Last week I attended the Beaumont Unified School District Board meeting and, for the first time in a long time, I addressed the board. I told them I appreciated the one hour earlier start time for their meetings. I told them my kids also thank them because I no longer have to choose between staying for the end of the meeting and reading with my kids at bedtime. Unless the meeting runs three hours, I can do both.
I also thanked Assistant Superintendent Dr. Goennier and Superintendent Dr. Latham for supporting my efforts to hold a discussion about the future of a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) curriculum in Beaumont with parents. The district will be holding a Parent Forum on March 11 at the Beaumont High School theater to present to parents what is happening in the middle schools and high schools and what their plans are for STEAM in the future. Since this is, in my opinion, a real effort by the district to reach out to parents, I will be doing everything I can to help promote it.
The actions by Dr. Latham and her administration is showing me that she, unlike her predecessor, is truly interested in involving parents as partners in the planning of our kids' future. Right now I see many things going right in the district, you may have noticed, it has been hard to find anything critical for me to write about. That is until my visit to the Beaumont City Council meeting tonight... more on that later.
At last week's board meeting I also addressed my concern, once again, about the street safety around Brookside Elementary. I pointed out to the board that now since the new district office building is about to open right across the street from Brookside Elementary, parents will begin using the new parking lot while picking up and dropping off students and when attending family activities after school. I asked them to consider crosswalk warning lights instead of a fifth stop on Brookside between Beaumont Ave and Oak View. I explained there is already too many lights and stop signs. I feel a lighted crosswalk would be a welcome addition to those of us who drive this section of Brookside multiple times a day and would draw more attention to families as they are crossing the street.
Board Members Lara, Poulter, and Sanchez supported my idea while Mrs. De Longchamp argued for another stop sign. Mr. Hackney offered no opinion. Mrs. De Longchamp said she was already working with the city in a collaboration committee on a solution. She said the crosswalk I was proposing would be too costly and a stop sign was the direction the committee was leaning. I asked her to stop putting the safety of our kids second to budget concerns. I reminded her that they already passed on doing the right thing because of the cost two years ago before the $20 million sports complex and $15 million district office (aka. The Taj Mahal) were even under construction. At that time, I wrote that I believed it was ridiculous to address the street traffic and safety issues after the new facilities were open and that the traffic plan should have been finalized then.
Tonight, I addressed the City Council and told them I believed they should consider the crosswalk warning lights . City manager, Mr. Kampanicas, dismissed my suggestion by saying he didn't believe the crosswalks I was proposing were any safer than a regular crosswalk controlled by a stop sign or a traffic light. He later admitted they could look at data to see if the lighted crosswalks were any safer but he indicated the city was leaning towards a traffic signal and anything different would have to come back to the Council for their approval. So, the city is proposing this 1/4 mile stretch of Brookside will have 3 stop signs and two traffic lights.
This confirms to me that poor planning and misdirected priorities are traits our school district and city government share. Two years ago, when I asked the city and the school district to address the Brookside traffic problem before building the new facilities, it was suggested by Mrs. De Longchamp and the city that Brookside families should be forced to walk from the Taj Mahal's parking lot to the crosswalk at Oak View but they made no plans to put in a sidewalk on that side of the street making the crossing that much more dangerous. At least they seem to have come to the conclusion this wasn't well thought out.
Tonight, once again I heard the common theme from our City Council that the traffic problems were the fault of developers and that the city had done their part. Once again I am trying to tell them that we don't care who is at fault; the city and the school district have an obligation to fix the problem. Building new facilities and a parking lot with spaces for hundreds of cars that will not only increase traffic but also lure Brookside families parking in dirt fields across the busy street and then wait until everything is in place before providing a safe crossing and a sane traffic plan, in my opinion is at minimum stupid and borders on criminal negligence. Too bad Bogh Engineering doesn't specialize in the kind of crosswalk I am proposing, if they did I am sure it would have already been built.
I will continue to push the city and school district for a safe solution. I guess I will be giving up two more Tuesdays every month to keep an eye on the City Council along with the school district.
For more information on the crosswalk I am proposing, click here.