In case you haven't been keeping track, this is the 16th story I've written about our skate plaza project over the last 3 1/2 years (you can read them all here).
Austin at his first meeting with our Mayor in 2006, and last night
To say this skate plaza has been controversial would be the understatement of the millennium. In the last 3 months alone this issue has been debated through dozens of letters to the editor, 4 public hearings and several more board meetings.
But finally, finally, FINALLY - after 3 1/2 years of considering at least 8 different park locations within the city, the decision came down to a single vote last night by our City Council on whether or not the plaza should be built at Heritage Park.
Not, however, before we enjoyed one more hour and a half of public debate. And even though we had to endure several long-winded complaints by opponents of the project, we were also treated to eloquent testimonies by courageous teenagers who stepped up to the microphone to plead their cases as well.
One young man even presented this oustanding original poem:
Man Made Criminals - By Eric PedersonEventually, it was time to vote on the decision. And then, as if time had suddenly transcended itself forward from years of relentless work to a single, magical moment in time - the president of the City Council asked for the vote.
I’m a criminal because man has made me into a criminal.
Ordinance 384 – Skateboarding prohibited. Two words written on a piece of paper.
Two words of incantation that when written in proper places can transform placid participants into what I am today… a criminal.
An apathetic punk. Let loose with no regard for boundaries, no regard for the well being of personal properties. I’m no better than a grifter.
There has to be consequences for men like me. Men who go to school five days a week, who work part time jobs to pay for their rent and groceries. Men who at the end of a long week, feel they deserve some time off. Some time to go outside and participate in a sport.
So convict me. Confine me to a fenced off square of asphalt. Tell me to behave “or else,” and I will comply.
Why shouldn’t I? This is exactly what I’ve asked for. A confined piece of America where I can be free. Where I can live and learn for free. Free from worry. Free from prosecution. Free to enjoy my hobby, my sport, my passion.
Skateboarding… free from any legal repercussion.
And as you can see here by this standing ovation... THE SKATE PLAZA WAS APPROVED!!!
Photo courtesy of Kimm Anderson - St. Cloud Times
People cheered, hugged and cried as advocates from as far back as 1996 were there to celebrate a day they thought would never arrive. Now, these same people will be skating on their hard-earned plaza this summer.
We still have a lot of work to do of course, but the hardest part is over. When the media reported in 2006 that "If all goes as planned, Austin could see his dream come true by the time he graduates in 2010," we all laughed, because we never imagined it could possibly take that long.
Well guess what, it did take that long. And guess what else... I think the media has seen the political process in action before.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *St. Cloud Times - Skate plaza push passes council, 5-2 (video clip included)