Fellow readers of the OB Rag,
I have been a regular reader of the OB Rag for about ten years, although I have never commented or contributed. I read the Rag, because I believe that the Rag has a unique position to observe, chronicle, and comment on the happenings of Ocean Beach.
As such, the very valid question has been asked, what is the Respect OB movement and what is it about? No one has a monopoly on that answer, but as someone who took a leading role, I do have my own opinion and story that I would like to share.
First and foremost, Respect OB is a pure expression of love for OB. It is not affiliated with any political movement. It is an effort to get people to think about OB for OB’s sake. It is an exploration to see if there is a common thread that unites us as OBceans. The goal is not to find solutions, because that is impossible for very real and good reasons. The goal is to see if we can make improvements, for the benefit of everyone.
To me, this is important, because we tried doing nothing, and that was not working. And believe me, no one tried harder than me to do nothing.
I have no idea who “Molly” is, but I would like to bring forth her comment from a prior thread, as being substantially correct, “Molly April 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm:
Like all things in life, this “Respect OB” is dialectical. That is, it contains within itself as a collective movement of neighborhood residents, businesspeople, and city employees positive and negative aspects and potential positive and negative results. One negative aspect, for example, is the potential for vigilantism. One positive aspect, is the lowering of community angst over problems that individually appear unresolvable.
And now for the brief history. I am Andy. I run a computer software and internet business that is located above the Blue Parrot. We have been located in that building for the majority of the years since 1999. Most important, I love OB. I have lived many places, and certainly I could choose to live elsewhere. I am here because I love OB, its people, its places, and its vibe.
So a large part of my involvement is for the selfish reason (yet selfless at the same time) that I don’t want OB to change. In the relatively recent past, especially by OB standards, two things have made me very worried about OB.
First, we would find human feces, urine, needles, and other unpleasant things in front of our business door on a regular basis. It never used to be this way, even considering that this particular area was common place for people to sleep for many, many years. Cleaning up filth on a regular basis changes a person’s mind set for the worse. I have personally peed on many a bush, so it seems to me it seems unnecessary to defile my business as well as the warm, clean place where so many without homes have slept (irrespective of the general lack of public bathrooms being a real issue in its own right).
Second, many long-time residents of OB were having conversations about whether the OB neighborhood was still a fun safe place to be. One friend had his tires slashed and felt personally targeted until it was pointed out to him that cars up and down the block were damaged. He didn’t know if this was comforting news or not – being a victim as a specific target or as a random incident. If we lose the people of OB, is OB still OB?
So in February, this was a topic of discussion among my group of friends. At that time I happened to run into some of the members of the OBMA Crime Prevention committee who had been discussing similar issues. Whether you agree or disagree with current or historical perspectives of the OBMA, it is very clear that they are an organization that loves OB and plays a major role as an organizer, employer, cleaner, stuff provider, and many other things to this community. They were impressed by the positive and inclusive nature of this independent effort. I am, and will always be, very grateful to them for allowing this idea to incubate with the intent of serving the entire OB community.
I will say that for me personally, with respect to the OBMA as an organization and as individuals, there are things, perspectives, actions, and motives that I agree with, and some things that I do not agree with. For me, this relationship is about the same that I have with other people and organizations. I think that this is normal and healthy. Most important, universal agreement is not a requirement for working together in good faith to accomplish something that is valuable for everyone.
I then spent the next 60 days speaking with everyone that I could find in the neighborhood on the general topic of Respect OB. As a general matter, I consider there to be five neighborhood groups each of which have a valid claim on OB, but certainly with a different perspective and experience. Those five groups are the merchants, the residents, the churches, the homeless (and their advocates), and the City.
From my perspective, each group was able to find healing, uplift, and betterment in the Respect OB message. This was the way that I intended it and the way that the message seems to be perceived. The key is to focus on what unites us – within each group there is a sincere and well founded love of OB.
I will always be eternally grateful to Kathy, Tracie, Pat, Mike, and Noah, for being the face of this effort at the community gathering. I think that our effort is for the best, and I hope that if nothing else, the entire community shared a moment in time where all of OB was united in the common cause for the love of OB. I am also grateful for the numerous people who worked very, very hard behind the scenes to get us where we are. Together we are stronger was a slogan at the meeting and is true in practice.
I personally fronted most of the small amount of money on this effort to date. I spend lots of money on things for people that I love (flowers, gifts, meals, parties, etc.) Why should I not spend on OB for the same reasons? For those who really, really need a label — call it charity, which is a good and valid thing in its own right. It is nothing more or nothing less than that which has been done by many people in this community through employment, personal outreach, supporting causes, donating time, providing resources, as examples. In general, many good people have done much more and over longer periods than me. This was just my turn. I was hoping to remain largely anonymous in my effort, because this is not about me, but that is impossible in today’s modern world.
So where do we go from here? I think that there is a limited or no role for another centrally run committee to accomplish much. There is certainly a role for the many formal / informal neighborhood organizations that already exist and have affinities, resources, and constituencies to undertake some tangible action to improve things. There is also a role for individuals. Community involvement is like a muscle that has to get exercised from time to time, lest it atrophy.
In my opinion, apathy is the biggest enemy to our continued happy existence. As an example to fight this scourge, I would like to see a return of the block parties to make people better connect with each other and the neighborhood in an atmosphere of fun. I’m sure others have many more examples or suggestions.
I hope that the Respect OB movement can enhance the neighbor-to-neighbor connections, which was the intent of gathering contact information. Ultimately, I view the success of the neighborhood to be a block-by-block issue. If ten people on each block can link-up to make their area more fun, safe, interesting, and funky, then OB will be sustained. That is what I hope that the mailing list will be used for.
If instead we are overtaken by the malaise of the status quo, then we know how this ends. The same way that it has for most other beach front towns in California. We are not the first community to face these issues, but we may be the last. For better or worse, there will always be an OB, however, it may not be the one that we would all recognize or even care to preserve.
I hope that you will join me in this effort, not in the formal organization of Respect OB, but in the actions that we each can take to improve OB. I have seen so many relationships healed directly or indirectly from this Respect OB effort. Fresh starts and new beginnings place us on the same team of those who love OB. In many ways we are a family, bound together but not without our differences.
Perhaps we can accomplish something. Perhaps cynicism will tear this apart. Too early to tell. If people throughout the neighborhood are talking about what it means to “Respect OB” and not yelling at each other, than we have already won in many ways. I consider the OB Rag comments as just such an example.
I would be happy to personally answer any other questions that may arise from time-to-time. I prefer to do it face to face so it is a discussion, not a flame-war. See you in OB