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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
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.
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.
January 29, 2010]
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