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Amid cries of "shame!" Fierro pounded his gavel and called for order. Fierro said proponents and opponents of the park had made their opinions clear at prior meetings. Then the commissioners, without discussion, approved the new policy. It says dog parks should avoid residential neighborhoods — you know, where dogs and their owners live.
The new rules put an abrupt end to a massive effort by the regular folks Funkhouser is always championing. His parks commissioners decided that the Sunnyside Park plan was just too radical. They bowed to the wishes of a few sticks in the mud who want their neighborhood park to remain a front lawn that they don't have to mow — even if it attracts bums who pitch tents and bathe in the spray ground.
"It's just not good for a dog park," says Eula Inloes, president emeritus of the Here's Waldo Neighborhood Association. Inloes and other objectors believe that Sunnyside Park is too small and too close to private residences for dog play, even though Schlicher's design takes up less than four of the park's 22 acres.
Inloes, I have to say, sounds like your textbook old coot shaking a fist on the front porch. Of Hipp, she says, "This person came in a year ago and started this ruckus and divided the neighborhood." This person may be relatively new to Waldo, but she has lived in midtown for 25 freakin' years. Or maybe we should listen only to people who remember the Andrews Sisters.
The parks board blew it when it agreed with what McHenry called "a lot of opposition" after last Tuesday's meeting. (When I mentioned to McHenry that the supporters claimed to have superior numbers, he quickly got away from trying to quantify the debate. "Sometimes you simply need to make a decision," he told me.)
But far worse than the decision was the way the board reached and delivered its verdict.
Hipp and everyone else who worked for the dog park did all the right things to win approval. And when it came time for the parks commissioners to act, they hid their intentions and shut off debate. The dog park deserved a vote on its merits, not some chicken-shit new policy slipped onto the agenda at the last minute.
Fierro and the other commissioners should have anticipated the hostile reaction that they got in response. Commissioner Aggie Stackhaus actually seemed to enjoy the spectacle. Two park proponents say they overheard Stackhaus tell a fellow board member, upon entering the packed chamber, "I'm loving every minute of this." During the meeting, someone in the audience shouted a threat of a lawsuit. "Go ahead," Stackhaus mouthed.
Dog-park proponents view Stackhaus, a former city councilwoman, as their principal villain. They say Stackhaus conferred with Inloes at a Waldo Homes Association meeting this past spring, before Funkhouser appointed her to the parks board. (Inloes confirms that she and Stackhaus are friends.) Dog park supporter Laura Mikkelson tells me that Stackhaus glared at her when she addressed the parks board on August 14. "It was very obvious by her body language that she was against the dog park," Mikkelson says.
Stackhaus puts off people with more than her body language. Another park supporter, Carmen Root, says she knows Stackhaus from the time Root worked for the Main Street Corridor Development Corporation, and Stackhaus was on the board of directors. Root says that when she called Stackhaus about the dog park this summer, Stackhaus snapped at her and told her to get her information somewhere else.