Today, September 19th, 2017, we had a Transportation Committee meeting, and one of the big ticket items up for vote was almost $500k for a Traffic Projection and Financial Feasibility Study for the Longmeadow Parkway Toll Bridge project.
As I do with almost anything related to Longmeadow, I voted against it. I recently voted FOR an establishment of 35MPH because that was the lowest number we were going to get, and without that designation the speed limit was unenforceable, which leaves open the possibility of people drag racing down Longmeadow and suffering no repercussions.
But after today’s meeting I was approached by both Becky Gillam and Maggie Auger, both asking me the same thing: You people wanted a financial feasibility study, so why did you vote against it?!?
I feel like I get along with everybody at the county, but when it comes to Longmeadow I tend to get eye rolls and snarky comments, mostly from my colleagues that live closest to the project. But today it was even the KDOT head, Carl Shoedel, that even threw in a little sarcastic “perfect” or something like that when Maggie asked me about my vote. In those moments, I get the feeling that some people take these things personally.
But I get it, county board members and KDOT staff have taken a lot of heat from the anti-Longmeadow constituents, and so that heat comes back at me as the representative of Stop Longmeadow on the board. To them, I AM Stop Longmeadow. Whatever has been said to or about them gets conflated with me. And everyone on the board thinks this project is the greatest thing ever, and my no votes are a blemish on an otherwise clean project record. Project managers hate opposition. I get it.
The difference for me is I don’t take any of these things personally. And if I were on the other side of the issue, I still wouldn’t take it personally. And, if I ever felt that my name were being attacked without merit, I would defend myself vocally and publicly (as I did after my vote on the Microsurfacing, LLC contract). But I still wouldn’t take it personally or hold a grudge.
That’s one of the many things my mother taught me: argue the ideas, not the people. She had been involved for years in many kinds of contract negotiations for teacher’s unions, and so she spoke from experience that you never get personal, you don’t take it personally, and never go dirty. Simple but powerful advice!
Why I Voted No
Anyways, the reason I voted against something that Stop Longmeadow was asking for back in 2015 is not that it’s a moot point, but it’s just that we’re kind of beyond that now. In 2015, they hadn’t started any construction let alone construction along the main portion of Longmeadow that is effecting Algonquin homeowners tremendously. There’s also a lawsuit in play that wasn’t even dreamt of a couple of years ago.
Those numbers were asked for to make the county justify starting the construction because it was believed that the original traffic projections were far from the reality. The project broke ground last year. Where things are at now, asking for a financial feasibility study adds to the conversation but it does little for the fight against the project.
Stop Longmeadow has two plays left, and they’re public about that so I’m not giving up the goods here. They’ve got the lawsuit against the county, state, and federal agencies involved in the project. And they have the option to petition for a binding referendum on the issue of obtaining bonds. Unless the feasibility study will have some bearing on either of those options (which it won’t from what I can see) then it doesn’t make much sense to go out of the way to support it.
At this point, I’m against the project in general, because the time for asking the county for things has long past. Establish a speed limit? Sure, that’s a safety issue. I voted for that. But vote for a feasibility study that will pass no matter how I vote, a study going towards the toll bridge that I strongly oppose? What for?
I am against creating toll roads and toll bridges at all, so me saying no to this feasibility study is just a corollary to my overall opposition to the type of project in question.
I get why they’re doing the study now, because they’re going to be selling Revenue Bonds which means only the tolls can pay it back, so investors have to know what the risks and benefits are. I get it.
But as far as giving us what we asked for years ago, it’s too little too late. If I knew that other committee members were against the project and this study had a chance of being shot down I would have conferred with Stop Longmeadow and taken feedback on the pros and cons of the resolution. But that’s not the case at all, and my vote essentially does nothing to change the nature of the project in any way. And without a dramatic sea change, it never will.
Giving the Bird
So I guess, yeah, me voting against this study that was asked for in the past was a bit of a middle finger to the project as a whole. And for someone who has always had a love/hate relationship with authority, a rebellious act in the form of a simple “nay” vote is actually a pretty tame response.
But not, I suppose, if you take these things personally.