The City of Lakewood has responded to our long-standing complaint about traffic in Tillicum. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
The genius of government – even genie of government – is that the “guiding spirit” (genius) and the genie (the one exiting the lamp) both serve the one calling it forth.
At least that’s the way representative government is supposed to work.
But when a genie goes bad, it’s time to stuff ‘em back in the bottle.
On election eve my conversation with, actually complaint to, a candidate for office was interrupted by a phone call. He put me on hold for a moment and when he returned he said he’d just received a customer service follow-up call from a company that manufactures toilet handles one of which my politician friend had ordered and with said product he was not happy. It had broken shortly after installation. The representative was very sorry to hear that and shared that in fact others had expressed similar sentiments – hence the call. ‘Be assured we will make this right such that you will be receiving by next-day-delivery (or some other timely response) a new toilet handle from a different manufacturer.’
How ironic that in the very midst of my diatribe about the lack of representation in the public government sector my candidate friend got just the happy opposite from the private business world.
For a lousy toilet handle.
I asked him why the difference in customer service?
“Because the goal of government is getting your money,” said this candidate running for office. “The goal of business, on the other hand, is making it their business to keep yours.”
Nobody likes being told what’s going to happen with money they thought was theirs; property they thought they owned; communities they call home; or decisions taken out of their hands.
For example, when Lakewood’s Assistant City Manager and Director of Community Development Dave Bugher testified before the State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) about the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) plan to run Amtrak trains through the city, Bugher was asked what community outreach WSDOT had performed.
‘What community outreach?’ Bugher essentially responded.
Specifically, Bugher complained, “generally the tone of WSDOT’s activities was not one of identifying and addressing issues so much as informing people the project is forthcoming and refuting any concerns. In numerous cases, WSDOT’s response to our various written comments was along the lines of ‘we came and told you why that concern is invalid.’ Community outreach (by WSDOT) seemed more geared toward telling and not asking.”
So what do toilets and trains have to do with Tillicum’s long-standing complaint about traffic and how it’s been handled by the city in our town?
The most recent development in what a former city councilman called “one of the lows” of his eight years on the council – Camp Murray’s encroachment upon the neighborhood streets resulting in four times the average number of cars traversing the town no thanks to the relocation of Camp Murray’s gate – is a city response, the night before Halloween, to a letter sent over a month previous by the board of the Tillicum Woodbrook Neighborhood Association (TWNA).
We wanted the city to explain how it justified spending $85,000 of the $100,000 settlement money – by which Camp Murray was allowed to move its gate – for curbs and sidewalks on Union Ave. instead of “traffic calming,” the latter being the specific and “only use of these funds.”
Though Desiree Winkler, Transportation Division Manager, initially told community residents (May 1) that “perception of speeding along Portland is higher than studies show,” complaints to the contrary resulted in a follow-up that in fact verified residents’ fears.
Accordingly, the city is responding in a two-phase approach to slowing folks down which you can read in this PDF letter from the city.
As to our question how curbs and sidewalks define “traffic calming” and serve to save lives, not just pay and pour more money into pavement, the city also responded with a statistical contrast that starkly describes – in just days after Halloween – the horrors on the main business thoroughfare thus providing substantive rationale for where indeed the money is needed more.
Relatedly, a recent article on the Municipal Research Services Center website for the State of Washington reflected on “the tragic events this summer in Ferguson, Missouri, made worse by the lack of ongoing community involvement, let alone active engagement, and exacerbated by feelings of exclusion.”
Bob Jean, Washington City/County Management Association Range Rider, rightly concluded that Ferguson – and for that matter any town or city – “cannot heal itself until it rebuilds trust and confidence, and a more representative city council and police department truly reflecting all the community” are the primary means to that end.
For an example of a city that “reaches out and engages the community,” Jean wrote readers should “look to Lakewood.”
I agree. We have been heard – not told, but heard. Good for us. Good for all of us.
We can handle that.