Upham's Corner Online

Civility and Incivility at the Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting

Letter to the Editor from Bill Bonnice

I don't agree with your headline that the Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting broke down.  While there was anger and tension, I felt that there was also respect and courage.  Given the volatility of the situation, I thought people behaved like adults and that it, all in all, went fairly well.

Sure there were times of people interrupting and talking over each other but I wouldn't have said that characterized the whole of the meeting.  As a whole, I thought it was a good start.  The landlord showed up and had the courage to address people's frustrations.  The safe house did the same.  People strongly expressed themselves but I also thought there was restraint.

Breaking down has probably different meanings to different people.  Technically, I can see your point but I don't think it accurately conveyed the whole of the meeting.

Bill Bonnice
November 17, 2012

From the Editor's Desk

Bill Bonnice’s letter to the editor is a point well taken.  He is to be lauded for his emphasis on restraint, civility, respect and courage.  He clearly identifies with the people who attended the meeting and he is right.  If you were to measure how much time was spent in restraint versus how much time was spent in “chaos,” restraint wins by a mile.  Thank your for your comments. 

See article:  Annapolis Neighborhood Meeting Breaks Down in Shouting and Anger

In the last several years, two other intense neighborhood meetings (this is the third) have taken place in or close to Uphams Corner, all focused on the same topic - crime. 

Savin Hill Nov 8, 2011

A young man - 19 - was fatally shot at the Savin Hill T Station on the afternoon of May 8, 2011.  Like the situation at Bakersfield Arms, this murder was just another occurrence of crime in a section of Dorchester that prides itself on being desirable and safe yet had multiple problems associated with a “problematic” apartment building.  After a spate of robberies, a special meeting of the Columbia Savin Hill Neighborhood Association meeting took place on Nov 8.  The Cristo Rey library was packed.  The apartment building was heatedly identified as a site that was contributing to neighborhood deterioration.

Edward Everett Square

The final installation of cast bronze artwork took place on October 16, 2010.  See Artwork Dedicate in EE Square

Over time, the beautiful museum-like meeting spot attracted alcoholics, drug users / dealers and panhandlers.  Littering, drinking, sexual encounters extended into the adjacent residential properties.  Finally, the Edward Everett Square Resident committee called a public meeting held at the historical society on April 11, 2012.   See EE Square Residents Cry out for Help

What do these two Meetings have in Common?
  • The meeting organizers made sure that many resources were present at the meeting including elected officials, city officials, police, etc
  • The meetings were well planned and conducted
  • The meeting space was conducive to structure and presentation
  • Residents identified in advance were prepared to speak and comments from the floor were accepted as well
  • The meetings were very intense with residents expressing their anger and showing they were at their wits end

For the Annapolis meeting, as much as the problem was equally serious, and from a City perspective with an even higher profile (designated problem property), one police officer attended to give his usual monthly report, then left.  The only other city official present was Neighborhood Services’ Chris English who reminded everyone several times that he was not a member of the Problem Properties Task Force.  In addition, the meeting was not orchestrated in advance and the meeting room was not conducive to a good presentation by any of the parties involved.

Three Meetings Share Commonality

What the three meetings have in common, however, is the sense of emergency, with deep concern, fear, outrage, anger and a need to know that something is going to be done to change the current circumstances. 

Especially at the EE Square meeting, public promises and commitments were exacted from the officials, especially the police and the Clapp Pear (EE Square) area cleaned itself up overnight. 

For the October 25th Annapolis meeting, no such opportunity presented itself.  What Chris English offered was a promise he would try to get a member of the task force to attend the next neighborhood meeting and you can bet he would be communicating his findings downtown.

Appreciating Ourselves in a Time of Emergency

Returning to Mr. Bonnice’s assertion that UCNews’ assessment of the meeting should have reflected less on the incivility and more on the civility, we lie on the side of the frustrated residents who, through their emotion and its manifestation during the meeting, were sending a strong message. 

Again, a compliment to Mr. Bonnice for contacting us and for expressing his preference for civility.  A compliment to the whole neighborhood for its endurance in the face of change and challenge.  At times the collective energy that communicates an emergency situation takes priority over restraint to convey to each other (in the neighborhood) and to the world that help is needed.

Was there restraint as well?  Indeed! Recall the young woman whose brother was murdered two years ago and yet she apologized to the graduates from the “Steps” program if she came across in the wrong way.  Was anyone brought to tears?  I was. 

Applause for those who expressed their emotions.  Applause for those who helped calm the group down several times.  Representing the facts correctly and emphasizing what is important are both part of community journalism. 

As the meeting ended on a note of civility, so did the Uphams Corner News article.

Nancy Conrad
Uphams Corner News

Posted: November 22, 2012     Nancy J Conrad

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