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Lincoln Daily News
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Alderman Wilmert's traffic light response

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To the editor:

If you are going to oppose something, you need to at least understand the reason why it was being proposed to begin with. Any good, rational analysis needs to start there. So let me at least state for the record that I have heard the rationale for erecting a stoplight at Fifth and College streets.

It goes something like this: At least twice a day, if not more, Fifth Street gets busy and it is a pain to get on or off it. It's a dangerous place and inconvenient to navigate around it. We've been trying for years to get a stoplight put up, and after conducting two studies, we finally got IDOT to agree there is a lot of traffic there. Now is a good time to do this project because it only costs the city $20K, and the rest of the funds will be provided by state and federal government. So why not do it? Why are you against it?

Glad you asked. On the surface this seems like a good idea. But this is exactly the kind of "common sense" that gets us to spend more money than we have and engage in projects we don't really need.

Before we place a stoplight in a residential area; before we spend your tax money on something more than half of you don't want; before we clog the only remaining major clear artery of traffic in the area; before we try to convince the adjacent property and business owners that this is what the city desperately needs in spite of their wishes; before we place our trust in two bankrupt entities (fed and state) promising to pay 90 percent of the burden; before we fundamentally alter traffic patterns because one accident occurred at that location over the last three years; I am going to need a better reason.

I need a better reason than our occasional inconvenience at busy times. I need a better reason than "we've been trying for years to do it." Longevity doesn't improve an idea.

[to top of second column in this letter]

We need to re-examine our reasoning that led us here and ask ourselves if we would be considering this on its own merits. Did we really desperately need a stoplight there? What about by the school, where there is arguably a better reason to have it? Did this suddenly become a good idea because someone else is helping foot the bill? What about Union and Fifth? Is not traffic more dangerous and faster around the curve nearby? There is nothing magical about Fifth and College street, except that the study was requested by an alderman years ago, which failed to qualify initially. Then it was requested again, until we got the answer we wanted. This doesn't pass the test for me.

I am not going to embrace what I feel is frivolity and waste because it is gaining in popularity. I am not inclined to be pushed into engaging in an unwanted project just because the feds and state promise to help pay for something. We cease to be self-governing if we act on that basis alone. I am against that kind of subtle control over our local affairs.

Those who elected me with more than 70 percent of the vote need to understand that. And my feedback so far, which is citywide, indicates that we are on the same page.

Some have asserted that my concern was only for those in Ward 2. Not true.

Furthermore, I am not inclined to go against the advice of our city treasurer, who indicated we should curb spending where possible. If we absolutely must spend the $20K, then how about replacing a police car or using it for badly needed sidewalk repair, citywide? Or, dare I say, the ever-present potholes I keep hearing about? The list is long, and a stoplight at that location doesn't appear at the top.

David Wilmert

[Posted January 29, 2010]

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