Once Again, I Offer a Solution

Traffic on the first day of school wasn't all that bad, we all know it's the busiest day of the year around our schools. I think parents were relatively patient and the Beaumont police were very visible. It should get easier from here on out. Parents can really help out by giving themselves plenty of time to get to school and take it slow.

The parking didn't frustrate me but what I am hearing again from our school board and city council does. I read one article in the Patch today with comments by school board member Mr. Orozco blaming the city for misdirecting redevelopment money and comments from councilman Mr. Castaldo suggesting the district's decision to eliminate busing a couple years back as a contributor to the problem. There was a second article with the school Superintendent's view. Dr. Kayrell seems to think the solution is the widening of Beaumont Ave, which is the city's responsibility. All this just when I thought our elected officials were going to begin working together for our kids.

I decided to go to the City Council meeting tonight to express my feelings but I encountered more frustration. It has been several years since I attended a City Council meeting and I wasn't aware of a recent change they made to the agenda schedule. The time set aside for comments by the public has been moved to the end of the meeting. You are supposed to fill out a request to address the council members at the beginning of the meeting but you have to wait until the end to speak. I am sure having to sit through an entire meeting, not knowing how late it will run, discourages many from addressing the council. I sure hope the School Board doesn't figure this out.

The first day of school is an important day for our family and my kids look forward to dinner time where we talk about all the exciting things that happened in school; I wouldn't miss it for almost anything. I promised them that I would go and speak at the beginning of the meeting and be back in time for dinner and to be able to read to them before going to bed. When I realized this wasn't possible, I pulled my request but decided to stay for the first 30 minutes just to see if anything interesting might happen, I didn't have to wait too long.

At the beginning of the meeting, the council members give their individual reports. This would be an improvement over the way the school board meetings are scheduled, there the members' individual reports are presented at the end. Mr. Castaldo told us about his ride-along and how he believed the city should do all it can to make everything safe. Then Mr. Berg started by expressing similar thoughts but then he complained about Mr. Orozco's comments about the redevelopment funds.  One of the councilmen, I believe it was Mr. Berg, told us they had discussed the hiring of a traffic engineer and the formation of a committee. But then next we heard how Mr. Orozco should do his homework and maybe work on the "committee".

Mayor De Forge did make an interesting comment that got me thinking and, in my mind, may offer an obvious solution, more on that later. First let me tell you what I had planned on saying to the City Council.

I wanted to tell them we are tired of hearing excuses, explanations, and finger pointing. We want all our elected officials to work together to find a solution. We don't care about the history and bad feelings between the two organizations. We want them to get over it and put it behind them, and us. I was going to remind them our school district passed a bond measure, Measure Z, which led many of us to believe they would address the pick-up and drop-off areas. This was specifically itemized in the measure. Many of us had no idea the majority of the funds would be used for the stadium complex. I was also going to tell them that the traffic today wasn't as bad as it could have been and that most parents were behaving themselves. I was planning to tell them I agree parents and students would benefit from a little education about the safety around our schools. All we want is a solution. 

Mayor De Forge pointed out the district used to provide free bus services to all students and there were no traffic problems. Once they began charging for the service, many parents began taking and picking their kids up from school. He said once transportation was eliminated for the secondary schools the traffic problem became much worse. He said the district receives grant money for the "big yellow buses" and he questioned the logic of paying for them to drive around with "only a couple students" on board.

This got me thinking. All the schools have been designed with safe pick-up and drop-off for those big yellow buses. The Measure Z money is authorized to address the safe pick-up and drop-off for students. Why not use the money from Measure Z to offer free busing for all our students. The city, whose council members seem to accept some responsibility for the street traffic, could also share some of the costs. I am sure the grants the school district earns for transporting the lower income students would still be available. I've heard of other school districts sharing transportation services with neighboring school districts; maybe Beaumont could partner with, or offer services to Banning Unified or Yucaipa Calimesa Unified.

I know, this is crazy outside the box thinking but I don't hear anyone else providing any real plan. I am sure if busing was free and available to the majority of our area, our traffic problems would be manageable. Where I grew up, we had free bus service and almost everyone took advantage of it. There were still those students who lived close to the schools walking but there were no lines of parents dropping off and picking up students. Just think how much gas our community would save, that means more money in our pockets. How much better would it be for our environment? How many of us would go to work in a better frame of mind when we don't have to run the gauntlet. Community members would no longer have to schedule their driving time around the schools. It may seem like a lot of money but it would be a great investment in our kids and our community.

What do you think?