|A Good Citizen Moves On
July 29, 2006
I wanted to share the following “exit poll” on Richmond with E-FORUM readers. I have worked with Dr. Louis Hagler for several years on making Richmond a quieter and more peaceful place. He is a focused and talented man who wanted to make a difference. I’ll bet he has sent at least a thousand emails to City Council members and City staff on noise issues. These were not just harangues but were news clips and technical information about hundreds of other cities doing something well that Richmond, for whatever reason, won’t even attempt. His work on the Quiet Zones has begun to show some success, and for this many of us who sleep fitfully to the lullaby of those despicable BNSF horns, I am grateful. I also regret that his huge effort to educate our Police Department and City Council on boom boxes and other noise sources that could be easily abated has borne virtually no fruit.
Wherever he is going, it will be that city’s gain and Richmond’s loss.
It is with much relief and few regrets that I bid farewell to you and to Richmond. I am leaving Richmond to escape the many problems that are so much a part of daily life in this city. This is not a good (or healthy) place to live.
As I view the past several years, I was better to Richmond than Richmond was to me. Let me say how.
1. Richmond now has two quiet zones in place; several more are being planned (if the shake-up in the City Attorney's Office doesn't derail the effort). This has been the result of consistent urging by me and several other concerned citizens; without us, it would never have happened and the citizens of this city would have been the losers.
2. As I take my morning walk around the Marina, through the Rosie park, and along the Meeker Slough, I have periodically carried a trash bag which I have filled with the junk that people are either too lazy, too stupid, or too arrogant to dispose of properly. I have done this because having a clean environment is important to many of us. As a result of my trash collecting efforts, everyone benefits, no matter where in Richmond they live.
3. I have volunteered for the LEAP program one evening a week, working with a Spanish speaking person to help him improve his English language skills. We have both benefited from this interaction, but Richmond has benefited too, because LEAP could not exist without its volunteer "faculty."
I have not done any of this for personal recognition. I am neither seeking nor expecting praise for these efforts. As a physician, I have spent my life in service to others. As a physician, I know the value of good health and the benefits of a quiet and clean environment. My efforts in Richmond have been aimed at promoting those goals for the good of all of its citizens. Had these goals been realized, I would have been a beneficiary; but so would have many other residents of this city,
And what have I gotten from Richmond in return for these efforts? Not the improvements I was seeking. My attempts to educate the City Council about the medical, social, and economic effects of noise have been largely ignored, with rare and notable exception. To those few Council members, and to the city staff with whom I worked, I say thanks. Noise is a significant public health issue, despite your studied avoidance of it. My efforts to encourage the Police Force (through four different Chiefs of Police) to enforce various ordinances have been singularly unsuccessful; noise violations, traffic violations, and blight continue to be a normal part of the Richmond environment and have become the norm. Our city government has been largely indifferent to these problems. Ignoring problems that can be solved is a shameful way to manage a city. Where is the leadership and the vision among our city mothers and fathers?
While you all posture about youth, violence, drugs, weapons, and all the other problems of an undereducated, largely minority, highly diverse urban population, a part of the solution is at hand. It involves going after noise polluters. It has worked elsewhere and would work in Richmond, if, as a group, you had the courage to do what is necessary and right. Instead, many of you dutifully repeat an oath of office that you neither believe nor follow, many of you seek the limelight, many of you play at getting one-up on your colleagues, many of you engage in political grandstanding, and many of you take pot shots at each other at Council meetings. Acting in this manner does not show respect for each other or for the citizens of this city. I do not envy you or your jobs; I only wish you did them better.
I will not miss much about Richmond, touted as the city of "Pride and Purpose." Now that Kaiser is no longer building ships and helping to win the second World War, perhaps one place to start would be to decide what is Richmond's purpose and what is it source of pride? I doubt that being either a parking lot for new cars from Japan or a storage site for a mountain of scrap metal is a source of pride for many residents. I am sure that being noisy, violent, and dangerous is not a source of pride. If you are looking for suggestions, I would ask why not aim at being the cleanest and quietest city in California? That would be a source of pride. That would have purpose. That would be enviable and desirable. That would make Richmond a safer and healthier place to live. It would, without a doubt, reduce the violence. Instead you worry about the penalties for violating ordinances rather than enforcing them, blather about not wanting to criminalize behavior that is already illegal, and pass ordinances that are meaningless because they are not going to be enforced.
I wish you and all of Richmond good luck, quiet, and peace in the future.
Louis Hagler, MD