LETTER from JOHN B. WEBB
To the Editor,
Upper Pioneer Street has been defaced by the installation of a large solar-powered speed sign, the kind usually found in commercial districts or at the entrance to municipalities. Around the clock, it flashes the speed of all approaching cars along with a digital display of praise or warning, depending on the car’s speed.
It was placed there, NOT at the request of the police chief who claims to have known absolutely nothing about its installation, but at the request of a Pioneer Street resident who gave the village the money to pay for it. It suddenly appeared without any public vetting of the project whatsoever, and without regard for the residents of Pioneer Street who have to endure its unsightliness and its incessant flashing.
Residents of the village and pedestrians, particularly along Main, Chestnut and Susquehanna streets, main arteries in the village, have all observed countless motorists ignoring the very speed limit posted on the many signs they pass as they speed by. The same is true on residential side streets, such as Pioneer.
This has been reported to the village police many times, but rarely, if ever, are police cars strategically stationed to enforce the rules by stopping speeding motorists and issuing tickets. Drivers speed with impunity while village’s police cars are all parked on Fair Street next to the police office.
Signs don’t enforce laws, and citizens and pedestrians can’t; police can and should. But that doesn’t happen in the village, and when it does, it’s usually the county sheriff’s deputies. The same is true with enforcement of parking rules on residential streets; that doesn’t happen either. Our village police need to be out enforcing the rules.
Now, let’s consider the sign that the Pioneer resident paid for. Mayor Tillapaugh called it a “donation” to the village and likened it to someone donating “a park bench or a tree.” A thorn by any other name is a thorn, not a park bench.
The sign was paid for by a private citizen and placed in front of someone’s house without the courtesy of input from that resident or from other people who live on the street and whose properties are also diminished by its presence.
To be clear, the donor did not want it placed in front of his house, so it was placed down the street.
Admittedly, the sign was installed in the grassy space between the sidewalk and the curb, village property, but homeowners are expected to maintain that space and should be respectfully consulted in a situation of this kind.
Furthermore, in a democratic municipality, installations of this nature should be the purview of that municipality alone and financed directly from tax levy funds, not private contributions, and they should be based on an openly agreed upon decision to provide the same services uniformly. In this case, the “donor” acted in his own self-interest and gave money to the village for the sole purpose of getting what he wanted personally, regardless of whether it was appropriate or just.
It is alarming that this request was accommodated. It is even more disturbing that, when contacted, Village officials seem to find nothing wrong with it. In other words, the Village of Cooperstown is condoning and encouraging a gross abuse of the privileges of affluence – a dirty little story behind our façade of friendly quaintness.
JOHN B. WEBB