My Turn: On Loudon Road, council and ‘Monitor’ are tone deaf
Both the Concord City Council and the Monitor are sometimes tone deaf to the concerns of ordinary citizens. Two examples are the recent public hearing on the Loudon Road traffic problems. The council voted unanimously to proceed with the project despite objections from many residents who urged them not to do so. Then, a recent Monitor editorial cavalierly suggested that the city’s matching contribution of $160,000 for the project is chump change (“Loudon Road change is worth a try,” Feb. 20). How much more out of touch can you get than that?
Any hopes that the recently elected fresh faces on the council would herald in a new era of inquisitive participation and robust conversation on important issues has sadly turned into a lemming-like adoration of the city administration. Gone are the few councilors who dared to ask questions that were not solicitous of the administration’s agendas.
I sat through an entire long evening on the Loudon Road hearing and came away with the opinion that most who testified, including many residents of the Heights, believed that it was best to leave things as they are. They said that while the current traffic situation is not perfect, it somehow works. The sentiment of those who have the most to lose appeared to be this: The administration’s proposal may only exacerbate the traffic problems.
It is impossible to design a city street that will guarantee that there will be no fender-benders or injuries. The planning staff commented, when asked, that we will not be able to alter the new drive lanes for five years once the project is completed because we accepted the DOT grant that included its regulations. We are stuck with it, probably forever.
The most recent council vote on the Main Street Complete Streets project, including the heated sidewalk component, should have been more vigorously discussed. It is morally unconscionable to vote to heat the sidewalks when many Concord residents struggle to heat their homes during this bitter-cold winter.
To add a curious note, the mayor was quoted as saying that should the city council vote not to heat the sidewalks, he would dump the entire Main Street project. I’ll hold him to his word.
Money, in the form of federal and state grants, drives the administration’s agendas. BearCats, Main Street and Loudon Road are just the tip of the iceberg. Faced with the prospect that Loudon Road needed to be repaved because of the damage to the roadbed, the administration chose to take a grant that would kill two birds with one stone, repaving and new traffic configurations. Of course the property taxpayers will have to cough up $160,000 to match the grant. The Monitor editorial considered that chump change. Some may call that prudent. I call it extortion. The same can be said of the Main Street debacle and the BearCat.
Maybe it is this long winter that is making me cranky. Spring will soon be in the air and with it the hope that some brave souls on the city council will have the courage to finally attempt to regain the respect that the council has lost. The budget hearings should be interesting. I’ll wager that the administration will ask for a 3 to 4 percent property tax increase and get it. In case anyone cares, the council is supposed to set public policy and the administration is supposed to implement it. Somehow, that has sadly gotten turned around.
(Jim Baer lives in Concord.)