Friday, September 25, 2009

Hey Streetlight-Lovers, Here's an Idea!

I've made no secret of the fact that I think the whole focus on streetlights in Fitchburg is silly. For all the catastrophic predictions and hand-wringing, there's still no good data to support the claims streetlight proponents are making.

On the other hand, it's pretty obvious that there are a lot of people in Fitchburg who really love their streetlights. Or the concept of having lots of streetlights, anyway. They want those lights on, whatever the reason. Even if it doesn't have a real effect on public safety, it would at least make them feel better.

Unfortunately, lit streetlights cost money, and the city doesn't have a whole lot of that to throw around. What's a streetlight-lover to do?

One option is to whine incessantly about how awful it is that there are unlit streetlights. This is a popular choice, but it has the notable disadvantage of not actually getting any lights turned back on, as well as just being really annoying. So here's perhaps a better idea.

A couple of days ago I received an email from the president of the Fitchburg Institute for The Common Good. Here's a quote from their webpage.
We can do something. Already something is being done. We can organize and fix this problem.

Not by whining, not by complaining and not by agitation. We can fix the problem the same way we fix any problem, by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work--just like we do every day.

The Fitchburg Institute for The Common Good is pleased to announce its Lights On, Fitchburg! Campaign. We are raising funds to pay the power company to turn back on as many of our city's streetlights as we can afford. Already we have arranged to have several streetlights on the East Side of town powered up and we are looking to expand the scope of our project.

However, we can't do it without your help. This problem is too big for any individual or group to tackle alone. Besides, we're all in this together.
This, in my eyes, is a sensible approach. People can already pay to have individual streetlights turned on, but not everyone may be able to afford it, and even fewer may want to deal with the hassle of actually doing it. The FITCG's approach is to pool donations from multiple sources and put that money into turning lights back on.

Now, anyone with 15 bucks can buy a domain and stick a Paypal button on it, so how do you know this isn't a scam? Well, they are registered with the state as a nonprofit corporation, which is good. As you can see from that link, they're still a small group.

I also emailed the president of the group--Mr. John F. Triolo--with a few questions, and as far as I can tell things are on the up-and-up (if I didn't think so I'd be attacking them, not promoting them). Mr. Triolo seems like a well-meaning guy with some big ideas, and an honest desire to improve the city. I wish him luck.

Here's an added bonus: If you're a conservative/libertarian-type who thinks that government sucks and the private sector should handle everything (and I think it's safe to say that plenty of those demanding the city turn on streetlights are of that persuasion), this is a chance to put your money where your mouth is. There's no need to suckle at the government teat when there's a private group you can support in helping to attain your goals!

Even if you're a dirty big-government liberal like myself, there's nothing that says you can't help the government. The city doesn't have a lot of money, and the less they have to spend on things like this, the more they can spend on buying us all puppies and candy. Don't pretend that you don't like puppies and candy!

So there you have it. If you want streetlights back on, check out the Fitchburg Institute for The Common Good. If you're comfortable with them, I'm sure they'd be happy to have you as a supporter. If you're not, that's okay too, but what better way do you have of getting lights turned back on? And if you don't care, well just carry on then.