Hand-holding consensus exercises play into the hands of the Bad Guys

NUPro’s frustration echoes with me, obviously. I’ve long since come to the conclusion that the problem here in Austin is that the “good guys” are serious about gathering public input, and the “bad guys” are very good at gathering public input about things that fundamentally don’t matter, and in the process getting exactly what they want.

Take Capital Metro’s worthless public meetings about commuter rail, for instance. (Before the election, I mean). The topics were basically “where should we put an extra station or two on this line we’ve already settled on”, and “hey, would you like any other bus lines turned into Rapid Bus?”. Capital Metro never really wanted public input on anything that mattered, like the actual routing of the line, but they successfully fooled a whole lot of people into going to these meetings and wasting their time. By doing this, Capital Metro satisfied the basic requirements the Feds would have put on them (if CM had kept their promise and actually applied for Federal funding, that is), and fooled a lot of naive people into giving them a free pass.
But please remember: Capital Metro’s All Systems Go plan isn’t the result of community input, folks. It’s a result of Mike Krusee’s command.

On the other hand, Envision Central Texas (the group which many Good Guys view as their platform for pushing positive change) is paralyzed by paroxysms of uselessness because they actually try to get public input about things more consequential than the color of the station platform’s roof. And, of course, if you ask these neighborhood groups for input, they’ll gladly fill your ear with mostly-ignorant mostly-useless stuff that the average bus-riding third-grader could have come up with on the way to school last week (about the recent streetcar meetings in which, again, the route is already decided; the technology is already decided; the sharing-lane-with cars is already decided; etc). Likewise, other urbanist politicians are too unwilling to say “this is what we need to do; now, I’m willing to accept input on these issues, but no others:…”. Envision Central Texas has, as a result, contributed absolutely nothing other than PR fluff. They’ve completely failed at pushing their agenda; the few wins the Good Guys have seen in the last few years have been the result of actions by politicians who would have acted the same way with or without the useless blessing of ECT.

If I could say anything to folks like that, it’s this: you never win by back-door compromise, and you never win by charette-driven consensus exercises. Mike Krusee won by making Capital Metro do what he wanted them to do. He didn’t negotiate with them. He didn’t gather their input. He told them what to do, and they did it, because the other side didn’t even try to stop him; because they were too busy holding meetings and wasting their time listening to a bunch of neighborhood nitwits.



3 thoughts on “Hand-holding consensus exercises play into the hands of the Bad Guys

  1. Calling people nitwits isn’t going to help the cause. So if meetings and public hearings aren’t part of the solution, then what is?

  2. Ref: nitwit: frustration. Like many, I’m beginning to believe that the best way to make your city a better urban environment is to change which city “your city” is.
    In this instance, demanding that Capital Metro provide reserved-guideway transit that runs into and through central Austin is the right thing to do – not showing up for meaningless station-design meetings where your attendance is used to show the Feds that “hey, we had public input about this rail plan, see?”.
    Unfortunately, I see no evidence that our city council (who are the only people on our side who have any clout at all) are willing to take the kind of hard line with Capital Metro that Mike Krusee already did. That’s why he won. I tried; sponsoring a resolution to that effect (“ask city council to tell capital metro to serve austin with this plan, or begin planning to withdraw from capital metro”) at the UTC, but at the time my fellow commissioners were still somewhat naive about what was going on, and it died on the vine. Since then, I’ve heard that several wish they’d voted on it.

  3. Complicating factor is that some still believe the streetcar plan is taking care of central Austin – forgetting that it does nothing for any current residential density in Austin – even if it ends up wonderful, it serves only Mueller residents. The incredibly high (for Austin) density areas are still left with nothing but so-called Rapid Bus.

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