Dear Newsletter Readers,
Last night was energizing. There were about 50 people who brought their own signs that asked for a public VOTE. Thank You! There were also lots of Boat people to defend the 3rd Street Boat Launch, and the Baseball folks and Tubb’s Hill supporters were well-represented too. Probably about 250 people in all.
And our officials? Many of us with signs were standing inside the entryway before the meeting. We were talking and greeting people as they walked through. We had extra signs to offer folks if they wanted them, which many did. Councilman Woody McEvers walked in and talked with several people on his way. Councilman Ron Edinger came through, smiled, greeted some folks but didn’t linger. When the Mayor and her entourage arrived, they seemed startled to see people with signs. The Mayor kept her head down and walked through without stopping.
(On a side note, I have wondered why the Mayor has not opened either of the McEuen meetings, so far, with some welcoming remarks, as most leaders of a community would do. She has not said a word.)
Last night’s presentation of the McEuen plan was very different than the first, in my opinion. It was dialed way down. The team was not as enthusiastic in their descriptions; they changed their verbiage and toned down the glitzy representations. I also noticed that Doug Eastwood added a large number of historic photos to his intro, and extended out his monotonous explanation of the plan’s process. It was almost as if he wanted the actual plan to comprise less of the show.
The meeting was orderly. Many of us sat holding our signs during the whole meeting. Near the beginning, when Doug Eastwood carefully announced that next Thursday’s meeting would be to “review the results of the questionnaires”, I became worried. They have always promised that they would allow PUBLIC QUESTIONS at the next meeting, not a “review of the questionnaires”. So, I piped up and asked, “But Doug, will you allow public questions?”, to which he somewhat snidely answered, “Yes, there will be a time for you to ask questions”. But I’ve got to tell you that I’m concerned they’re going to say the questions will have to be after the meeting, one-on-one with the Team McEuen members, just like they did last night. Or maybe they'll allow questions for about ten minutes?
I hope they are not afraid of public questions. We are their neighbors, friends and co-workers. We have questions and expect to have plenty of time to ask them in a respectful public manner. so everyone can hear.
There were two times last night when members of the public tried to ask questions (other than mine). One man called out from the back to ask about the strong current in the river at the site of the proposed replacement boat ramp. Doug cut him off quickly and said he could ask his question to Team McEuen people after the presentation. Then, at the very end of the program, a woman stood up to ask about the COSTS of the proposal. The architect cut her off right away and said “Thank you all for coming...” It was rude and awkward. It was so obviously rude that Doug Eastwood took the microphone and tried to smooth it over by saying that they’ve heard the question about cost before (do you think?) but, he said, it would be AFTER the plan is approved that they will start looking possible funding mechanisms. (Isn't that the cart before the horse?)
People were not happy. I heard one man say, “they must be smoking crack!”
Here’s a clue for our public officials: People are frustrated because you are cutting us out of the deal; you are slamming this thing down our throats and not giving us cost information or a chance to ask real questions or to have a VOTE. It’s not good.
Councilman Mike Kennedy was there but was standing on the sidelines, tucked behind large posters on the side. (There was seating available) On my way out of the meeting room, I saw Mike standing with John Bruning. Two city councilmen. Two possible people to support a public VOTE. So I stopped and asked them if they would be in favor of a public VOTE. Mike looked right at me like he couldn’t believe I was speaking to him. He turned, scuttled away and talked to someone else. John Bruning couldn’t. He was stuck. John and I sat on the P&Z Commission together for six years. He told me, “It’s too complicated to go to a vote”, and then he said, several times, “that’s why we were elected”.
It’s not too complicated, John. That’s a tired excuse. Here’s my idea on how the VOTE could work: The committee continues to gather information and they allow real questions from the public. Then they hone down the plan, based on the public input, they come up with a cost-benefit analysis, they line up funding, create a time line and then they present the whole package to the city council. The council deliberates and makes any changes, then they endorse the final plan. They send the endorsed plan to be included on the November ballot of the city’s election, and the voters of CdA make the final decision.
This method allows the committee to do its work and it puts the onus on the council to endorse a realistic, affordable version of the plan that a majority of the voters will approve.
It’s up to us, people. Whether you live in CdA or in the county, your physical presence at these meetings and your feedback to the committee and the council make a big impact.
Please let me share with you, quickly, some of the many times in the history of Tubb’s Hill and McEuen Field that the public has risen up and made a difference for these parks:
--In 1958 they tried to put a shopping center on McEuen. The public got organized and successfully fought against it.
--In 1962, the mayor and a couple of his cronies pushed through approval of a convention center right on the top of Tubb’s Hill. Several months later the mayor and the whole council were voted out of office by the public!
--In 1974, a German developer wanted to put condos on Tubbs. The public rose up, got money together and bought out the project.
--In 2004, the Hagadone Gardens proposal caused our very own Mayor Bloem to insist on a public VOTE, because, even though it would involve no public money, traffic would be rerouted and the project would change the look of downtown. That project was canceled.
Now it's our turn, people! This plan will reroute traffic, change the look of downtown and cost many Millions of public dollars. You might love the plan or hate the plan, or something in between, but we can all raise our voices, and our signs, to say that we deserve a public VOTE on the final version.
Only YOU can make the difference. You have more power than you realize. Your presence at next Thursday’s meeting, Feb. 10th, 6:00pm at Woodland Middle School is critical. Bring a sign, if you wish, and come to stand up for your right to VOTE. It feels good to be involved.
History is waiting to see what you do.