I saw their plans for the future and I shuddered. The High School that bordered my neighborhood was planning extensive construction and a new road that would be incredibly close to the fence, with no buffer. This road would practically connect with a dead end neighborhood road. I knew immediately that old neighborhood trees would die from cut roots and fences might fall from erosion. Far worse, neighborhood kids could be injured or killed by traffic cutting through from the new road.
Safety issues always get a knee-jerk reaction from me, so I checked with our neighborhood association. Unfortunately, this had dwindled to nothing. As the president quit and moved away, she left all the boxes of association “stuff” at my house. Just for safe-keeping. Our school board representative was not interested in my concerns. I spoke with the head of the planning commission and he mocked me, saying that schools were exempt from normal rules. I should just be grateful that they weren’t taking our homes. I hung onto my temper (Rule #5 below) and launched my own quiet plan to change their plans. It has been said that much can be accomplished if you don’t take credit.
RULES TO MAKE CHANGES:
To fix a small problem that involves the city, like dangerous playground equipment or a bad intersection, these steps almost always work. (Read "I Was Lost at Sea..." below for examples of fixing problems.)
Rule #1: Outline the problem.
Rule #2: Mention the negative consequences of ignoring the problem.
Rule #3: Suggest a solution, preferably cheap and easy.
Rule #4: Mention the positive consequences and savings.
Rule #5: Always be polite.
RULES TO APPEAR POWERFUL TO MAKE CHANGES:
For the road problem I needed more than my city rules for easier problems; I also needed political pressure and the appearance of a powerful organization. Happily, that is quite doable!
Rule #1: Create the beginnings of an organization.
Rule #2: Get friends to send letters.
People are busy, so you’ll probably need to write and type these letters for them. Send a new one every week, addressing a slightly different aspect of the problem. This is awesomely convincing. Nobody sends real letters!
I re-started our neighborhood association of about 450 homes, organized a delivery system, and wrote a monthly newsletter that included two Meet Your Neighbors columns. People love feeling connected. Then I began my letter-writing campaign, typing a unique letter from each neighborhood resident that they signed and mailed. I even included a stamped, addressed envelope.
Rule #3: Suggest a detailed solution.
I conducted my own land survey. I measured, recorded, and drew everything on graph paper. Then I proposed an alternate placement of the road that would be cheaper, easier, and would not hurt my neighborhood or its children. The school board noted the cost savings of my plan, also noting that people were often paid for such work. I laughed quietly to myself. People are seldom paid to make needed changes.
The new road was located where I wanted it. Several school board members mentioned the importance of staying on the good side of our neighborhood, since we had such a strong organization and concerned residents. “That neighborhood is very active, very strong.” Again I laughed inside. We did gradually become a strong association. But right then it was really just me, one small person with the carefully constructed illusion of power, and they never knew. All it cost me was some time, envelopes, and stamps.
WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Speak up when you see a problem! Volunteer, mentor, clean up a river, serve in a soup kitchen; these contributions bring local changes that are easy to see and appreciate. When the city is involved my “RULES” can help. Make sure a long-dead tree is cut down before it falls. Fix a dangerous intersection. Stop a road. This is important and satisfying work.
We can also make a difference as writers. The Dragon Dreamer is a young adult science fantasy adventure that shares my love of dragons, the oceans, and friendships with really unique “people”. Dangers are faced with courage and intelligence.