Monday, May 28, 2007

Traffic Calming Is Anything But....


Every year residents approach representatives of the city staff looking for relief from traffic problems in their neighborhoods - speeding cars is usually the complaint. Typically, the staff responds by assessing the situation and attempting to resolve it. In the past this has meant "reinventing the wheel" each time.

At a recent Costa Mesa City Council meeting Peter Naghavi, Transportation Services Manager, presented a status report on his efforts to come up with criteria and guidelines to facilitate traffic calming throughout our city to the council. He was looking for direction to move forward with his plans for the development of standards to be considered when residents complain about traffic issues in their neighborhoods. He, and most other observers, were astounded when our young jailer/mayor expressed concern about this
project. It was clear from his comments that he was ready to toss it, and all the work accomplished so far, right in the trash can. Only the absence of his pal, Eric Bever, prohibited him from doing just that. As it stands now, this item will appear again before the council - maybe as early as the first meeting in June, on the 5th.

In January, at a Study Session from which Mayor Mansoor was absent, this issue was presented to the council for comment and all members present, including Bever and Wendy Leece, seemed enthusiastic about moving forward with it. Leece said she thought the program was a "Super idea", and went on to say, "I think it is really important to go where the people are and where the problem is." Bever, who was conducting the Study Session in Mansoor's absence, said, "It sounds like the staff has put together a pretty comprehensive program for gathering the necessary information and
providing plenty of opportunity for community input. I envision this working something along the lines of our permit parking program in terms of the way the community would eventually instigate change in their neighborhood." He also said the "end goal would be to empower the community to make changes in their neighborhoods as they feel appropriate." As he closed this discussion, Bever said it was "a very ambitious program, and I look forward to seeing the results."

One came away from viewing those proceedings with the clear feeling that all the council members present were in support of the program and it was "all systems go" for Naghavi and his team.

Subsequently, Naghavi put together a Town Hall meeting to kick off this effort, presenting to more than 300 residents who attended an excellent overview of historical traffic patterns throughout the city an
d examples of potential solutions to some of the existing or anticipated problems. He then planned to attend a few Homeowners Association meetings - part of his plan to gather information and share concepts with residents. These meetings were planned to begin in June, but have been put on hold until there is clear direction from the council.

Now, it seems that the mayor - apparently calling on his recently acquired "expertise" as a transportation planner now that he's on the Orange County Transportation Authority board - is ready to blow off this entire effort. This is a perfect example of how he says he listens to the residents, then squelches wonderful opportunities to do that very thing. It's obvious he simply doesn't care what most residents think - he's already got his mind made up.

If this issue does appear before the council again soon and, if Bever and Leece side with the mayor and shut down this project after being enthusiastic supporters of it from the beginning, it will be crystal clear that our young jailer/mayor has such power over the majority on the council that he can operate as a de facto dictator. There's no other way to describe it. Yeah, Leece may whine, again, that it's her right to change her mind, but based on what? The only thing that changed is that the mayor said he doesn't want to do it - with no reasons to back up his decision. The only thing that is different is that, at the last meeting, they were one stooge short.

This issue has generated a significant number of comments in the Daily Pilot blog, both pro and con, including remarks by both Mansoor and Bever. It amazes me every time this majority chooses to ignore the professionals on their staff and just go bobbling along on their own merry way, making decisions that affect every single resident of our city without considering the views of the men and women who have the professional credentials and experience in their fields. It's like an airline pilot ignoring the air traffic controllers charged with getting him and his passengers from Point A to Point B safely. It's a heck of a way to run a city!

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