On Monday I got a chance to see what it was probably like in Mayberry back in the Andy Griffith days. A town hall meeting with the mayor of Culver City and 4 council-persons was to decide whether our street could be closed off to make it a cul-de-sac. One of the councilmen said that in his eight years service he hadn't received as many letters, phone calls and e-mails as he had surrounding this issue.
The main reason for the potential street closure is the fact that in our neighborhood, our street is the only one with a traffic light at the end of it. And that light leads to a road that eventually takes you to the 405 freeway. Our street was never intended to be a collector road, and its narrowness has caused several sideswipes, car wrecks and lawn-driving maneuvers by agrro motorists driving at speeds up to 70 mph. This on a residential street where the speed limit is more like 25 mph. Add to that the fact that there are around 25 kids on this street, many who are skateboarding age and they like to ride their skateboards in the street. A street two blocks away is the logical collector road for this traffic but there's only a stop sign where that road ends, and motorists tend to choose the street that they have the best chance of blowing through - ours.
On moving to our new neighborhood, we were introduced to many of our new neighbors through visits from them asking us to send in a ballot card to say "yes, we'd like our street closed!" Who the heck wouldn't want that? So I checked the yes boxes and sent it in. Soon afterward the proposition passed, but the Culver City council thought it might be good to hear from all sides first. And our neighbors on the surrounding streets weren't too happy about this possibility of inheriting our traffic, as was evidenced by their numbers in attendance for the town hall meeting.
It's interesting to go to a town hall meeting and experience politics on such a small scale. It's politics that you actually have a voice in. In fact, there were 30 or so voices going up to the podium for three minutes each and speaking their minds about the street closure. There were the neighbors on my street telling the council that they've been dealing with the traffic and working over seven years to get to this point. There were the neighbors on the surrounding streets telling the council that they don't want our problem. And there were the five elected representatives stuck in the middle. The discussion on this topic had started at 8:25 pm and it ended at 12:15 am.
At one point it seemed as if the council was going to do nothing. The mayor, who was set to finish his term in two weeks, piped up and said "Well, it's approaching midnight and we're all tired here." At which point we knew that our street closure wasn't going to happen. Then he continued, "Except I can't leave office knowing that some kid might get killed on that street if we don't do something". The neighbors from the surrounding streets were probably letting out an inner "fok", knowing that we were gonna be there much longer and much later. One member of the council came up with a new plan that wasn't exactly closing the street, but it was a good compromise. And the mayor threw in to the proposal adding more traffic cops in our neighborhood to crack down on speeding.
It came to a vote, which required a simple majority. And when the voting lights in front of each council-person came on, we had won: 3 yes, 2 no. But one of the council-persons mentioned that her vote was incorrect, that it showed yes when she had voted no. Boos from the crowd. Re-vote came up 2 yes, 3 no. More boos from the crowd, until another member of the council felt the heat and asked the crowd, "who on the neighboring streets are in favor of this new plan?" There was a surprising amount of applause. The councilman requested to do a re-vote. 3 yes, 2 no. The crowd erupted in applause, and everybody left City Hall shaking hands and smiling. That is, everybody but the city council, who still had a few more items to discuss.
The next day, I spoke with several of my neighbors and they all felt happy about the decision, but they didn't believe it would really be implemented. And the following day Lily said she saw at least seven cars pulled over by cops giving tickets. Either that's progress, or I'm getting old. Maybe both.