Mr. Dawe’s Civics Lesson

   On a sunny winter day early in this century’s second decade, Jack Dawe locked his mountain bike outside a Financial District skyscraper and sauntered into the neo-Gothic building, so familiar to him from his messenger days.

   He strolled through the lobby, nodded toward the security guard who acknowledged  Dawe who then tapped the “Up” button next to one of fifteen elevators.

   Soon Dawe was in the conference room of the City’s Chamber of Commerce, putting a sandwich on a paper plate, grabbing an apple juice and finding a seat among a small audience of about 20 people.

   He was there to attend a talk by an upper level official from the City’s government.

    Dawe’s boss at the pest control company had asked him to attend the talk as the official’s topic related to City Hall’s environmental policies. Those policies might affect the pest control company’s contracts with the City so Dawe’s employer wanted him to find out if City Hall was making any policy changes that might impact those contracts.

The Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce hosted the event and after about 20 people had settled in, he introduced the speaker.

   The speaker had recently joined the City’s government. Like many in City Hall, the speaker had worked for the Leader.

After starting, the speaker gushed about the Leader and the Leader’s “vision for our country.” To Dawe, the way the speaker said “our” made him feel as if he and many others weren’t really included in that “our.”

   The former messenger nibbled his sandwich as the City official droned on about various issues. The speaker concluded and then the Chamber’s Vice President opened the floor for questions. The official fielded several questions, stating that in each case the City government acted as the will of the people. Towards that ideal, the Leader and City Hall listened to the opinions of various community groups including, the official noted – the business community. Sitting nearby, the Chamber’s Vice President acknowledged the credit with an approving nod. But of course, the City official added, after giving all communities their chance to offer input, the City would decide its policy. The speaker then asked for a final question.

   Dawe raised his hand and was recognized. After introducing himself and stating that he was speaking only as an individual citizen and not for his employer, Dawe continued to his question.

   “Many in the cycling community and other advocacy groups hope that the City will prohibit privately owned cars from downtown,” he began, “or charge them a toll to decrease traffic congestion, make the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists and also more efficient for public transit. What will City Hall do about this?”

   “The Chamber of Commerce will not allow that,” the Vice President of the business group said.

        Dawe was disappointed but not surprised that a City policy had been determined by the Chamber of Commerce.

The official from the City government stared at the floor in silence.