Letter to the Editor Response to Alderman Dumas

To the Editor:

A Response to Alderman Dumas

I am not a resident of Starkville, but I work in Starkville, I have several family members that are residents of Starkville, I have many friends that are residents of Starkville, and I do most of my business in Starkville. So, I have a legitimate interest in the welfare of Starkville and I think these factors give me some standing to make the following comments on the 8/10/10 Starkville Daily News, Letter to the Editor, “Doing the same means we get the same” by Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas.

I am not singling Mr. Dumas out. There are other members of the Board of Aldermen that show some of the same disturbing indications of bad leadership that he does. But he is the one who wrote the letter. Judging by city ordinances Mr. Dumas has recently supported, he seems to be bent on depriving residents of Starkville of their property rights. If this support alone did not convince folk of his liberal leftist leanings before, his 8/10/10 letter should remove all doubt – at least it has to me. Literally everything in his letter Mr. Dumas has freely written — with his own pen — reveals him to be a socialist and a globalist. His own words make it clear to me that Mr Dumas is not in favor of this being a free city — or even a free country. Because of these disturbing indications, I feel that his long letter requires a thorough response. Such a response makes my letter be long too…Even longer than it would have been had I not had to quote his letter in order for my reader to know to which portions I am responding. And just like the typical liberal, he fills his letter with dismissals and understatements of the good that is in the things he is AGAINST and with exaggerations of the alleged good that he claims will flow from the things he is FOR.

Consider the following (in quotations) from Mr. Dumas’ letter:

“I have read with considerable interest the many opinion pieces and articles in the paper pertaining to personal freedom infringement by the current and past actions of the Board of Aldermen.”

“I not only disagree with these statements but find it interesting that a community with our potential cannot see the benefit of local regulation in order for us to shed the past ideas of development that have produced the many unsightly areas of our community.”

1. Mr. Dumas tells us he “disagree(s) with …statements (residents of Starkville have expressed concerning) infringement… (on their) personal freedoms by the current and past actions of the Board of Aldermen.” But he does not explain why he disagrees and how the residents of Starkville are mistaken in this concern. Instead he does a mental and rhetorical fake and changes the subject to the irrelevant subject of the communities’ alleged inability to see the benefits of local regulation – as if local regulation concerns in Starkville, MS trump the Constitution of the United States… as if HIS goals for the community make stealing OUR freedoms OK.

2. When he is not outright ignoring our concerns, Mr. Dumas caricatures we who are concerned with infringements on our freedoms. He implies we have something physically or mentally defective in us that we “cannot see the benefit of local regulation.” We DO see the benefit of reasonable local regulation. But, perhaps our vision is superior to his, for we also see the disadvantages/dangers in the type of overbearing local regulation Mr. Dumas advocates. We are convinced that the damages/dangers of his regulation far out-weight any benefits it might have.

3. This is our city too. We like a lot of things about it. We don’t want to “shed the past ideas of development” that Starkville has used to get us to our current state. It surely is true that “past ideas” did, in part, lead to “many unsightly areas of our community.” But to say that these ideas directly “produced” the unsightliness is surely an exaggeration. Surely more than those ideas themselves were responsible for these “unsightly” areas. Reasonable people realize that nothing man does in this world is free from complications. We therefore expect unexpected consequences such as aesthetic shortcomings – at least on a temporary basis. We also realize that the mere existence of problems is therefore not necessarily grounds for replacement of an old system for a new one.

4. What is “unsightly” to Mr. Dumas is not necessarily unsightly to us. But Mr. Dumas apparently thinks that HIS standard of what constitutes attractiveness is the only one that should prevail in Starkville.

5. Mr. Dumas seems to think that HIS “new” ideas are better than OUR old, or “past,” ideas… That OUR old ideas caused problems, but that HIS new ideas will only have good consequences…That nothing could possibly go wrong with HIS “progressive” ideas to clean up, and/or prevent, “unsightly” areas. Such optimism is refreshing perhaps, but naive to the point of not instilling confidence in me that he even has a grasp of reality.

“A drive down Highways 12 and 182 on any given day provides many case studies of what the lack of sound design or planning principles will produce in a community:”

1. We all know Starkville is not perfect. Of course there are things that need to be changed. Of course improvements can, and should, be made. But just because things are not “perfect,” that does not justify not acknowledging the good that exists here. And it certainly does not justify advocating that we throw existing “designs” and “planning principles” out and start over with totally new…, and different…, and untested ones – and even “designs” and principles” that have a known track record of repeated failure in other places.

2. Also, I wonder if Mr. Dumas has ever taken “a drive down” many streets in the communities of dictatorial nations and gotten thereby “many case studies of what the lack of (freedom) …will produce in a community”? Many of us have seen some of these streets, and what we have seen that dictators do to a community is nothing that we wish upon Starkville.

  • “Vast parking lots with no tree cover.
  • Countless curb cuts and access points that cause visual clutter, confusion, and safety problems.
  • Oversized signs that can be seen for miles.
  • Car-centric development with no access to alternative transportation types, etc.”

1. To hear Mr. Dumas talk, one would think Starkville had real and disastrous curb-appeal-type problems that require immediate and drastic action. “We must fix this NOW!” But this short list of “problems” he alleges Starkville has are, in my opinion, downright silly compared to real problems we have.

2. Mr. Dumas follows the liberal play book well: if he cannot find a real crisis to use to nudge Starkville toward increased socialism, he will make some crisis up – by exaggerating and elevating minor problems into “major” problems. Then he will provide the liberal “solution” to these crises and get the same socialist results he wanted anyway. The liberals have been following this strategy for decades.

“Unfortunately, we are living in an era of unprecedented partisan politics and these ideas are being brought to the local level in regards to this administrations (sic) stance on regulation at the municipal level.

“Typically these are issues of the national scale, but since the election of this city administration, the liberal, conservative, TEA Party label has been applied to most along with the principles of those parties being talked and touted within the board room, in the papers, and on the message boards.”

There may be “unprecedented partisan politics and … ideas …being brought to the local level” but most people recognize this increased involvement is a good thing: people are getting more involved in the affairs of their nation – at all levels. Why does Mr. Dumas see this as “unfortunate”? Does he wish Starkville residents would ignore municipal concerns and just let HIM do whatever he wants to do in, and with, OUR city?

“I personally see a big difference between the national basis of freedom infringement and the need for regulation within a community.”

“I personally (do NOT) see a big difference between the national” level and the Starkville level. Freedom is freedom. It is obvious to most of us, that our US Constitution applies to all levels of political life within this nation – including within the City of Starkville. One wonders: what is obstructing Mr. Dumas’ vision that he cannot see what the rest of us can see?

“This community has many obstacles to overcome and much hard work ahead in order to reach our potential and set the proper framework for sustainable growth and development.”

1. Yes, our city does have many obstacles. But that has always been true, and always will be true, in this city, and in every other city. The mere fact that there are “obstacles” does not justify a major municipal governmental make-over such as Mr. Dumas advocates.

2. Many of us see the WORST obstacles the people of Starkville “have to overcome” are several of our own leaders in our own local government. Yes, “much hard work ahead” needs to be done to clear out these obstacles, but we are making arrangements for that.

3. Mr. Dumas writes glowingly, with vague but high-sounding undefined terms, about reaching our “potential” under the “proper” “framework for… growth”. This is typical leftist double-speak. What he calls “proper,” most of us call “improper,” “wrong,” “harmful,” or “outright bad” And we see his “framework” for Starkville government to be a set of liberal leftist programs that will take the city where we don’t want it to go.

“I truly believe that we have turned the corner from doing-things-like-we-always-did to setting a new standard.”

Many of us “truly believe we have turned (a) corner” too. Only, we don’t like what we see going on around that bend. We realize that all that is “old” is not good. But we also realize that just because something is “new”, it is not necessarily an improvement… that all change is not good. The people who ran our city in the past did many things well – Starkville would not be the city we like to live and work in, if they had botched things as badly as Mr. Dumas exaggerates of them. We want most things to continue to be done in those “old” ways. We are convinced that real progress will be made – not by going further in the “new” liberal direction – but by turning around and going back to “doing-things-like-we-always-did” in accordance to the OLD tried-and-true, basic, traditional, freedom-loving-and-protecting “standards” and principles of home-town America.

“Remember, and to quote my good friend Jerry Emison, ‘If you always do what you always did, you will always get whet (sic) you always got.’”

That is a good quote, and I am glad it is true. But Mr. Dumas is abusing it. He is using it to imply that if we keep doing everything the same way, we will only have more problems. But here again, he neglects to acknowledge that Starkville has never “always” done everything wrong. Sure, former city fathers made mistakes. But they also did many things well. And we are happy to”remember” that we “always got (the good things that) we always got” when they “always did things the way they always did.”

For example, one of the things “we always did” in Starkville, is listen to the will of the residents. When our city fathers “always did what they always did” in listening to the residents, we “always got” self-rule – with fewer problems, and less interference, from the government. So, OF COURSE we want to “always do what we always did,” so we will continue today to “always get what we always got” then. Clearly Mr. Dumas wants Starkville to NOT do what it always did. Apparently the deliberate goal of that wish is that Starkville will NO LONGER “get” self-rule. We realize, however, that if we don’t “get” self-rule, we “get” a dictatorship. We don’t accept that. Mr. Dumas need not apply for that position – for we don’t recognize an opening.

“Merriam-Webster provides several definitions for the word COMMUNITY: ‘A unified body of individuals, the people with common interests living in a particular area, a group linked by a common policy.’”

It is kind of funny but, Mr. Dumas seems prone to quoting sources that argue against his own position. For example, and to use his definition, Starkville is “a unified body of individuals”, “linked by a common policy” and with the “common interests” of being left alone to live our own lives free from meddling and interference from civic leaders who think they know better than we do concerning what to do with our own property. Thank you Mr. Dumas, for making sure we are clear on that.

“These are only a few definitions, and I think it is important for the City of Starkville to begin the process of becoming a true community versus remaining a divided town.”

Good words, again…but deceptively used – again.. The City of Starkville already IS a true community — by his own definition above. We don’t need to “begin the process of becoming a true community.” But we are concerned that what Mr. Dumas is advocating will “begin the process ”of making Starkville “a divided town.”

“I like to abide by a quote from George Bernard Shaw: ‘I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.’”

1. Why would a person in this free country of America – especially a leader, who should know better – “like to abide by” such a restrictive quote from this “radical socialist”?

2. For myself, “I like to abide by a quote from” our Declaration of Independence: “all men are created equal…are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This quote tells me that my life belongs to ME – not to a “community” that may, or may not, have my “life,” “liberty,” and “happiness” in mind.

“Herman Melville said, ‘We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.’”

A good quote perhaps (allegedly by Henry Melvill, not Herman Melville, http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Herman_Melville) but, “So what?” The fact that we are interconnected does not give anyone in the connection a reasonable expectation that I should yield even a tiny part of my freedom to them.

“The great Urbanist, Jane Jacobs, wrote in her seminal book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities,’ ‘There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.’”

1. An interesting quote…What EVER does Mr. Dumas mean in using it? Does he think that just by quoting a few people, residents of Starkville are going to say, “Oh, he quoted some people, so I guess Mr Dumas is right after all.” He must think we are stupid if he thinks such a tactic will work with us.

2. Actually this quote may sound deep and insightful at first, but contemplation exposes it as nonsense. And in using this quote, Mr. Dumas has revealed — if not outright admitted – that he is a committed socialist. Though the quote is foolish, since he likes it, I will use Jacobs’ words to reflect upon Mr. Dumas himself. Mr Dumas’ liberal elitist, I-know-better-than-residents-do-what-ordinances-Starkville-should-be-operating-under attitude is itself “mean,” “outright ugly,” and a “dishonest mask of pretended” service to Starkville. His efforts seem clearly aimed at producing a socialist (he calls it “progressive”) community. He is trying to “achieve” a transformation of our free Starkville government into a socialist government. He is trying to make this change, “by ignoring or suppressing” the free government that we already have and LIKE. He is saying that a socialist government is what we REALLY NEED, and that such a government is already inside our free government “struggling” to emerge – and he is the one who can, and will, let it out. (Sort of like the claim that “inside every fat person is a skinny person,” I guess.)

“It is my belief that this order Jacobs mentions is only achieved by a community with a common goal/policy being enacted in order to produce sound, aesthetically pleasing development.”

Mr. Dumas pretends to not realize that we already HAVE “a common goal/policy” that is already “producing (the) sound, aesthetically-pleasing development” that we want for Starkville. But, like any confirmed liberal, it doesn’t matter to Mr. Dumas what WE “want” – HE is going to give us what we “need.”

“My favorite author Wendell Berry states that ‘Our past is our definition. We may strive with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.’”

Most of us have no “good reason” to “strive” to “escape” from our past. We LIKE our past and want to preserve it for our children. We realize there is nothing “better” than the “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” we already have, and we resist those who try to smooth-talk us out of it. One wonders: “What country did Mr. Dumas COME FROM that he does not have this similar wonderful past?”

“As part of the Starkville COMMUNITY, I want to escape stripped land, sprawl, huge parking lots with no trees or definition, neighborhoods with no trees, and commercial and residential development with no sidewalks by adding something better to it so that we can develop a community that reflects the pre-1950s Starkville of the Greensboro, Main, and Overstreet districts.”

We might want some of that too. But we want to “escape” it the right way. If any of this “escaping” involves private property, the owner needs to have the full and final word on how it is used – not some elected elitist official who didn’t pay for that property and doesn’t pay the taxes on it.

“This isn’t a question of nostalgia, partisan politics, or personal freedoms; it is a question of realizing that change is needed to produce a better community and that change includes levels of regulation that are above the anything-goes concept of the past.”

1. Perhaps it is not a question of “nostalgia”. But who is Mr. Dumas to decide that “nostalgia” is not a good reason to leave things as they are? If “nostalgia” is the reason a private property owner has to not want his property used a certain way, that is enough to settle the issue in a FREE country. But not for Mr. Dumas. (As I stated in the beginning of this letter, literally everything in his letter gives me the impression that Mr Dumas is not in favor of this BEING a free city, or even a free country.)

2. Just because Mr. Dumas CLAIMS, “This isn’t a question of …partisan politics, or personal freedoms,” that does not make it so. It IS a question of “personal freedoms”. And “partisan politics” have been involved in the issue all along. It is liberal “partisan politics” that is seeking to take the private property away from a private property owner, and it is conservative “partisan politics” that is advocating against this attempted seizure. “Partisan politics” are the CAUSE of the problem, and “partisan politics” will be the solution. Mr. Dumas, like all liberals, is merely playing the “partisan politics” card to try to get conservatives to withdraw their political “partisan” involvement, so that liberals will be free to continue their political “partisan” involvement unchallenged.

“The great communities of the world understand and embrace this concept instead of doing what they can to remain stagnant and “do what they have done so that they get what they always got.”

Who CARES what other communities of the world do? You show me ONE of those “great” communities that has the freedoms the people of Starkville have. But Mr. Dumas cares what other communities of the world do – because he is a globalist. He thinks America should be just like the rest of the world – no better than any other nation. This fact should disturb every freedom-loving Starkville resident.

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

1. This last quote is perhaps his best quote in his letter – and he misuses it too. I get the impression he is not even aware of how what he quoted argues against himself and his liberal positions. But many of us in Starkville, and in the surrounding area, realize what he quoted. And we take quotes such as this to heart. We say back to Mr Dumas, that he should “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens (of Starkville) can change the (City of Starkville)” and can keep it safe from the malicious “mean” outright ugliness” of the anti-freedom socialist things Mr. Dumas is attempting upon us.

2. Since Mr. Dumas likes Wendell Berry, let me close with another quote from him: (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Wendell_Berry)

“We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all — by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians — be participating in its destruction? …” (from, “Compromise, Hell!” Orion magazine [November/December 2004])

The people of Starkville give notice to liberals like Mr. Dumas: We are not going to “submit” any longer to “corrupt politicians” that are “destroying” our nation, and doing damage to our city.

Thank you.

Robert J. Allen