Guest Blogger Reports on University Park Meeting

A good friend sends me this report of the University Park City Council meeting on Tuesday evening:

At the meeting of the University Park city council this evening, the sale of the city property called Potomac Park to SMU was the first item on the agenda. SMU President Turner addressed the council and crowded room, noting that SMU had wished to acquire the property since the 1990s, before there were any considerations of a Presidential Library on the location. He pointed out that University Park residents have long used SMU’s campus as a park for walking with children and pets, and assured them that the new facilities would be maintained at the previous high level. (Later, a local resident responded that while UP treated the campus like a park, SMU had used her street as a parking lot since she bought her home in the 1970s).

Then the “pros” and the “antis” were each given 30 minutes to address the meeting, with 3 minutes for each person to make his or her statement. All those who planned to speak were requested to refrain from making any political statements and to focus on the sale of the land. Those in favor of the proposition generally appeared to feel that Potomac Park did not function as a park, would be no great loss, and that SMU was a good neighbor and they trusted President Turner and the city council to make the proper decision.

Those who spoke in opposition identified a number of reasons to reject the proposal, including the preservation of green space and mature trees, the loss of a buffer against noise, and concerns about increased traffic in the area. But the dominant theme was terrorism — an incredibly ironic comment on the Bush administration’s constant ratcheting up of anxiety and fear of attack by scary brown Muslim people over the past six years. A trial lawyer and former Green Beret warned that those who favored the proposal were “naïve” and that an aerial attack was a genuine threat; then what would they all do, after a Saudi flew a plane into the building? Several others voiced similar worries about terrorist attacks and the dangers posed to their families, drawing bursts of applause until the council requested such demonstrations to cease. It is not clear to what extent their fears are shared by others in the community, but the proposal goes to University Park voters in May.

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