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Ask Anyone

get off my lawn

Yesterday, after I got home from work, I heard my daughter calling upstairs to my wife. “Mom, some dude is at the front door asking for you.” By the time I got to the front door, my wife was in a conversation with a campaigner for Byron Brown. He was taking notes as she said she didn’t believe surveillance cameras were doing much to solve crime or deter the shootings that happen in the city on a daily basis. He told her she was wrong, that the police commissioner had told him that cameras had helped solve between 10-12 crimes. My wife said that seemed like a lousy return on investment, considering the millions in taxpayer money that has been spent on the cameras.

He pointed out that crime was low in our neighborhood, and she said “Fine, but I’m a city resident. The entire city is my community, and I’m concerned about all the kids being shot.”

I asked him what he was doing. Was he taking a poll, or what? Noticing that he’d been taking notes, I picked up a piece of paper and asked him his name. He told me. Then I asked him where he lived. He started to say, then he declined. I stepped out onto my porch and asked him why he wouldn’t tell me, since he had no problem walking up to my door, asking to talk to my wife, and grilling her about her political opinions. I asked to see the notes he’d written. He covered them up, and said it was none of my business. He said she could tell me what they’d talked about. Then he said he was starting to feel a little threatened. I pointed out that he was the uninvited one standing on my property.

He walked away, and skipped the rest of the registered Democrats on my street. I watched him walk away at a nice clip, as he pulled out his cell phone and placed a call, doubtless, to campaign headquarters.

It wasn’t hard to find out where he lives, in Amherst. Great. Why is it that in all of our city elections, from school board on up, we have to deal with meddlers from every suburb within driving distance? I mean, you care about the city? Move here. Live and work here. Pay city taxes. I don’t drive out to Amherst to campaign for or against Satish Mohan, since I have enough to worry about in my own municipality.

Am I wrong to resent this intrusion on my family’s privacy, funded by the seven-figure campaign chest of a mayoral administration that coyly manipulates the Freedom of Information Law in an effort to keep the press and public in the dark?


The Straight Perspective: There are politicians whose campaigns I would travel a long, long distance to work on, with the assumption that as a human being their candidacy affects me. There are folks I wish I could travel back in time to work for or against.

The problem here isn’t that the guy came from Amherst to work for Byron Brown, I don’t believe. What you want to talk about is surveillance society, modern politics, suburbanites’ use of the city, and the administration’s interpretation of “freedom of information.” They’re all good topics, but they’re not the fault of the guy on your porch.

Nor are they your exclusive province: If your wife wants to talk about them to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who wanders by, that’s her prerogative. Part of the reason we live in the city is so that people will come up onto our porches to talk, and so that politics can be discussed in the public arena to which they belong.

The Gay Perspective: If you didn’t want to engage this man in conversation it would probably have been easy enough for you and your wife to send him on his way. Is a resident of Amherst, concerned for the health of our city and the success of its current mayor so much different from party volunteers traveling to swing states to campaign for Obama or McCain? He was just participating in the democratic process by supporting his political party. Still, you saw fit to threaten and bully him. You could simply have told him you weren’t interested. Your choice of words makes me curious—“he had no problem walking up to my door, asking to talk to my wife.” While you were defending your cave did you tell your little woman to shut up and get in the house? All this guy did was walk up to the door of a registered Democrat and ask her how she felt about the policies of the party’s endorsed candidate. You are the one who whipped himself into a macho frenzy.

Dining Out says: It’s always invasive when someone stops by your home uninvited, whether it’s an intern for a local politician, a Jehovah’s witness, or Girl Scouts (although I’ll opt for the thin mints over a bible speech any day). You have the right to inquire where these people come from and why they’re standing on your front porch pitching the product they’re promoting. However, it’s starting to become apparent that people who live in the city harbor animosity toward those who choose to live in the suburbs (and vice versa). The major concern here is this: We all breathe the same air, pay outrageous property taxes, want to know that our children can play outside unharmed and can go to schools where they’ll receive a well-rounded education, and still have to push for the promises that have been undelivered to us by so many politicians.

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