I wasn’t able to attend or watch the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting today, but I imagined what a half-way-decent council person would have said:
Council person (to consultant): “This doesn’t look like a consensus to me. There are still a lot of people upset about your plan.”
Consultant: “Seventy one per...”
Council person: “71% isn’t a consensus. A consensus is something everyone agrees upon, and with the failure to get any approval from the very group that stopped the plan before and is just as opposed to your plan now, I don’t think you have any kind of agreement at all, let alone a ‘consensus’”.
Consultant: “It’s impossible to please all of the people all of the time. Nobody ever gets everything they want.”
Council person: “Looks like the supporters of the big-bridge plan got everything they want, but that’s not the point. Sharron and Teresa here represent a group of people who set this whole process in motion. They are not entitled to a particular outcome, but they are entitled to a process that empowers them and addresses their concerns. What you did would be like reaching a labor agreement by using management and shareholders as the interlocutors while the workers just stood by and watched.”
Consultant: “I don’t think we could reach a 100% consensus.”
Council person: “OK. Let’s try. Teresa, do you agree that we need a bridge over the Blue River?
Council person: “Tim, do you agree that we need a bridge over the Blue River?”
Tim: “Yes, and the railroad."
Council person: “Sorry, not asking about the railroad. We have a consensus for building a bridge over the river. That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
Consultant: “I don’t think the Citizens for New Red Bridge would call that a consensus.”
Council person: “Why not? I’m sure a survey will get a 100% affirmative response to that question. That’s what democracy is all about, isn’t it: surveys?”
Consultant: “Using those standards, Mr./Ms. council person, I don’t think any infrastructure project would ever happen. There’s always someone opposed to it.”
Council person: “We have a sordid history of infrastructure projects being put in place over large-scale community opposition: The famous Robert Moses expressway through the heart of the Bronx utterly devastated that whole area and it still hasn’t recovered. Here we have the Watkins Expressway. The lesson I draw from these projects is simple: building without reference to a neighborhood’s character is destructive. This Red Bridge thing looks a lot like that. Basically, we have a proposal to change the status quo, so I agree that we need a consensus, or an agreement from the parties involved in order to carry out the plan. If you lack that agreement, the status quo should remain until such time as an agreement is reached. I think that principle is especially applicable when the course of action being suggested is irrevocable. Building a smaller bridge leaves the big-bridge option on the table. But once the big bridge is built, it cannot be removed. So, you’d better be damned sure that you are doing the right thing before you proceed. In this case, I don’t see how we can be sure of that at all.”
Consultant: “But the federal funds expire in 2009.”
Council person (sarcastically): “Oh, well why didn’t you say so!? Bring on the freaking bulldozers!”