"Moral and patriotic duty" compelling Viaduct supporters to keep working to protect residents from environmental pollution & physical danger of Rt.290 Bayfront Connector Highway path.


BY THE Rev. Dr. Charles Mock

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March 16, 2018

Pastor Charles Mock, Community Baptist Church, 1001 German Street, Erie, PA 16504

From the inception of our Viaduct advocacy, we supporters of the 12th Street McBride Bridge have called for one basic thing—a public hearing. A year later our request has not changed. We have respectfully sought to make a case for such a hearing based on conflicting information, rumors and reports on whether with the right stimulus package, the McBride Bridge could be saved and repurposed for pedestrian use. Our justifying reasons for this possibility has everything to do with Erie’s most vulnerable children and citizens. It is our belief that physical safety and protection from an environmental nightmare are key factors in any decision to save or not save the McBride Bridge.

Environmental pollution is a serious issue we do not believe is being taken seriously. One important question being raised is whether environmental pollution matters when it comes to certain people. 

The dictionary explains pollution as “the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance which has harmful or poisonous effects.” Wiki explains pollution as “the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change.” Simply put, pollution is something that brings harm to our environment and in turn to the people who exist based on the environment. It is our belief that the people most harmed using the Bayfront connector are persons who can least afford an additional health hazard to their lungs. 

Based on well vetted scientific data, a daily bombardment of vehicular traffic, especially diesel trucks represent a clear and present danger for children in general, asthmatic children along with others that have chronic diseases, our elderly, refugees, the homeless that push their carts of possessions in bear-bone existence, and those who cannot access daily transportation due to income challenges. 

Physical Safety and environmental pollution are alone, justifiable reasons to pause before destroying an accessible bridge that would be more cost-effective to save than the expenditures for new measures that might be recommended to offset potential accidents. If such measures are on the drawing board, should not they be shared with concerned citizens for clarity and input?

Secondly, given all that has been written and agreed upon about a history of neglect of the necessary resources for the sustainability of the McBride Viaduct Bridge, one does not have to resort to the Redlining history that undergirds the East side and the Bridge. One needs to simply look at what is not present that could or should be present, and, compare it to what is present in other communities that have been blessed with a history of investment. But, putting this aside, one is challenged to view our advocacy as a blessing rather than a curse or blame game. 

What has been lacking in Erie far too long is robust political participation in the political processes that lead to well-informed decision-making by elected and appointed political leadership. The fact that the vitriolic tone to many conversations regarding this bridge should grieve all citizens and elected officials.  

Advocacy voices on the McBride Bridge matter should be lauded by the political establishment. It should be viewed as welcome relief and in step with the vision, goals and objectives presented by our Mayor as for the good of the order. Our mayor is closing the gaps between his office and city hall. He is creating conversations in old and new places, forming partnerships and inviting dialogue on how we can bring our creative ideas to the table. This has been our intention all along. It is unfortunate that such intentions on the part of both advocates and city officials have devolved, reaching a place that challenges our Mayor’s vision of an Erie together and refocused. 

People advocate based on their love for their community and desire to see it flourish. People advocate because they believe their well-researched knowledge and diverse perspectives can contribute to conversations that lead to the best possible solutions for the betterment of the entire city of diverse communities. 

Given the perceived safety and potential health damages of environmental pollution, city officials should leave no stone unturned to satisfy the public’s need to understand all the facts and know that every possible course of action has been taken to assure that the demolition decision was inevitable. 

Lastly, whether we are have in mind the values of a morally informed conscience or more formal, faith-based conscience of religious values and beliefs, we are required to take a stand for all people, especially those who for various reasons dealing with the fundamental realities of survival, have neither the time or money to represent their interests in a timely manner before the powers that be. Such persons struggling for dignity, decency and daily sustenance should not be scolded, criticized or said could care less about the McBride Bridge. Does anyone honestly believe such statements? This is a slap in the face of people that already feel hopeless about any change their voice can make given a history of racial and class neglect. Even Pat Howard acknowledged the New York Times writer, Michael Kimmelman, was accurate in his “elegant narrative that paints a broadly accurate picture of Erie’s racial and class divisions.” While I disagree with Pat Howard’s overall assessment of Kimmelman’s article, I respect his perspective and right to share it. 

As a clergyman in the Christian faith, my understanding of what God requires of the more fortunate is to follow the example of Jesus. Jesus defended those who felt powerless, hopeless, lifeless, marginalized, dehumanized and exploited. A biblically informed faith teaches, “to whom much has been given much is required.” 

The Old Testament book, Jeremiah, chapter 29, is a guiding star for people of faith living in a society that is not their natural homeland. On behalf of God, the prophet Jeremiah tells the people living in captivity to build houses, plant gardens, eat the fruit of them; marry, have children, flourish where you live, and seek the peace of the city and pray to the Lord on its behalf for in its peace you will have peace.

If anyone continues wondering why people of faith are involved, it is because of our belief that it is our moral and patriotic duty. We are simply fighting the good fight of faith for good, wholesome reasons that our conscience tells us is the right thing to do for the betterment of Erie’s future!