When I first moved to River Bend, I thought it was funny, the reaction some people had when I told them where I was moving. “Oh, you’re moving THERE? Do you think it’s safe?” I gave them the same eye roll I give people when they talk about “rush hour traffic” in Des Moines. Oh, you charming people, who have to strive so hard to find something wrong with our idyllic world in Central Iowa. Granted, I grew up in the part of the northeast that is also pretty utopian (at least until you check the price tag). Montclair, New Jersey had racial and economic diversity, but it had a wonderful community spirit in the 70s and 80s that taught me that there is great strength in a diverse community that works together.
It was that diversity that I found lacking in other places I’ve lived in Central Iowa. When I first moved to Ames, and then spent 15 years in Des Moines North Side suburbs, it was “nice” in the anti-septic way I suppose works for some people. People would pull into their attached garages after work and rarely even say hello to each other. In 15 months of living in River Bend, I’ve made more neighborhood friends than I made in 15 years on the north side. I love that about River Bend: it’s real. People talk to each other, care about each other, care about making the neighborhood a better place. On the north side, my daughter was told she couldn’t play with one neighborhood girl because we support the gay marriage of one of her aunts. In River Bend, my children will grow up knowing that regardless of race, economics, or marital preference or status, they will have plenty of children to make friends with.
When I learned from a friend that Big Tomato Pizza refused to deliver to her just a few blocks from my house, it wasn’t funny anymore. I never thought River Bend was unsafe, even before I moved my family here. But now that we’ve lived here for 16 months, I’m offended. I’m a night owl, and I’m often up way past midnight. This summer, I would run after dark several times a week, by myself, with headphones. That’s how safe I feel in my neighborhood. I could go to the gym, but I’d rather wait for it to cool down after sunset, and run on the often totally deserted streets of River Bend, on our well lit streets, looking at the beautiful hundred year old homes in various degrees of revitalization.
Do I believe my neighborhood was different in the past? I know the very house I live in used to be home to drug users and dealers, just the same as a Civil War hero used to live here and host parties where Louis Armstrong played. I also know that since Officer Yanira Scarlett started working as out neighborhood liaison about 4 years ago, crime is down 30%, to the point that we are now statistically safer than many suburban neighborhood to the west of us. Neighborhoods change, and while I find the history of this place to be fascinating, it shouldn’t be used to discriminate against the people who are here today. Yes, we are a diverse community, racially, economically, spiritually, and in almost any –ly you can think of, and it is that diversity that makes us stronger. To continue to not deliver to River Bend is to disgrace the hard work that has taken place here over the past decade by residents, community activists, and the Des Moines Police Department. I’m not claiming to live in a perfect world, but if it’s a neighborhood where I have been safe running at night, isn’t it safe enough for a pizza delivery guy?
Thank you to ABC5 for reporting on this story tonight, 10/2/12, at 10 PM. I hope we can turn this slight on our neighborhood into a chance for Big Tomato Pizza and the rest of Des Moines to take another look at River Bend. We think you’ll like what you see.
Update: Here’s the link to the channel 5 story: http://www.myabc5.com/story/19711436/denied-pizza-delivery#.UGuhBBYawjA.twitter