No win zone


Sometimes, the people in charge of things just can’t win, especially in the age of social media, where everybody’s a pundit.

Recently, town officials announced several more initiatives to try to revitalize the downtown. Of course, it’s never enough. Or is it too much? Either way, the town is sure to get slammed for doing it. Or not doing it. It’s the classic case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common complaints and the responses.

Complaint: “The town’s not doing enough to attract investment in the downtown business district.”

Response: The town initiates a zoning change to make it more feasible for developers to do mixed-use projects with residential units on top of ground floor retail space.

Rejoinder: “The town’s allowing developers to turn Wakefield into Malden!”

Complaint: “Merchants and their employees park all day in the square taking prime parking away from the public.”

Response: The town tells the Police Department to start ticketing.

Rejoinder: “Why is the town targeting downtown merchants? It’s anti-business!”

Complaint: “The town’s not doing enough to promote existing businesses in the downtown!”

Response: The selectmen approve a limited pilot program allowing 50 merchants to use A-frame chalkboard signs on the sidewalk to promote shopping locally.

Rejoinder: “Another band-aid solution that will make the town look even trashier.”

Complaint: “We can’t attract businesses to fill empty storefronts because downtown landlords allow their properties to become shabby looking through neglect.”

Response: A landlord spends a fortune to purchase and upgrade a prime piece of downtown commercial property and Dollar Tree moves in.

Rejoinder: “We don’t want some trashy discount chain cheapening our downtown! A chic, upscale boutique would look much better!”

Complaint: “Why can’t Wakefield have a dog park like other towns?”

Response: The town identifies a parcel of town-owned land in a central location, upgrades the site and turns it into a dog park.

Rejoinder: “It’s too small for a dog park!” “There’s no parking!” “There’s too much traffic!” “The dogs might fight!” “People won’t pick up after their dogs!”

Whenever it’s decided that we need to increase taxes to build a new school, a prime argument in favor goes something like this: “New schools attract families to the town, increasing everyone’s property values.”

Then, when a new housing project starts going up, the tune changes. “These developments are going to attract families with children that will overcrowd our schools!”

Finally, my favorite, “All this development is making Wakefield look like a city!” Followed by, “Wakefield should make its downtown more like Melrose!” (a city).

Oh, well. Consistency is overrated. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

It’s also a lot less entertaining.

[This column originally appeared in the August 31, 2017 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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