This month I attended two very different events in one city: Moreno Valley.
The first was the HOPE Conference hosted by the Moreno Valley Unified School District. It was the third annual conference organized by the African-American Advisory Council preparing African-American students and their parents for the new school year. The event was celebratory — an opportunity for families to celebrate the value and benefits of education with teachers, administrators, school board members, classified employees, and community members. The VOICE was honored with a HOPE Award along with district employees and partners for our commitment to education.
The district’s motto, “Excellence on Purpose” set the tone for this celebration. And the district has much to celebrate. Under the direction of Dr. Judy White the district earned three Golden Bells last year (the highest of any district in the region), seven golden ribbons, touts the highest growth in graduation rates in Riverside County, and all four of the District’s high schools ranked on US News and World Report’s best schools list.
The District’s strong and principled leadership is apparent. It’s evident in the enthusiasm of the families, the pride of the teachers and administrators, and in the results from the students.
Ten days later I found myself at a very different type of event, the second public hearing for the World Logistics Center held by the City of Moreno Valley.
The project is controversial, not only because of its massive size and scope, but because of the project’s developer and his close relationship to the majority of the city’s council members. Many citizens and observers of the city’s politics believe this developer has unfettered access and a tremendous amount of influence within city hall, a relationship that has definitely caused many to have a crisis of confidence in city leadership.
The public meeting was an ostentatious, theatrical experience with critics and supporters pontificating on the project in three-minute soliloquies. Critics presented the community of Mira Loma as a cautionary tale where air quality and quality of life issues have been leveraged for tax revenue and low paying jobs. Supporters touted the number of jobs expected to be generated, not caring about the type of jobs. “What viable alternative do we have?” one resident asked during his monologue.
As I sat in the audience watching tempers rise with each passing minute, I thought of the city’s motto, “Where Dreams Soar” and instantly remembered lines from Langston Hughes’ poem Dream Deferred: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun… Does it sag like a heavy load…?” In the case of this city, …it might just explode.