The following is an open letter by Andrew Laska to the City of Richardson. Laska has lived in Richardson for decades. He served five years as President of the Richardson Heights Neighborhood Association and four years on Richardson’s Environmental Advisory Commission.
An open letter to the Richardson City Council, City Management, and Residents:
I ask that the Richardson City Council, and City Management close all golf courses, and playgrounds – both private and public - within the city limits immediately for the duration of COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, Richardson should close all other recreational facilities where popularity encourages the gathering of people or does not allow for social distancing. Those might include narrow trails, waterfalls, etc.
It is now abundantly clear that the well-intentioned decision to leave these facilities open with the desire that citizens use careful practice of social distancing and other precautionary procedures as recommended the Centers for Disease Control and local health authorities has been and will remain entirely ineffective. Leaving these facilities open threatens the health, well-being and in many cases lives of all residents during this crisis. The staff and Council are well aware that other cities have closed such facilities.
The City of Richardson and its Council should be congratulated for its bold move of a “Shelter in Place” order in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis. This was a responsible decision in order to protect the long-term welfare of the entire community. Despite the pain that order is bringing, the pain of business of usual would have been worse. I thank the officials that carried on my initial concerns to Staff and Management.
After communicating with many residents from around the city it is clear that in several locations people are not behaving safely at these facilities. I have heard accounts and seen images of groups gathering on golf courses and at playgrounds even after the city took steps to warn of behavior that might more easily transmit SARS-CoV-2. This is not limited to one facility. In some cases, citizens reached out to me wanting to ask what might be done and other times I reached out from reports I had seen on social media. After I was told City Management visited several of these places last week, I received eye witness testimony that the behaviors continued into today. Enough is enough.
This indicates that despite efforts to warn and politely watch for compliance that the reactive approach has not and will not work. The people involved are adults and many probably know they are acting in a way contrary to requirements and safety. Chances have been given and exhausted.
A member of my immediate family is very likely at higher life threating risk from COVID-19. Others in the community have older parents, grandparents, and relatives in their midst as well. Therefore, the passive policy of leaving these facilities open threatens my family and others. We rope off damaged playground equipment and holes for fear of injury that would be far less than might be had by this disease. What possible excuse could be given for them remaining open when in this case the consequences are life threatening while playground equipment is roped off for fear of a twisted ankle?
This pandemic has caused hardship to a large number of local businesses whose proprietors are neighbors and friends. Some of those can pray for survival on a shoestring because they are “essential.” Some cannot operate at all. Why should those activities of my letter which have a commercial component (i.e. golfing) be given a pass while they flaunt public health while other businesses suffer for being good citizens and following rules that help us end this deadly spread?
I sincerely hope that swift action is the result. I sincerely hope that the reaction is not to “talk about it,” to be “thanked for input” or for “passing on concerns.” Now is the time to act and the responsible action is closure of these facilities.
Governor Cuomo of New York said in an address last week, “you are living a moment in history. This is going to be one of those moments they are going to write about and they're going to talk about for generations…. This is a moment that forges character, forges people, changes people, make them stronger, make them weaker.” You are living a moment where small decisions can equal life or death. While this may be a short term an inconvenience to a few, this action may save lives lasting decades.
Your failure to act or to act slowly will endanger lives. You and I will never know if someone touches a handrail in a playground or comes to close to someone at a golf course and then passes this virus onto someone who then passes it onto another who becomes a fatality in this crisis. However, you can do the right thing by cutting off that possibility and you can do it today.
Close these facilities within the limits of the City of Richardson and do it today.