Why Streetscape Public Projects are Closely Held Secrets

Posted by Jamie Wine on November 6, 2012 in Advocacy, Zoning

Transparency and accountability go hand-in-hand with good government.

Why is it that I know more about what’s happening in public works projects in San Francisco than I do 3 blocks from my house? It’s lack of transparency in government from the City and Parish Governments and the Regional Planning Commission. Each of these groups is a government entity, and exist to serve the tax paying public (us). Engineers and planners at local agencies make decisions all the time that affect our quality of life such as

  • Which projects to build and where public money is spent
  • Where projects are being built and what the timeframe is for construction
  • How fast vehicle travel down city streets
  • How far you have to cross the street in a cross wallk
  • How lights are timed with traffic, pedestrian and bicycle flow

Instead of designing our streets from one engineer or one planners perspective, we need public input. Do we need street parking if everyone has a driveway on Elysian Fields? What about narrowing lanes of travel to slow traffic on Magazine? There are many treatment options that help make our streets safer and our community healthier that could be included in these projects, but the public doesn’t even know the projects are happening to comment on them. There is no public input without government transparency.

At a recent New Orleans Budgeting for Outcomes meeting I noticed large placards and maps created by the “IT department” that describe where projects will take place in 2012-2013. But you can’t get this information on the website. Public meetings are held about streetscape projects, but final designs are kept mum until we see men in Boh Brothers jackets tearing up the street.

Until we have transparency, information and a clear timetable for where construction is happening in our region, there’s no way that the public will get a say in the final outcome of these community resources. Its a tragedy of poor public service with simple (not easy) steps to fix. Bike Easy works every day to improve our government processes, not just for bicycle riders, but of every citizen. Maybe one day, I’ll know about the project 3 doors down from my house, have a chance to comment on the design and be heard by our local agencies. Until then, we continue to play an insiders game, trying to sway a process that is balanced against us. We need transparency to make our local government entities efficient, accountable and reliable, for everyone.

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