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The Wiser Path to Take

David Hill, the reporter from the Gazette paper came over to cover the NCPCA’s last week’s meeting. I saw him standing at the back of the meeting room for the entire session of 2+ hours and taking notes. Here is a report he prepared for this week’s edition, the print version of which you should’ve received yesterday. Thanks Dave for taking the time despite your busy schedule – we all much appreciate that.

I’m glad that the article brought the issue of relatively large attendance of residents from one ethnic/religious group in the meeting. As I mentioned in my other post, there was even larger participation by the same ethnic group in another NCPCA regular meeting three and half years ago. Fortunately, that time their presence was applauded by then councilman, understandably for the vote his neighborhood report received from that particular ethnic group. If the large presence of the same group that time was termed as  “a demonstration of the power of democracy at its most”, I wonder why is this viewed differently at this time.

The large presence of a particular group or groups at the voting booth isn’t something new in the long democratic tradition of our country. The enormous support of African Americans for one candidate in the 2008 presidential election and the huge support of the evangelical voters for another candidate in the 2004 presidential election are only two examples. People flock to the polling station “in droves” when they think the issue at hand would affect their rights most.

Thus for the sake of keeping and encouraging democratic tradition of our country and this association, I think we should all commend any group or groups for its civic participation. The same should apply to the opinions expressed by any member in a democratic fashion for or against the issues at hand. I’m glad that I could generate that democratic debate on the amendment issue through this blog post and its discussion forum. Citizens often make their minds on contemporary issues after going through discussion in such blogosphere – I don’t think it will be fair to accuse these citizens as ’recruited’; such accusations rather undermine the mere ability of a citizen in exercising his or her democratic right.

One of the civic activities I enjoy the most is to get many members part of the civic association. The past campaign in November gave me many opportunities talking to my neighbors about NCPCA and what we do at its general meeting. After the campaign, I personally mailed several hundred letters to these neighbors telling my commitment through NCPCA activities. For the past few months, I’ve also been trying to promote NCPCA through this blog where I invite them to attend its regular meetings. The neighbors in these communications don’t belong to one particular ethnic group, but rather all residents of our neighborhood – Whites, African Americans, Latinos and Asians.

Getting more neighbors involved as part of the association is not a job of one or two members – this is a work that should be done by everyone. However, we also have our responsibilties as a group. Collectively, we can designate a week or a month every year for a much needed membership drive. During this period, we can go door to door telling our neighbors the benefits of joining our association. Other community organizations do similar drive to increase their memberships. We should also take advantage of the NCPCA’s annual events, such as the upcoming picnic to attract more neighbors to introduce NCPCA and get them involved.

The presence of more members in our civic association means more benefit for the entire community. Take for example the Neighborhood Watch program we have in our city. Currently, we only have a handful of such active programs in the neighborhood. With city’s budget shrinking at an alarming rate, and the rate of crime incidents going up, we need many members from our civic association to take care of our citizens’ needs.

The wiser solution to address the apparent disparities in our civic association is to use our energies and time to reach out as many neighbors as possible – and get them to be part of the larger community – the community we call ‘a family of one’.

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14 Comments to “The Wiser Path to Take”

  1. By Hamza Khan, January 22, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

    It seems all too obvious that some segments of our greater American community have yet to learn how to play nice and fair. It troubles me to see such tactics in a pleasant town like College Park. Perhaps it’s time we all act on Change We Can Believe In.

  2. By R. Smith, January 22, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

    The democratic process is to galvanize your community on issues that affect positions you feel “for” or “against”, especially if it adversely affect what you believe. And if you can get folks to come to vote, good! If the “2 votes per household” wasn’t discuss or wasn’t a consensus among the elected body, then the blame for this mess lies on the those who brought it up! They should have thought about the repercussions and how this may be perceived by those who may not see it from their prism. Christine Nagel’s approach, in my view, needs to be administered here as the right “medicine” for this “fever”. Change is hard to accept in any sphere of life. But preparing for it, with the right dosage, can ease some hearts to accept it, live with it, and reap the benefits. Bring some tea and donuts and let the dialog begin.

  3. By Jens Jacobson, January 22, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

    Comparing what you are doing with Obama’s election is pathetic. I’m wondering if you have mistaken manipulation of a small association for active democratic paticipation.

    The group you are a part of (NCPCA) is not a government agency. It is not a substitute for City Government, or city leadership. It also is not a replacement for making public policy. NCPCA requires membership. Voting in a democratic society requires only citizenship. Since the purpose of NCPCA is to consider what is best for all of us, it is completely appropriate for it to adjust membership in order to provide the best possible representation of the residents here, not those you have rangled up.

    By encouraging members to join a civic organization in order to push an agenda, which may be unseen or agreed upon before meetings, is more akin to a special interest group attempting to influence outcomes. In essence, you have acted to turn the NCPCA into a group that acts on behalf of one segment of Northern College Park. However, your efforts may have the biproduct of polarizing our community.

    The NCPCA is supposed to act for the benefit of all of us in this community. Your efforts are focused on just one segment that is acting to push for a single set of goals, which makes the entire organization useless as an actual represntative group with the best interests of all of us in mind.

    True civic participation is different from manipulation.

  4. By Fazlul Kabir, January 22, 2010 @ 9:48 pm

    Jens,

    Thanks for your comments. If you read my post carefully, I’ve been working to bring neighbors from all backgrounds. The messages that you see in this blog are not addressed to only one group. True I cannot disassociate the group that find similarities in me, at the same time I cannot disassociate my White, Latinos and other neighbors too. Just because I supported a view point held by one group, doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m against the other groups.

    To dilute this apparant grouping effect, I’m encouraging everyone to bring more residents part of the NCPCA. When I say residents, I mean residents from every group and every ethnic background.

    Hope this clarifies.

    Fazlul

  5. By Jens Jacobson, January 22, 2010 @ 11:04 pm

    Your intent of bringing us together, while seemingly innocent, has thus far produced the opposite effect. People have resigned from the NCPCA, as a result of your efforts.

    Your tactics have only resulted in a show of strength in numbers. Now, the NCPCA is a battleground between groups. The similarities among all of us, which was a common desire for good representation and good ideas, has been replaced by solidarity of purpose on your behalf. Now, many of us with the interests of all are left voiceless.

    We need efforts to bring us back together, because you fractured the community through your innocent efforts.

  6. By Fazlul Kabir, January 23, 2010 @ 12:42 am

    >> People have resigned from the NCPCA, as a result of your efforts.

    Jens. I’m glad that you brought the issue of resignation. The resignations actually happened in the morning of the day, the voting took place. While I do not want to go in details on the reasons for the resignations, what I see in the resignations emails sent by two officers, their resignations seem not related to the actual amendment of Bylaws issues. At least one officer indicated that it was a meeting related procedural issue adopted night before the meeting that s/he could not agree with.

    Yes, I’ll try my best to bring both of these two officers back again to NCPCA. I still have very high respect for both of them and I applaud the good hard work they have done for our community in the past.

  7. By Dave Kolesar, January 23, 2010 @ 8:43 am

    I’ve been reading your blog on and off, and I have not involved in NCPCA much (only attended a few meetings in the 6+ years I’ve been here). I’ve been hesitant to weigh in on this, because everything seems to start a “flame war” nowadays.

    However things got this way, it seems obvious that the distrust between people has reached the levels that one has to consider whether the organization can function effectively. Is it bringing people together in a positive way, or is it just a powder keg? At some point we just have to ask ourselves, “why are we doing this, and is it worth it?” And if it is believed that the group can be constructive, then where do we go from here?

    The NCPCA is a non-government organization. It takes only an advisory role. I’d surmise that elected officials would know if, when, and why, meetings are “packed” for various issues as is alleged here. It happens for many issues and is a tactic that I’m sure is not limited to any one group. When that happens, I’m sure a mental asterisk goes next to the recommendation in question. As an outsider, I just don’t see the NCPCA now having the level of influence that justifies the level of vitriol I see here.

    When the group is reduced to arguing factions, or doesn’t represent the whole community, it loses the sway with elected officials it’s supposed to have. I think if the group matters enough to people, then there really needs to be a “cool-down” period where perhaps the organization doesn’t meet for a while, or perhaps only in a purely social setting, with a ground rule being that no issues will be discussed – maybe just a meet-and-greet, like a block party, with hopefully a lot of new faces. Perhaps in such a setting, people will discover that they can get along just fine as neighbors. Friendly neighbors aren’t as likely to shout each other down at a meeting. In short, the damage has to be repaired (both in terms of personal relationships and also the NCPCA’s image) in order to bring people back to the organization and make it a truly representative group again.

    It’s easier said than done, I’m sure, but not impossible. In my perceptions, the animosity within NCPCA is not reflected within the community at large. The problem is that only the people with the strongest convictions or opinions tend to be involved, so the discourse is easy to polarize.

    Just my $0.02 – somewhat ideal, but I hope it was constructive.

  8. By Habibah, January 23, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

    I hope that all are well.
    I think that David’s article speaks to the fairness of the whole voting process. Which got me to thinking about how grateful we should be to the candidates who ran in College Park Md., because they took the time to reach out to the community to ensure that they were involved. Were they after the vote, most likely. But what they did was just what David’s article spoke about, involving all for the greater good!
    His article also made me think that if we don’t go door-to-door, periodically to raise awareness and make sure that the neighbors, and different groups are aware that the NCPCA exist and why, then when it is time to vote on an issue, a few may be making the decisions for many!
    Take care
    Habibah

  9. By Shafiq, January 23, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

    Demonstrating a bias for change especially in a comatose leadership, with or without much political influence, is a good thing. People typically dislike changes in any organizational settings. It is ‘not my cup of tea’ either if anyone ‘rocks the boat’. It takes an effective leadership though to go against a status quo, and to bring about changes that can influence positive differences in people’s lives and in society as a whole. On the other hand, it takes an entire ‘village’ to give boost to fine leadership to succeed. In that change process, however, allowing privileges especially to the ‘have-nots’ can be contentious which have been proven again and again. We must go through this growing pain as there’s no panacea to our issues while catering to changes, and we mustn’t become highly reactionary to new platforms given the demographic changes over time.

    One has to be clueless to think that a leadership making directional changes is without an agenda and partisanship; one rather has to weigh in the integrity along with visionary impacts from those changes. If our political leaders were truly nonpartisan and above any myopic agenda then the most debated national health care bill would have passed last year. In the same vein, if these leaders were really free from political decadence there would not have been an anti-Kennedy dread out of Massachusetts election recently. I’m neither promoting nor ditching the bill here but just iterating the blatant realities towards advancing any reform politically, socially or whatever that may be. Drawing parallels from great leaderships into the local political psyche is not groundless or incongruent as such may offer wisdom and relief from stagnant condition that we’re in today.

    This great country of ours strives to ensure equitable rights for all and it is also an envy of the rest of the world that we acknowledge diversity and capitalize on it to shine further. Needless to say, it hasn’t been a ‘cake-walk’ to get to this stage as our great leaders of the past questioned the norm and ‘rocked the boat’ of apathy. Those leaders were expectedly bulldozed by social tiers just because they asserted not to be indifferent towards collective improprieties and wanted lasting changes. Although these leaders were blamed for social dislocation, they mobilized – not recruited – people in multitude to claim their rights and helped reach their dreams as the entire nation matured with gradation. Of course, these movements not to leave anyone behind, very much frustrated the professed normalcy back then, but they paved a prudent path for generations to come.

  10. By Jens Jacobson, January 25, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

    Equal rights, social tiers, great leaders. The grandiosity here is alarming. Justifying what has happened to NCPCA as a social movement is an excuse for manipulative practices that could cause it’s downfall. It is a civic association, and not a government entity. Now it’s policies are ramrodded by a few households with their own agenda.

  11. By Shafiq, January 26, 2010 @ 1:46 am

    While definitely not looking through a tiny prism or a corrosive tunnel, the tasks of demanding equality, mitigating social echelons, mimicking successful leaderships are not mere symbolisms. These social dimensions are not only theorized but endeavored by many at any layer of society – from here to Timbuktu.

    It’s not to zero in on any particular movement or its methodology but to appreciate the universal principles our predecessors stood for. And if such pristine principles drive paranoia among ourselves even today then we all are far from any civic maturation. As the civic associations come and go due to their mediocrity or inert stances, NCPCA’s role is well understood by now. So the alluded repercussion was a hearty display of a democratic move against the salvos NCPCA resorted to recently.

    Let’s put all of these behind us and move forward together for the sake of taking the higher ground. I like Dave Kolesar’s idea of a pause and to come together in a block party. Let’s chill over a smoothie or something!

  12. By jens jacobson, January 26, 2010 @ 2:32 am

    It’s only paranoia when it’s in one’s imagination. The salvos had been working to solve problems. Mr. Kabir created a problem by getting a few households to appear at NCPCA’s metings, which have many adults living in them. They then voted along a previously decided line. This has risked both the forum and civility of a small civic organization. Demanding equality is exactly what the salvos were attempting to do, because of what he is doing to our association.

    If others followed his example, the majority would totally overwhelm all viewpoints of the minority groups living in Hollywood. This would be terrible in a diverse community! The great leaders, (I guess you would lump the officers of the NCPCA in with them as smaller advocates of lofty universal principles- bit of a stretch for most of us, however), work to prevent what has taken place. This is, most likely, due to the actual results.

    In the past it was a place to attempt to make suggestions to help the community. The NCPCA was a place for the entire community to be considered when making decisions while giving input for our city Government’s benefit. The simple fact that so many minority groups live in Hollywood is a good indicator of NCPCA’s commitment to everyone here: Not just a few homes with lots of adults living in them. However, even that is a stretch. Since, again, it is only a civic organization and not a government agency!

    Now you want to chill. We all could have had smoothies before,…and a functioning NCPCA.

  13. By Fazlul Kabir, January 26, 2010 @ 9:49 pm

    Jens,

    You may want to revisit your claim on creating “problems” by attracting more neighbors to NCPCA. I’m not sure if you had a chance to attend the NCPCA meetings in the past; members routinely discuss the membership numbers in almost every regular meeting, especially when the officers present their reports. There have always been concerns from the members if they see the membership not improving. Members also have encouraged and appreciated their fellow members in the past for attracting new members. I’m sure the same applies to all civic associations you and I know.

    Nonetheless I much appreciate your interest in the NCPCA. Let’s keep in touch.

  14. By Shafiq, January 27, 2010 @ 1:31 am

    I know I’m reducing myself to an iniquitous thread but I appreciate the opportunity to chew on various thoughts facilitated by Mr. Kabir’s forum here. Needless to say, Jens, I respect your opinions but other opinion holders can take those assertions with a grain of salt. They may say those toxic salvos worked fine before because they were camouflaged, and no one had the audacity or right mind to question their potential impacts.

    It’s too simplistic to point to any particular group or individuals in the process of finding a scapegoat behind the debacle. I think, we all should step up to the plate and share the blame as such an impasse should have been anticipated when controversial measures were allowed to sip in to start with. Luckily, those reckless salvos were defused aptly and timely so that they would not crush the current state of equality. Just seeking an independent expert opinion (and not rely on uniform group opinions) on voters’ rights in a small organization like this may set things right since there’s so much mistrust flying around.

    A community’s diversity is not defined by mere residency but by promoting opportunity for all to participate fully in civic chores, and by fostering diversity in thoughts as well. As Mr. Kabir touched on earlier, all of us can still take the effectiveness of associations like NCPCA to a whole new level by jazzing up civic participations from all different backgrounds in our district. A community cannot be called diverse if its members from all facets are kept at the back burner and deprive them of civic aspects affecting them most. A more civic involvement from many groups with varied opinions can help achieve parity in our civic assertions and accordingly shed unfounded paranoia.

    In the absence of an inclusivity of each stakeholder in our community, association’s attempts will remain skewed for failing to delve into the full spectrum of our normative community. You and I may have few members in our families but it will be simply wrong to ask other families to tailor to our family structure or let go their voting rights. These kinds of dogmatic principles work well in repressive societies, and in entities that are indifferent to what people actually need today. No wonder the wise man said, “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present.” This may well be the root cause of current fiasco that we’d love to continue to retain our nuclear family structure as well as impose such makeup or its ramifications on others while feeling fine and dandy from our do-gooder civic activities.

    I still think we ought to chill as I see the glass of smoothie half-full!