Monday, March 5, 2012

An hour with the Historic District Commission...

is like a season in hell. Well, no, I'm sure time passes more quickly in hell than with the Historic District Commission.....

After an hour of conversation, the Commission finally gave us permission to finish our half-finished roof. Some 15 minutes of the hour was spent in a discussion between two of the members about the distinction between three tab shingles and architectural shingles....I asked a man beside me if he had a gun. He asked back, "Why?" I told him, "I want you to shoot me...."

Let me see if I can explain this: our neighbor down the street went through exactly the same thing. His roof work was stopped and he had to go to a meeting for an exemption but since it wasn't a public meeting (hadn't had a notice in the paper about the subject of the meeting) he had to come back two weeks later to get the exemption the Commission knew they were going to grant anyway.

The chair said, "well, we don't want to be inconsistent...." (Meaning we'd have to come back after a notice about our roof and who in the community is foaming at the mouth to keep us from having it could show up to be heard.) I said, English major that I am, "Consistency is the hob-goblin of small minds...." No one laughed except Bern and the three other 'citizens' there to complain to the Commission about yet other stuff besides our roof.

So, what they were about to do, even though they knew they had a quorum and that they had decided in favor of our neighbor after the useless insanity of advertizing for a meeting that no one except my neighbor came from that they would prolong the insanity and the pain for another month! To be consistent!

There's a lot of stuff about 'being consistent' in the Republican primaries. Everyone accuses all the others of being 'flip floppers' or not being consistent. Truth is, if I ever met a absolutely consistent person I think, for the good of the human race, I'd consider killing him/her. Consistency IS the hob-goblin of small minds. Walt Whitman, writing about 'consistency' wrote: "Do I contradict myself?/Very well, I contradict myself!/I am Large, I contain Multitudes...."

There was a NPR conversation about 'consistency' in the last few days. The guest said that some politicians are Hedgehogs and some are Foxes. A Hedgehog, he said, is 'consistent'. The Hedgehog things One Big Thought--to not be killed and eaten by the fox. The Fox, on the other hand, things all manner of little thoughts--some of which have to do with different ways to kill and eat the Hedgehog.

The Republican 'base' longs for a Hedgehog--someone who is consistent and never, ever, not ever from the Dogma of the Right. (Granted, Left-wing-nuts like me long for a Liberal Hedgehog, but realize there is no such animal. Concessions must be given, deals struck, compromises made in the governing of a country. I much prefer a Fox--someone who is Large and contains Multitudes--someone who can compromise, change their mind and even, horror of horrors for Hedgehog fans, admit they were wrong and apologize.

The Republicans are apoplectic that Obama apologized to Muslims that some Korans were unintentionally burned by NATO troops. If a Bible were burned or religious symbols desecrated by non-Christians, wouldn't we all expect an apology? Obama backed away from his hard line on contraceptive coverage--all the Hedgehogs Right and Left complained. The foxes understood....

Rick Santorum was criticized in a recent debate for saying he voted for some support to Planned Parenthood because it was linked with other funding he favored. He said he was a "Team Player" and the others hooted.

I like a 'team player' myself. Lone Rangers may be 'pure', but they not only get nothing done, they do a lot of harm.

Anyway, the Historic District Commission are mostly all Hedgehogs. They fear the inconsistent Fox. They cling to illogical regulations and 'consistent' mistakes rather than make exceptions, see the big picture, let a 'neighbor' have a roof over their head....

I must have said "neighbor" half-a-dozen times in my conversation. The regulation said you don't need approval if you replace a roof with 'the same or comparable materials'. Our shingles are 40 years old--ancient for a roof--and aren't made anymore. The one we chose is about the same color--if you can tell the real color of a 40 year old shingle--and the Commission had already, in my neighbor's application, said that architectural shingles (whatever those are, exactly) are 'comparable' to the shingles both our neighbor and we are replacing.

But they were on the verge of making us wait yet another month, even though they knew they would approve it, until one of the folks in the public seats asked if he could speak. He's been before the Commission several times before and reminded them that it was this kind of regulation worship that made most of the people who live in the Historic District hate and loath the Historic District Commission. He was passionate and committed that the Commission 'do the right thing'.

After he spoke, the Town's liaison and the member of the Town Council who were there seconded that guy's sentiment and reminded the Commission that they actually could 'make a decision' without waiting for a public hearing. Two of the Commission members began playing with a motion. But one of them had come in late and said, I swear to God!, "Madam Chairwoman, I'd like to make a motion but I haven't been seated." So the Chair officially SEATED him and he made the motion which they tinkered with for five minutes before voting.

Here's what doesn't work with Hedgehogs--humor and appeal to their basic, decent humanity (that's what I did in the conversation)--and logic and reasonableness, which was Bern's contribution. Neither works.

What worked, in the end, was someone reminding them, in a sense, about the difference between Rats in a maze and human beings. Take away the cheese down one of the tunnels of the maze and a Rat will stop going down that tunnel. Human beings, on the other hand, will 'consistently' do the same failed thing or useless thing over and again expecting different results.

In a day or two we'll have our roof, our two chimneys will be repaired and the house will be power washed in anticipation of painting it in the Spring.

Oh, God, I forgot to ask the Historic District Commission about masonry, power washing and paint!

I'm just glad it's over. Bern, however, now has a Hedgehog kind of cause--Repeal the Historic District--which she is Fox enough to pull off.....God bless her: a Fox in Hedgehog clothing....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.