What is a plan?
For the last 3 years I have driven around this City on a daily basis. I have been down most every street in most every neighborhood. What I have seen is what a plan is NOT. A plan is not to watch and wait and see what happens and then craft a policy to fix it, and then face the unintended consequences and redraft another ordinance to fix the one that was hastily made in the first place. That is not a plan, that is a coping mechanism.
We are all sick of planning. The very word causes a creep of bile that fills my throat and my little rage ticker starts to rev up. We are not sick of planing so much as we are sick of lack of implementation. We are sick of being told our thoughts desire and words matter when we know they don’t, when we know our asses in the seats are the value and the value is for the very fortunate person who got the contract. Not for me, not for us, not for my little patch of this City that I call my Neighborhood.
The value of those endless meetings was a primrose path for both of the last 2 planning processes – Lambert and UNOP were about positioning ourselves to receive money that was already gone. We were asked to dream big when all we wanted to do was dream realistic. We wanted our roads fixed, our neighborhoods repopulated and our leaders to listen. Instead we were forced to plan big, to make ourselves look like fools, dreamers and hedonists.
I can remember the crooning of planners telling us they would not abandon us, telling us they were here for the long haul; that this plan would matter; that this plan would not be gathering dust; that this time it would be different, and some of us believed that, wanted to believe that, needed to believe that. And some neighborhoods did not. Some people said “fool me once, but don’t fool me twice” They made the choice on any given Saturday that the would actually do the work of the City and clean and replant, paint, weed, survey and put the boots on the ground to work. Some neighborhoods would send someone to the meeting to just make sure you were not the drainage ditch du’jour.
So when the concept of planning for the Master Plan came out I was ready to dismiss it on face value. I was not prepared to be treated like a cow, lined up to eat cold pizza and put stars on maps. Not prepared to be a cheerleader for change, not willing to believe it mattered one bit what I thought or said or did. Still just participating as a defensive posture. Our experience as a Neighborhood told us that to depend on a document that has no teeth behind it is folly, for while we were making those Lambert and UNOP plans, Walgreens was breathing down our necks with false claims of “done deals”. We knew the rhetoric by heart and I took to posting the realities of Walgreens, the bad neighbor on our Neighborhood website, and when we turned the heat up up, Walgreens responded by asking that I take the site down. We tried to use the language and the law and we kept getting beaten down. It was a miserable experience and made even more so by the lack of political will to back up the desires of the very people who would have to face this atrocity once it was built. Maybe the neighborhood down the street would like it, but where would they be to pick up the garbage and the loitering and all that comes with a drive thru commercial neighbor? This was no corner store run by someone we knew, this was a giant corporate entity that knows no alliance. We knew what happened when you planned: nothing.
So Master planning was just another folly and jumping on the Master Planning bandwagon was not for me. But then I heard dissent and being that I love a good voice of dissent I paid attention. And what I found was even more disturbing. It was the voice of fear, the tactic that has worked so well politically on both a national and local level. The dissent says we are voting on a plan that has not been formulated and that is true. We will never vote on a plan that has been formulated. That is not how it works. We are voting on a plan in the making and the plan will become enshrined when our elected officials adopt it.
I see that Cynthia Willard Lewis has backed down from her support of the Master Planning Effort. Is that because she fears that the plan will greenspace her District? Well that means she only sees herself as politically isolated and ineffective because it is up to her to vet the plan and make sure her constituents are satisfied with what is in the plan before it is adopted by Council.
I still wonder where the voice of developers and commercial entities is in this process? Could it be that they are the one’s fomenting this dissent? Could it be that there are powerful, and influential people who like the system just the way it is. The “done deals” and the well funded fear campaigns? Could it be that they would rather hide behind the “green dot” and the BNOB and the worst laid plans that followed the flood.
So I changed my mind, I decided I would rather face these so called “green spacers” and “footprint shrinkers” over a slice of cold pizza at a stupidly early hour on a beautiful Saturday. Create a plan have a few arguments and then see what comes next.
I will vote for the Charter Change cause if we don’t I believe we will forever hear threats of those that seek to shrink the footprint. Bring it out in the open and see if it exists or if someone is playing on our fears, someone who is willing to fund an opposition.