Sidewalk wars continue. Two petitions asking the city not to put sidewalks on certain streets were presented at the March 28th council meeting. They were triumphantly presented during the Citizen Comment period by anti-sidewalk activist and environmentalist Catherine Tunis,. She said the petitions were signed by a wide majority of Elm Avenue residents between Lincoln and Linden Circle, and on 3 blocks of Larch Ave.
The petition says, according to Tunis, that new sidewalks would inflict: “loss of privacy,” loss of yard space, damage to trees and landscaping, increased rain water runoff, and added burden of maintenance. She said the petition asks that sidewalk funds be spent on other needs, such as crime reduction.
Tunis also alleged that city staff told one resident that ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) requires new sidewalks be built. She requested that staff be correctly informed that ADA does not require sidewalks to be built where there are none.
The council responded during Council Comment period. Councilmember Dan Robinson thanked Ms Tunis for presenting the petitions, saying he is “pro-democracy on sidewalks.” He assured her that didn’t want to put sidewalks where they aren’t wanted.
Calmly at first but working up to exasperation, councilmember Colleen Clay announced that that ward sidewalk discussions will likely begin in May “at which we will have more information for Ward 2 residents.” Ward 2, which she represents, is where the petitioners reside. She said she’d heard about those petitions. The claims they made, that the city would take a 10 foot wide swath of people’s front yards, disturb all the trees, destroy the drainage, invade their privacy, and “all kinds of things,” were, she implied, inaccurate. Clay requested the city staff to distribute a 1-2 page paper with ‘real” information that “tells the truth.”
Dayrl Braithewaite, whose Department of Public Works would be building the sidewalks, said the dept is a leeetle busy with budget matters right now (no doubt scrambling like every other city department to make the case that every employee and every cent they ask for is vital to the city’s survival). Also, she said, because conditions are different on every street, it could turn out to be a 10 page document, not 2.
Looks like they want it.
The city council was not deaf to some residents’ concerns that talking over Flower Avenue and turning it into a “green street” would cost too much in a time of cutbacks. They discussed how it would be paid for at length. Councilmember Josh Wright even tried to add an amendment that would ban the city from using general funds for any Flower Ave. costs.
The council weighed the potential costs against the money the street brings with it. This street is not a freeloader, it has income. The state pays the city for streets on a per-mile basis. The extra mile of street would net $10,000 – at the current rate. Staff pointed out that the rate changes, depending on how generous the state feels (not much these days).
Deputy city manager Suzanne Ludlow said the city would design renovations and improvements within budget limits, a concept echoed by several councilmembers. Councilmember Wright was torn. He wanted to support councilmember Reuben Snipper, who hopes to add Flower Ave. to his ward. But Wright had reservations about costs. and concerns about who benefits. The avenue borders the city, so the residents on the non-incorporated side of the street would gain without paying for it.
The staff and some of the council pointed out that they didn’t need to use general funds at all. The city could maintain the street without using general funds., The city could use grants or other special funds to make improvements. They reminded each other an example – the renovated auditorium, which was funded entirely by grants.
Wright’s amendment was defeated – the rest of the council didn’t want to put limitations that might have unforeseen consequences. Fred Schultz, fearing “a glitch,” was “not in favor of tying our hands in this way.”
So, it looks like the city is on the road, so to speak.
To Be Continued
There’s more to come about the last two council meetings: $9000 microphones, dirty deeds in the state capitol, and (play the JAWS music) the BUDGET!