ASK THE BORED: It’s Harvest Homecoming’s turn to run the city, so let’s talk street grid reform.

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Today marks the beginning of BOW’s unofficial annual vacation.

There’ll still be Tuesday morning meetings this week and next, but in effect, Harvest Homecoming is a surreal suspension of municipal reality (and governance), and little of substance will be done until the festival concludes.

Consequently, let’s talk about the street grid, upon which BOW will rule at some point in October or November. Specifically, we must remember a pertinent fact.

The most depressing reason why the past year and a half of New Albany’s street grid history has been utterly wasted isn’t just that we might already be enjoying the benefits of two-way streets. It’s that these benefits remain unknown to so many, as the time might have been used by the city to educate the populace about street grid reform’s civic multipliers, whether walkability, small business enhancement or property value. 

And it was not. 

Unfortunately, as is its reflex habit, the city has chosen to publicly frame the street grid issue on a last-minute basis, and almost exclusively in auto-centric terms. By doing so, the city has chosen to invite rebuttals framed in exactly the same terms, and with discussions of ancillary benefits forever kept on the down-low, Luddites like Irv are free to wander through town, peddling bilge and inciting fear about where-oh-where will our poor trucks unload?

As detailed previously, Irv’s peripatetic enumerations of presumed community support are generally contrived or thin-air fiction, designed to divide stakeholders and create rancor. They’re primarily partisan knee-jerks, and as such, it’s truly striking that some downtown business owners who strongly support City Hall also loudly oppose street grid reform.

If you’re Jeff Gahan, how on earth do you let this happen?

Answer: When you’ve spent the past four years making like the proverbial clam, refusing to expend political capital and to publicly support what you privately insist is your own pet project. Gahan has not been willing to own two-way streets; therefore Irv happily has occupied the void, pulling New Albany’s flat-earthers along with him.

Yes, Irv is as mistaken about streets as a human being can be, but he knows a gift horse when he sees it.

It remains that if I were to tail Stumler and follow his street grid hyperbole with a rational presentation, it is highly likely that I, too, could construct a petition favorably jigged to my point of view.

Come to think of it, I’ve done so previously on more than one occasion during those lengthy periods of City Hall silence on the matter. I’d also be willing to bet that both our lists would contain the same names. All we’d have proven is that there are solid reasons for keeping ballots private.

Ultimately, even if Gahan follows through and implements the watered down HWC version of Jeff Speck’s stirring proposals, these grid changes will come as the result of a writ issued from on high, and not through grassroots education, persuasion and leadership. That’s a colossal wasted opportunity, isn’t it?

Perhaps the best we can hope for is tacit support from many business owners who trust the private assurances and ignore the plain fact that Gahan has yet to GO TO BAT for these two-way ideals. I wish they’d organize and speak out, and yet I know how this works. Beating a drum for 13 years can grow tiresome. It’s someone else’s turn to advocate.

In the end, it’s possible that we’ll get some of what is needed most, although tellingly, the most persuasive reason for supporting HWC’s plan probably will turn out to be the way it cleverly leverages federal money not just to restripe one-way streets and transform a downtown, but to completely mill and repave each and every targeted street to make it suitable for two-way traffic … and to release local paving slush funds for politically remunerative projects elsewhere.

To repeat: I know how this works.

HWC Engineering’s two-way streets proposal

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