Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Council Representation Fantasy

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?

Teresa: “Yes."

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!”

Friday, February 22, 2008

Rage against the PR machine

I submitted the following letter to the editor to several area newspapers. I don’t think it was published by any of them.

It’s easy to make the case for your position when you can manipulate the facts to fit your conclusion, as Tim Henry did in Wednesday, February 6th’s “As I See It” column regarding the city’s ongoing push to put a huge bridge in Minor Park.

If there were truly a consensus, why did so many people withdraw from the “alternatives study” in protest? The answer: It was not a public process, but a charade. As the project manager stated, the participants were there merely to observe. At all times, the consultant controlled everything, including a biased survey that was employed not to inform the project team about the community’s desires for the Red Bridge area, but to lead to the same pre-determined conclusion they come to every time. In fact, the contract drawn up with the consultant demanded that the result be the same big-bridge plan. What kind of alternative is that? Henry also mis-states the facts in regard to the differences between the latest proposal and the previous one. Only by comparing it to the proposal before the proposal before the last proposal can you say that the latest one is any kind of reduction. Even former councilman Chuck Eddy said that 5-year-old plan was “never serious”.

Why is the city so determined to build such a big bridge on such a little road? The answer is obvious to many in south K.C., and it was in fact stated early on in the process by a Public Works official, then never repeated: Red Bridge Road is to be a highway alternate, helping to handle the tens of thousands of trucks that will be servicing the freight and warehouse facilities being constructed at the old Richards-Gebaur Air Force base.