The "Dave" Challenge

I’m man enough to admit that I like a good, cheesy movie. If it’s wholesome, lighthearted, and has a happy ending, I’m pretty much hooked. Given that, it shouldn’t surprise you that I watch the movie “Dave” every time it is on television. If you’re unfamiliar with the film, it stars Kevin Kline as a happy-go-lucky temp agent who just happens to look exactly like the President of the United States. Through a twist of fate, the title character actually becomes president, if only as an unwitting accomplice to a much more diabolical plan.

Anyway, I’m not going to spoil the whole movie for those that have not seen it, but I do want to tell you about one particular scene. Dave (Kline) becomes disheartened when he learns that the federal budget is stretched too tight to allow continued funding for a homeless shelter he visits with the First Lady (played by Sigourney Weaver). Not one to just sit by when people are in need, Dave calls in his friend Murray (an accountant played by Charles Grodin). Over a plate of bratwurst in the Oval Office, Murray shows Dave how to make enough room in the budget for the program by cutting some of the more inane allocations.

In the end, common sense defeats political red tape and the shelter is saved. Granted, this victory is pure movie fantasy, however, I believe there could be a bit of truth to it as well. Regardless, I’d like to find out for sure.

Therefore, I issue the following challenge: given that one of the biggest grievances about Lakewood is its tax rate, I challenge the people of our city to find ways to save money. I’m not talking about anything big and I don’t expect you to come up with a million-dollar proposal. In fact, I don’t even want you to try. Instead of a single million-dollar idea, I want us, as citizens, to try and find hundreds of smaller ones. It should be something that the city can do without having to go through a council vote or having voter approval. It can’t require long man-hours, intensive surveys, or ongoing studies. Keep it simple.

For example: Grant Elementary is across the street from me. Every night as the sun goes down, we are treated to a truly awe-inspiring display of poor planning, improper maintenance, and wasteful apathy. The culprit is a lamppost in the parking lot that is now surrounded by the full summer foliage of a rather large tree. The result is really quite fascinating. Since the unit is activated by a light-sensitive cell, the cycle goes something like this: the sun goes down, the lamp comes on, the light illuminates the leaves immediately surrounding the cell which makes the lamp think it is daylight, and, in response, the lamp then turns itself off. Being that it is still dark, the lamp resets and, after a brief rest, turns itself back on. The whole process takes less than a few minutes, repeating itself a dozen of so times every hour throughout the night. Essentially, we have the world’s slowest strobe light.

Furthermore, because the tree completely surrounds the lamp, during the summer, no light reaches street level or the parking spaces directly below even when the light is on, thus completely defeating the purpose of the lamp in the first place.

Now, I know some of you might recommend that the light be moved or the tree trimmed back, but I suggest something much more radical. Let’s just turn the thing off in the summer. I’ve lived here a while now and I don’t recall anyone ever complaining about a lack of light in that particular area of the school. Moving poles costs money and I’d rather just go without the lamp than lose the tree which helps shade my house. Why can’t we just have someone pull the circuit breaker for that particular lamp until the season changes and the leaves fall off the tree?

While it might not seem like a lot of money, how many of you have scolded your child for wantonly turning the light off and on in his or her room? Every little bit counts and I guarantee you that it would be worth the minimal effort. And, further, I’m guessing that there are at least another half-dozen lampposts in the city that have a similar problem.

Here’s another proposal: since we’re already turning off a couple lights, how about switching off the flashing lights for school crossings during summer break? I know I’m always confused when I know that school isn’t in session, yet I’m required to drive at a crawl through the entire city during certain hours of the day. If the lights are already programmed to go on at a certain time, why can’t they be programmed to go off for a couple of months when they’re not needed?

You might say that what I’m proposing doesn’t amount to much. But, how can it not be worth the effort if there’s barely any effort required? It may sound like just a drop in the bucket, but the point is this: in the grander scheme of things, city officials might not think $100, or even $1,000, is much money, but how much does it mean to you? How much is so little that you wouldn’t mind throwing it away? If you see a penny on the street do you pick it up? How about a nickel? A dime? The savings can and will add up.

I think these opportunities are out there and I think that we, as average residents, know where they are. If you’d like to give it a try, simply jot down your idea on paper and send it to me at the Observer office:

Bret Callentine
c/o The Lakewood Observer
14900 Detroit Road
Lakewood, Ohio 44107

Please do not submit ideas anonymously. I promise I will not ridicule anyone for his or her efforts, but I do want to give credit where credit is due. Once we get enough ideas, I will present them to the city. We’ll see if we can’t just make a difference working together.

It’s your city. It’s your money. And, it’s your challenge.

Read More on Perspective
Volume 3, Issue 14, Posted 8:12 AM, 06.29.2007