Monday, October 8, 2012

Eight-plex protest draws at least one reporter -- alas not one from the city's daily newspaper... Guess neighborhood protest isn't newsworthy when you've got the Chiefs to cover

Residents in my neighborhood took to the streets, literally, Sunday to protest the construction of an 8-plex ‘condo’ the city zoning commission has apparently approved. The complex would sit on a busy street in the century-old Volker community.

I’m hazy on the details at this point because the newspaper I rely on apparently couldn’t bestir itself to cover the protest. The only ‘print’ report I could find came from Tony Botelo at Tony’s Kansas City. I searched the Kansas City Star Web site and came up empty. And why not? After all, the three stories in the Star which received the most comments were two about the Chiefs and one about Missouri football. Those three vital reports had garnered 947 comments by 11:26 a.m. Monday.

I guess there’s nothing particularly sexy about a group of citizens with placards standing in the street hoping to maintain the integrity of their neighborhood.

And, surprise, Botello actually showed up for the protest. That’s news. Botello is essentially and aggregator. His publication is fueled by the reporting of other people and a cadre of tipsters. It certainly serves a purpose for readers. But, if Botello’s favorite straw men, the Dead Tree Media, finally went under, it’s hard to imagine what he’d have to fill his site.

He’d have to do what he did Sunday and burn up a little old school shoe leather. And, you know what? He’s pretty good at it. The piece he wrote had information, but, more importantly, life. It gave his readers a genuine sense of the moment, of people standing up for their neighborhood in the middle of a narrow Kansas City street. It captured their argument… and their passion.

I’m not neutral on this. While I subscribe to Jane Jacobs’ prescient theory of urban planning – she rightly argued neighborhoods with the most diversity of use will be the healthiest -- I also think the issue of density weighs heavily on those neighborhoods. Too much density is just plain dangerous. Especially, in my opinion, too much density caused and maintained by people who do not live in the neighborhood.

Eight groups of people living in a space formerly occupied by two, can’t be good for any urban neighborhood. Imagine the hue and cry, the protestors chaining themselves to mailboxes and light poles, if this eight-plex was planned for Leawood South. No question the Star would be on that scene. As Botello argued, this can’t be the primary criterion of the Kansas City, Mo., zoning commission. If it was, the bulldozers wouldn’t already be at work.


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