what’s to stop them with the light? So to me, the stop light is a giant waste of cash.

The WOM however is not and while it’s not designed to engender safe crossing, it is predictable: for one hours 2x a day, 5 days a week for 9 months of the year, drivers will have to drop their speed to 25mph from a likely 50mph. No big deal. But SoB and FCPS Office of (un)Safety and (in)Security pawn say no way.

While the FCPS Office of (un)Safety and (in)Security drone can’t be voted out, he can be told what to do by a SoB that is awake and alive.

I posted last week on FB the gist (and I will continue to rant about): “I am sick and tired of people whose children are beyond the FCPS ages running the show on this school board. These people have GOT to go.”

In the wake of that “status” I had the pleasure of meeting a candidate, Megan McLaughlin (http://www.mclaughlinforschoolboard.com/), who knows how to drive a car (not horse coach), knows that phones needn’t be connected to walls anymore and actually has children who are currently in FCPS schools. So far, she’s got my attention. We talked about the WOM policy and I sent her the letter and she’s in agreement that an underground school with no sign that sees 32,000 cars rush past it daily should be considered for a WOM review.  While I’m not here to endorse anyone (sheeya, like that matters… I’d like to think that my PTA executive years count for something) I like that she’s running for my district because the person who’s leaving has to meet her spaceship to deliver her tissue samples from her time on Earth… and she’s not running again anyway.

Apparently the SoB races are so hot that they might overshadow the local politician races (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/fairfax-county-school-board-races-could-overshadow-other-campaigns-this-year/2011/08/04/gIQAXECjFJ_story_2.html)… I like our guy, John Cook, enough but I am now wondering if what he’s doing has any traction anyway. Here’s my point: can he over-rule VDOT and FPCS drone / SoB?     

What do we get from the principal on this issue? Crickets (and some of those crickets are dead or have beards like Confucius and are wobbling as they hop with canes). As usual. I remember telling her one day when my kids were younger and I was naive and thought she was paying attention that her employers are those who can’t tie their shoes or open their chocolate milks. Crickets. She doesn’t live in Virginia, she doesn’t care and if it brings her negative publicity, she won’t say dick. Whatever. I’ve given up factoring her in anything of any material worth in these situations because she’s totally uninterested.

So we have this sidewalk now. It’s fantastiche. It abuts the service / carpool lanes that travel along the superhighway. Some of those carpool cars enter that lane at 35mph easy. I tried to explain to VDOT blank stares at the penultimate PTA meeting I chaired that the presence of the sidewalk endorses walking along the road and that the presence of the sidewalk means “walk to school this way but we won’t bother to slow down traffic for you or separate you from some of the carpooler drivers” who are thinking about their powerpoint presentations, their next shift at the hospital, their ongoing fight with their in-laws or their ailing parents. Kids are 3′ tall and weigh 40lbs. Cars / vans, SUVs average 5′ tall and weigh 2,500 pounds. At 35mph, guess who’s gonna lose in that confrontation? 

But I want to thank the powers that be (no one’s really owning it ‘cept for our district supervisor during his re-election year as a PR and photo opp — I chose to not stand in the ribbon-cutting picture that day because I see this as a hollow and well-timed opportunity for him on a project that was in the books for at least 2 years and had nothing to do with him but is owned by Burke Walks Safe & Green, a local group I belong to) for giving me somewhere to march with my picket signs demanding a review of the policies for WOMs. RISE UP!    

Thank you.

 

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

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