Monday, August 6, 2007

Wyman Park: The land of NIMBY

My Baltimore neighborhood of Wyman Park pitched a collective fit about a planned "dusk-to-dawn" John Waters film festival in the neighborhood park. A community member who had a hand in planning the event sent an email to the Wyman Park listserve to give the event some publicity.

A vocal group of neighbors bombarded the listserve with albeit vaild complaints about the all night festival. They don't want the all night noise, trash, dog poop, litter etc...

One or two folks voiced their support for the festival based on the notion that it would be a good cultural event for Wyman Park to host. This sparked some healthy and clarifying debate on the listserve, if for a time before the moderator shut down the thread. Apparently some of the open-minded progressives that dominate the neighborhood cannot tolerate free exchange of ideas.

The Wyman Park Community Association (WPCA) officers notified the city and our councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (full disclosure I am running against her in the November election). The city notified us that the festival planners did not have a permit and eventually moved the event to Middle Branch Park.

The general mindset in Wyman Park is NIMBY or Not In My Backyard. Which is a delicious irony given that many folks in the neighborhood consider themselves open minded progressives. Typical of this mindset, many of the listserve commenters wanted the event shut down. No counter proposal to limit the time frame, or requesting the city to provide portajohns and trash pick up. Nope, just shut it down, we don't want it.

Say what you will about John Waters and his movies, I like some, don't like others, he makes a good flick. Obviously, some of his movies like Pink Flamingos, may not be appropriate to show on a big screen in the open, but there are plenty of others like Hairspray, Serial Mom, and Pecker that are suitable for a public event. As a conservative I don't much identify with Waters, but if I selected all my entertainment based on the politics of its creators, I wouldn't have much to do. One of my neighbors wittily noted that if Divine showed up for the festival there would be no need to worry about cleaning up dog poop. Watch Pink Flamingos if you don't get that joke.

Anyway, the point is that there was some room for compromise. However, the NIMBY mindset asserted itself and Wyman Park lost out on a chance to host a cultural event. I didn't like the idea of an dusk til dawn event. However, an early evening to late night event The movies could have been screened in the dog park, which sits in well below Tudor Arms St. and provides some natural sound barrier. Furthermore, Johns Hopkins uses the dog park as intramural fields and they could have been brought in as a co-sponsor and assisted with the clean-up.

This isn't the first time the neighborhood nixed a good opportunity to showcase itself. The WPCA fought the LAB School, a private special education school from locating in the old Northern District police station. The building is still vacant.

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