Monday, December 8, 2008

Death to The Star

The Kansas City Star has refused to publish Arnold McMann's "As I See It" submission critical of the Red Bridge Road Alternatives Study.

While one can never expect or demand that one's letter to the editor will be published, the Star's summary dismissal of Arnold's letter seems suspicious in light of the fact that the Star previously published a piece praising the Alternatives Study.

It's even more suspicious because that pro-Study piece was simply a re-editing of the literature being disseminated to promote the project by the public relations firm hired to manage the Study. The supposed author is well-known to many who attend local meetings in south K.C. as a hack for parasitic commercial interests. Some of his neighbors also had pro-Study letters published in the Star even though those neighbors had never previously expressed an interest in the project and in one case at least was not even registered to vote here. Again, those letters appeared to have been ghost written by that same P.R. firm.

There is much going on behind the scenes that The Star has never shown an interest in uncovering for the benefit of open and efficient governance in Kansas City. Perhaps their evident collusion in the local culture of corruption explains all of this.

Guest Comment on Red Bridge Project

South K.C. resident and investor Arnold McMann composed this post regarding the proposed monster bridge in Minor Park:

On December 2nd I attended the unveiling of the proposed Red Bridge Road project that replaces the historic namesake. The plan is a culmination of almost five years of bitter debate pitting neighbor against neighbor to push through the politically volatile project. The plan to make Red Bridge Road the East-West artery designated by the Major Street Plan is very much in evidence. The right-of-way and bridge is designed for conversion to a four lane road at any time without further public comment. A true Trojan Bridge, where the City's four lane design is decorated like a holiday gift and the failed intersection at Holmes Road receives even more traffic. What is the monetary cost? Estimates are five million dollars to create and defend the design and fifteen million dollars in constructions costs. The current bridge could have been rebuilt for far less at a time when the City is running a deficit budget and bonds are too expensive.

It may be of only casual interest that in its infancy the citizens of the area were merely asking for curbs and sidewalks between Holmes Road and Grandview Road. This was documented in the last FOCUS survey the City conducted in 1999 and we still have no plans or budget to build them. The Sixth District City Council members lobbied MoDOT hard to retain a 71 Highway exit to Red Bridge Road, at great additional cost, despite the obvious traffic planning difficulties it presented. It was built to a four lane specification leaving the historic bridge as the last firewall to making Red Bridge Road a highway bypass.

The machinations used to first drive the project included traffic counts inflated by major construction on 71 Highway, threats that any delay meant the loss of federal funding and the last refuge of every politician, public safety. When these and other straw issues were refuted, the City's gargantuan bridge plan was withdrawn. During the public outcry, City staff called individuals who opposed the project in public meetings "crackpots" and NIMBYs while mobilizing some citizens to support the project. Those of you who remember the election that followed know the casualties left in its wake.

Not to be deterred, the next effort was taken out of Public Works and was carefully orchestrated to deliver a "consensus" decision that met every criteria of the original City project. A public relations firm was contracted to conduct the campaign. An advisory committee was invented where city staff, businesses, development representatives and institutional interests were in clear majority. The city design contractor would not let citizens in attendance speak nor did they make any provisions for them to hear the one-way discussions.

Still another contractor was used to put together a "survey" of stakeholders. The survey was created without input from the advisory committee and determined by experts to be a push poll that included selected phone interviews and an arbitrary cutoff. Not surprisingly, the outcome of the survey supported the City agenda. It was the keystone used repeatedly to justify the planned outcome at every venue. The most apparent use of this device was at the Parks and Recreation approval meeting when the board members were also reminded of where their budget was approved.

My neighborhood is not the first and will not be the last to fall victim to the development first, neighborhoods last mentality of Kansas City. This process was instructive in how far our governance has left behind those whom it has sworn to serve in order to perpetuate its own interests.