Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Listening Sessions

The city in which I now live paved over the streetcar tracks over 100 years ago. Counting the surrounding counties, the metroplex area has now 1.7 million people, 6 interstates and an outer loop. Some say it's becoming congested - it can take as many as 20 minutes to get downtown from the county line.

Apparently, it has been ordained that we have an "AMP" - high speed bus service installed on a busy thoroughfare. The mayor has gotten a 75 million dollar commitment and for many, it is not whether to build it, but when and how.

Yet state funding as well as additional local taxes are needed to build the AMP. The state has other priorities and will not divert limited revenues for the project. There has been no convincing cost benefit analysis, showing that the AMP is more than a noble idea and "field of dreams" - build it and they will come proposal.

There are substantial and credible critics of the AMP who question whether the proposal is economically viable, unduly burdensome to the business and residents along the thoroughfare, or in the best interest of the city.

These critics who are demonized in the press as just anti-growth, “NIMBYs” (“Not In My Back Yarders”) - have been invited to neighborhood “listening sessions” to discuss - not whether to build the AMP - but how to make it more palatable.

The lobbyist supporting the project claim the public supports the project and that more “citizen engagement” will eliminate a lot of misinformation and lack of support.

The opposition is divided. One group opposing the AMP says it must go and participate even if its point of view is not heard. Another group of opponents suggest “you simply can’t sell a bad product” and that participation and discussions on how to improve the AMP concedes the project  has merit and results in opponents becoming part of the problem, not the solution. The claim the major may hear their descent but that you cannot change his mind.

For them, arguing over the details in town meetings obscures the principle issue. Is the AMP the best way to effectively solve a perceived problem of congestion and does the cost in disruption it will cause outweigh its benefits?

Henry Seaton

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