Thursday, January 12, 2023

City Council, January 17th - Work Session on Housing Crisis and Policy Agenda

You may recall back in 2017 when a driver crashed into a house and killed Srabonti Haque.

And again a year ago when a driver crashed into a house and killed George Heitz and Moira Hughes.

The house was no protection, in 2017 via Twitter

A year ago

A stick-built house with a mortgage and landscaping was no guarantee of safety.

Not even fire stations are safe.

2014 crash into Fire Station 11 on Orchard Heights

On Tuesday the 17th, after the Holiday, Council will hold a formal Work Session on City policies on homelessness and on the 2023 Council Policy Agenda and Strategic Plan.

So when Council and Staff grapple with the question

What reasonable options exist to the City to protect human life by restricting outdoor sheltering near busy or high speed roadways or to minimize impacts to pedestrians using sidewalks?

it's important to maintain a focus on jaydriving, road design and speed, and not to get distracted by income, style of home, mental illness and behavior, or any other ways we might be tempted to stigmatize or criminalize people who lack permanent shelter.

Front page today

Today's story is timely, and mostly focuses on the author of calamity, a bad actor, and a system that seemed unable to contain him:

  • He was estimated to be driving at 70mph on a street posted for 35mph
  • Earlier that day he was apparently seen racing on MLK Parkway
  • His drivers license was suspended and he had a warrant out for him in Lebanon for a parole violation on an earlier sentence for jaydriving
  • And even earlier violations

But unaddressed are other elements of our autoism, especially road design.

Why do we have a downtown street which is designed to make it easy enough to go 70mph?

Why do we have broad residential collector and even local streets on which high speeds are easy, especially at night when the streets are deserted?

Traffic, trees, narrower lanes, design elements and more users, all these things that make for a more "congested" streetscape also calm the speeds of drivers and make the street safer for everybody, whether rich and housed, or poor and living on the street.

We overengineer our roads to permit speeding, to "forgive" speeding errors by drivers.

And then we act surprised and outraged when the speeding results in catastrophe.

Strong Towns on design, comfort, and safety

On the Policy Agenda, the Staff Report at the moment is thin. One potential focus area called out is

Strengthening our community’s resilience and emergency response. by continuing to support community preparedness efforts. Community resilience to natural hazards and those brought on by accelerating climate change, as evidenced by recent fires, ice storms, and flooding.

But again rather than focusing on actions for reducing emissions, we see the rhetoric of resilience and adaptation. There's nothing about the Climate Action Plan here!

More generally there is a lot of language for "assessment," "review," and "planning" and not so much about decision-making and actually doing. Talk more than walk. This does not look like preparation for a very active Council in 2023. 

Maybe by Tuesday there will be more supporting materials and the Staff Report will not look so thin. But at the moment, this looks like cueing up a low-energy Council in 2023.


This doesn't exactly belong here, but I don't have another better place for it at the moment.

At the December NEN meeting, the Assistant Traffic Engineer shared "concerns" with trends that might inform the new Neighborhood Traffic Plan, saying "Twenty is Plenty" will be "difficult to implement."

Discouraging on Neighborhood Safey

Unfortunately, the City is conducting the Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan update as a stealth process. Who knows what might be in it and how to improve it.

Useless search results

But working on general reductions in speed (and other elements too) would be a positive kind of policy action for Council to undertake in 2023.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Added a note on the Neighborhood Traffic Plan in process.

Evan said...

"Difficult to implement" Gosh, where else could the City find $2 million?

Planes for rich people = $2.4 million
Streets for all = sorry, we have no money

Cc said...

I have a question about rhetoric. What is the reason behind talking about what "we" do in designing and engineering streets? I'm not sure that "we" actually do that. Traffic engineers and city staff make proposals and city council either adopts them or not. Do you say "we" because we vote for city council? Or because it's a rhetorical device that suggests we are all responsible and, thus, might be motivated to support change? Or for some other reason? Serious question. Thanks.

anothervoice said...

Cc. Some believe that they can influence decisions and I believe that they are correct. Many transportation decisions are strongly influenced by politics. Engineers are sometimes stuck along the sidelines wondering where the public service part of their careers went.

Some participate because they feel that their knowledge and experience can help to shape direction and possibly prevent harmful consequences.

Others take a longer, broader view and inform us about options that may not be apparent. Their comments are more along the lines of the ideal, with less consideration for what can actually be.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

CC: The broader culture and politics of our autoism, and arguing against all that, is an overarching theme here.

A goal here is also to focus on policy rather than people, avoiding ad hominem argument as much as possible. Identifying a particular "them" in one case or another all too easily becomes a moment in out-group/in-group formation and maintenance. Besides, our autoism is so totalizing and hegemonic, it's incredibly difficult not to participate in it even when some of us try not to.

So your last option, "a rhetorical device that suggests we are all responsible and, thus, might be motivated to support change" comes closest.

(Though if you look at the notes specifically on traffic modeling, you might see the narrower focus you seem to prefer.)