|Summer 2003 Newsletter|
Much has been said in the press in last few weeks about neighborhood organizations and their increasing role in city affairs. I am proud of the accomplishments of the Midtown Residents Association MRA and the loyal and talented members of our steering committee, members who are elected at a general meeting from a board-proposed slate of candidates, and who volunteer their time to improve the quality of life in Midtown.
Our accomplishments are seen all over Midtown. The vivid mural by Elizabeth Lada on the side of Longs is the first for any Longs anywhere and the first public art for Midtown. This mural will be soon be followed by a nearby Poetry Wall, the successful introduction of the restaurant Como Esta-again the first deli for any Walgreen's-and the approval of an additional traffic light for Midtown Center safety.
We advocated and won approval for ground floor retail protection in Midtown and Charleston Plaza, which will ensure neighborhood-serving stores occupy the ground floor in our neighborhood centers. We have worked with our city council to promote a city ordinance on urban blight, facilitated many small interventions on behalf of our members, and attempted to recruit businesses, such as Trader Joe's, to our Center.
We have key focus areas, much as the city council does, to prioritize our efforts. We take positions before the city council and commissioners on topics that we feel are in the best interest of Midtown. These areas of focus have included safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars; as well as proper zoning for noise, lighting, signage, parking and landscaping. If we do not think there is a clear community consensus on issues, we convene a general meeting for more discussion.
Can we do more? Absolutely. But to accomplish more, we need broader involvement and increased membership. Our organization is less than 10 years old. We continue to grow and evolve with our residents and members. As Chair, I urge you to join us and let your voice be heard. Attend MRA meetings, bring/tell a friend, join a committee, become a block captain. Come out, be informed, send us your thoughts. We will continue to make connections with more Midtown residents throughout the year, including an MRA awareness campaign in the summer with an information table in Midtown Center.
We welcome your participation in our meetings, our committees, and social events. Our association is open to everyone who lives in Midtown. We continue to work on getting the word out about MRA-who we are, what our priorities are, how to contact us, notices about our meetings and events-through our newsletter, our frequent enews, and media publicity. Our web site is a handy source of events, current issues, and past newsletters, as well as how to contact us. Our outstanding emergency preparation section is linked to from many other associations.
We have formed bonds and friendships with other neighborhoods and have learned much from them and they from us. Some examples include:
We believe that these connections have improved our effectiveness and established friendships that will link our community as we work together to keep and improve our quality of life in this great city.
MIDTOWN People define places through our history...A new column
|Places are just dots on the map, spots down the street, until we connect them with people who bring them to life and give them significance. In our series on notable people in the MRA News, we connect these people to the places we pass every day and show how our neighborhood has evolved.|
|Alvie Hartsog and his wife, Martha, have lived at 730 Moreno since 1955. Their children grew up there. Now their three granddaughters' pictures and playthings fill the living room. Alvie built the house himself on a spot that used to be the cutting yard, where all the 4 x 12 cedar planks used for the all the forms, for all the houses built in the neighborhood were cut. When the floods of 1957or 1959 came, he carried sandbags to help hold back the water. Purity Supreme, the supermarket where the Coop was and where Walgreen's will be, had a bad curb that led the water straight to his lot from their parking lot. After the flooding fears, Purity quickly extended the curb another six or eight feet and the water was no longer a problem.|
|A CAL grad, Alvie served in the Pacific in World War II. When he came back to the Bay Area after the war, housing was scarce. While taking a walk in San Leandro, he looked out from a hilltop and decided that he needed to help build houses. I found a project, he says, to describe the building of houses on the Hayward side and then, this side, of the Bay. Besides houses, he built shelves for places like the old Emporium Store at Stanford Shopping Center and Norney's in Midtown during more than 40 years as a carpenter and member of the Carpenters Union. He remembers a young activist named Ralph Nader stopping by to try and settle a dispute -- Ralph was unsuccessful.|
Public Art --- What is it good for?
Judy Kleinberg, Palo Alto City Council
|It must have some benefit because the effort to beautify the more mundane features of the urban and suburban landscape has been around since cave dwellers enhanced their rocky surroundings to tell a story and record their culture.
If you Google "public art," you'll be rewarded with 281,000 sites that review public art all over the world, from western Australia to The Hague in the Netherlands.
What is it in the human psychology that motivates us to embellish our public surroundings and to enrich and enliven public areas with works of art and sculpture? Certainly some of it is political, such as statues of leaders, whether loved or loathed. And some of it is historical, to memorialize events or to communicate a sense of place. Still other works are for sheer pleasure and fun, or are intellectually provocative and unsettling. Their common denominator is to provide a backdrop to our more common surroundings, forcing us to engage our own intellects, emotions and memories.
As Picasso said, "Art is a lie that helps us realize the truth." Repressive societies always seek to control public art and use it as propaganda for the regime's agenda. Free societies are more permissive of the style and message contained in public art for the reason that, although creativity cannot be extinguished in even the most totalitarian society, it is fairly understood that freedom of expression is the lifeblood of the creative spirit.
Whether we are interested in public art or like one piece or another, every piece of public art in our community is evidence of our community's respect for the freedom of creativity manifested by each artist, and the freedom of each person viewing the art to experience and appreciate it in his or her own way. And therein lies one of the most enduring values of public art -- as a reminder of our shared values, heritage and culture within the context of the individual's freedom of thought and expression.
Midtown Poetry Competition Winners for the Walgreen's South Wall
"A Tree Calls Out" by Ron LeBlanc
You walk and drive by
"Camino Del Medio" by Sharon Olson
From here the road winds down to Mayfield Slough
"Being Six in My Neighborhood"
When I go out in my neighborhood
Note: The winning stanza (in italics) was
"Thankful" by Amelia Saliba Long
Thank you for all my hands can hold:
Thank you for all my eyes can see,
Thank you for all my ears can hear,
Thank you for my life!
"Tending the Same Garden" by Liz Cowie
Looking up from my gnarled roses, I see you
"First Bike" by Janice Dabney
Father's hands on my shoulders
TRAFFIC ACTION COMMITTEE UPDATE
Emergency Preparedness Update