Hot time, summer in the city, citizen engagement lookin awfully pretty


At a time of frustration and fatigue among anyone paying attention to current events the tragic oil spill, the recession, the national deficit it is easy, therapeutic and sometimes correct to blame the government (or lack of government intervention) for the nations problems.

So when a reader wrote us a couple of weeks ago to express her frustration over the brand new Charles Houston Memorial Pool being closed on weekends, let alone the hottest weekend of the year, it could have been easy for readers, or for us, to gloss over it. Another resident upset with the government. Join the club.

But such was not the case with this letter. This letter writer was proactive, frank and effective. This is a poor area to make a budget cut when childrens health is concerned, the author wrote. Ironically, this brand new pool was dedicated in February to Alexandrias African American youths who died swimming in the Potomac because they were prohibited from using segregated swim pools.

This letter caught the attention of members of the citys Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities. (Yes, the city government pays attention to its citizenry.) They tracked her down and informed her that, because of her letter to the editor, the mayor requested a review of the situation. The department subsequently authorized the opening of the Memorial Pool and the West Ends Ewald Pool on weekends for the rest of the pool season.

Seeing the succession of events lead to a positive result was more refreshing than the first cannonball of the summer. The writer should be proud. She sets an example that others would benefit from following: Civic engagement can cause tangible change. You just have to make an effort. Her voice echoed much louder than those who complain for the sake of complaining, which is why the city picked up on it.

The city government officials and employees should be proud, too. They reacted humbly and quickly to the letter writers point, admitting that the matter of the pools hours had not been discussed at its inception. 

Just like that, the city has more pools available to youth and other residents during an especially hot summer in the city. Point being, the media works for its readers much the same way that the government works for its citizenry. The more you speak out, the more influence you have over your surroundings. 

In this situation, a residents proactive approach compounded with media and government to form a trifecta that will keep everyone cool in the pool.