Friday, November 06, 2009
CityWatchLA - Kids Challenge LA Leadership
CityWatch, Nov 6, 2009
Vol 7 Issue 91
Anyone who has made the journey to City Hall to offer public comment knows how frustrating and unfulfilling the experience can be. It's a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situation for members of the public who attempt to navigate the cumbersome system that appears designed to service everyone except the serfs who dare to approach the sovereigns.
The recent round of Bike Plan (draft) Workshops has proven to be as frustrating and insulting as any of the "public enragement" exercises the City of LA typically hosts.
Guests to the four LADOT/Planning sponsored events were given the opportunity to walk around in a circle, looking at sections of the 563 page plan in three ring binders, viewing sample pages on poster board on easels, and scanning large map sections of the city.
This superficial overview of a complex element of the City's Transportation element of the General Plan came complete with snacks and the opportunity to offer feedback to the staff and consultants who then made note of the comment. At least they were supposed to take notes.
One attendee came prepared with a formal comment from her organization only to experience a consultant who attempted to "fix" her feedback, suggesting that she was wrong.
Critics of the Bike Plan Workshops note that in a city of four million people, there must be a more effective mechanism for communicating the details of a cumbersome document. There must be more effective tool for examining maps and there must be a more effective way to engage the public and allow a robust conversation to take place.
Participants have pointed out that the "view and comment" process prevents people from discussing, sharing, engaging and learning.
Through it all is the simple charge that a 42 day comment period seems designed to simply "qualify" as public engagement but that it fails to offer the public the opportunity to actually review the Bike Plan (draft) and engage the community and the neighborhood councils in time to offer intelligent and informed opinions.
As the grumbling continues and with the official comment period ending on November 6th, a group of kids from the Westside has risen to the occasion with a solution that gives hope for the future.
The FIRSTteamWestside (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a group of kids who prepared a presentation that they intended to give at the Bike Plan (draft) workshops.
Their mission was to develop a plan to improve local transportation. They did the research and they prepared and they discovered that the public workshops were not the robust public arena they desired so they adapted.
Their coach reports “The kids were hoping to give a presentation at one of the "public forums" but were badly disappointed when they found out that members of the public would not be allowed to speak so they posted it on YouTube and submitted the link at labikeplan.org.”
They also inspired and they challenged and they raised the standard for civic engagement. Oh, yeah! They made some good points too!
This feedback and presentation to the City of Los Angeles Bike Plan is one of the ways the team has shared its research project with experts, policy makers and the general public.
Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles doesn't trust its staff with access to YouTube!
(Stephen Box is a transportation and cyclist advocate … and, writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net) ◘