What’s the Difference Between NIMBY and Community Activist?

posted by Patrick Slevin

Today St. Petersburg Times columnist, Dan DeWitt, published a piece, When a NIMBY Become Community Activist, that explains the difference between NIMBY and community activists.  DeWitt admits he doesn’t like the word NIMBY, but in his column, DeWitt criticizes residents who oppose a proposed methadone treatment clinic (he supports the clinic) by calling them NIMBYs.    Later in his piece, DeWitt endorses residents who are opposing a proposed septic treatment plant and applauds them as community activists.  

DeWitt’s column demonstrates how community opposition is in the eye of the beholder and a matter of perspective – certainly by stakeholders such as the press.  Here is an excerpt of the story and the link to the entire column: 

When a \”NIMBY\” Become a Community Activist

By Dan DeWitt, Times Columnist

I stood on a catwalk a few feet above 23,000 gallons of churning raw sewage Wednesday morning and, honestly, didn’t think it smelled all that bad.Even so, I’m not thrilled by the idea of Johns by John II opening a similar lime stabilization facility next to the St. Petersburg Times office on State Road 50.

And in some people’s eyes, I guess that makes me a nimby.

I don’t like nimbys, which as I’m sure you know is derived from the phrase “not in my back yard.”

I don’t even like the word “nimby,” and wouldn’t use it except that it perfectly describes the extreme provincialism of people who won’t lift a finger to fight global starvation but become petition-circulating maniacs when it comes to frontage roads. Or septic service companies. Or drug treatment clinics.

On Tuesday, a large group of nimbys got Hernando County commissioners to do what is sometimes called political calculus, but is really just arithmetic. Commissioners would have had to subtract a lot of votes in the next election had they supported Operation PAR’s drug treatment clinic on Kass Circle. Predictably, none of them did.

Too bad. The legal test for this vote was whether the planned clinic “adversely affects the public interest.”

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