Sunday, November 18, 2007

ZAP alderman (and more) (mostly) love* pedestrians and bikers

At Thursday night's Zoning and Planning committee meeting considering and passing the draft Comprehensive Plan, a core group of ZAP alderman (Danberg, Sangiolo, Burg) aided and abetted by non-ZAP alderman (Mansfield, Parker, Albright, Hess-Mahan) fought back* against the changes to the draft Comprehensive Plan proposed by Alderman Lisle Baker and invariably supported by Alderman Cheryl Lappin.

Alderman Baker, in his memorandum discussing the changes and his comments during the meeting, felt that the draft language was too rigid and did not allow for exceptions. His proposed changes, however, went far beyond allowing for exceptions and significantly weakened the policy statement in question.

The brave* defenders of the draft language worked hard to resist change that would undermine the policy statement and to craft language that would satisfy Alderman Baker's expressed concern about exceptions.

For example, the draft language included a strong statement about the detrimental consequence of roadway widening:

Increasing roadway capacity would only encourage more people to drive, which would in turn create more traffic jams on existing roadways and choke points.

Alderman Baker suggested removing that strong statement and adding "general" to "A strategy of 'roadway widening avoidance' will not result ..."

With those two changes a strong policy stand against the evils of roadway widening became significantly weaker.

While the aldermen were willing to allow for the possibility that roadway widening might be useful in some rare instances, Alderman Danberg was not going to support any change unless it was clear that roadway widening was to be considered "only as a last resort." So, the final language will allow for Alderman Baker's exceptional cases, but not at the expense of a strong statement of vision.

And, so it went throughout the long, but very productive consideration of Alderman Baker's suggested edits.

A note about Alderman Baker's participation. The sweep of his proposed edits suggest an agenda broader than the ostensible need to allow for exceptions that he articulated. But, he was a very reasonable participant in the discussion and seemed satisfied with the significantly less radical changes that resulted. There are at least three explanations:

  • His true purpose was only to account for possible exceptions and his proposed changes were inadvertently too broad.

  • At the meeting he quickly recognized significant opposition to his changes and took what he could get

  • Alderman Baker reads NS&S and was convinced by the wisdom of my arguments

I'm willing to give Alderman Baker the benefit of the doubt that it was reason number 1, but note that he has an out-dated view of traffic, pedestrians, and bikers, especially when compared to his colleagues.

*While some ZAP alderman may love some people who walk and bike, this headline is only a rhetorical flourish. Their public action only indicates that they consider pedestrians and bikers important for public policy reasons, not that they actually love them. But that takes more space than the headline allows. Likewise, it wasn't really a battle it was a reasoned discussion and the alderman cited above did not actually "fight back," they spoke camly and collegially. They weren't really "brave" in that they were never really in danger.

Note that there is no asterisk next to "evils" in "evils of roadway widening." Roadway widening is evil.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your succinct summary. I thought Alderman Vicky Danberg was notable for her thoughtful analysis of the plan and strong defense for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Did they get through the entire Comprehensive Plan that night and pass it out of ZAP?

Sean Roche said...

They got through the entire plan and passed it out 6-0. (Marcia Johnson was out-of-town and Ben Weisbuch left before the vote.) As I understand it, the full board will consider the plan as amended tomorrow (Monday) night.

You are absolutely correct. Alderman Danberg was thoughtful and effective on a number of points, including bikes and pedestrians. And, she wasn't the only thoughtful or effective alderman. In fact, the success of the evening was due, in no small part, to the common approach of Aldermen Danberg, Sangiolo, Burg, Mansfield, Parker, Albright, and Hess-Mahan.

I just picked the one example because it was a particularly good example of the night's dynamic.