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The Federalist Diaries

 

Walks outside the Box, Part 7

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish literary critic, playwright and essayist,
1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950

“Walks outside the Box” is about finding solutions when others shrug their shoulders, despair or offer palliatives.  In part 6, we looked at how we might implement a watchdog program so as to improve the quality of life without increasing the city budget. Let us sketch a possible watchdog program, using the steps listed in part 6. 

First, we the residents come together, perhaps at a meeting hosted by the city council, the senior center or one of our service organizations.  Somebody explains that there is a state law against using cellular telephones while driving, but we note, also, that it is difficult for the police to be everywhere to enforce the law.  Somebody notes that, in front of Washington Elementary, there are signs posted saying “Traffic laws will be enforced”.  This must be indicative of a problem.  Somebody else mentions statistics about the greater incidence of accidents caused by distracted motorists.  We choose to create a program to discourage the use of cellular telephones while driving. 

Second, we decide who could become monitors for our program.  (“Monitor” is not ferocious-sounding like “watchdog”.)  We decide that everyone—retirees, working adults, teenagers, and children—could do so.  We note that rules would have to be created and obeyed so that participating children be safe while participating.  Those who volunteer to help in our program become monitors. 

Third, we decide that we can use digital cameras or cell phones which take photographs of license plates and of motorists using cell phones while driving. 

          Fourth, we create signs like the Neighborhood Watch signs for posting wherever we will be implementing our program.  If expense is a concern—since we do not ask the city for funds—we create signs like those now used by Washington Elementary. 

          Step five will take some thought.  Do we give our photographs to our police department?  This is a challenge for the reason mentioned last week.  A possible solution is that our resident group and police officers meet to look at the photographic evidence.  We show the evidence, but do not turn it over. 

Finally, for step six, we plan what our response to a violation will be.  If the officers believe that the evidence would be strong, they run the license numbers and give us addresses to which to write.  We write an advisory letter for the first violation.  In the advisory letter we say that a second violation will lead to a citation under law or will result in an informal process.  In either case, the purpose will be to stop further use of cell phones while driving.  For those with a second violation, a fine will be imposed.  Money from the fine will be used to publicize our program and apprehension rate, as well as to reward monitors. 

Thus, our watchdog program accomplishes three goals: 

·        traffic and pedestrian safety;

·        resident involvement, including, importantly, youth involvement, in government;

·        institution and operation of a sustainable program, that is, one which does not take of city funds. 

May 31, 2007

 

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    HOME  | "E-News" | Life's Problems  | "Montebello Oil" | Open Suggestion | Public Documents | Setting an Example | Young Thinkers | Project Instructions
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