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Willows Area Wide Traffic study comments

From: Victoria Brewster <vlbnkids_at_(domain_name_was_removed)>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2010 07:47:09 -0800

Dear City Council members, I have attended all three community meetings related to the Willows Area Wide Traffic study. I did not attend a Meeting in a Box. This letter concerns the process used to generate the proposed plan, not the plan itself. In the years since 1992 there have been repeated attempts by a few residents to isolate the neighborhood from the surrounding community. Many residents did not engage in 2007 when this most recent study was initiated as it had been a few short years since the last one/previous traffic study. There were just a handful of residents at the December 9, 2008 presentation of the Request For Proposal to the City Council. During this meeting Council member Hayward Robinson asserted that community engagement was essential and that it would be leaned on heavily. There was also the announcement of the involvement of a community outreach coordinator, Cherise Brandell. Community engagement was undermined in many ways. Despite having signed in to the meeting and providing Cherise with my business card, I never heard from her. From the comments at the third community meeting, many business owners and East Palo Alto residents neither heard from her nor did they hear from the city or the traffic consultants in other ways. This was a clear failure of crucial community involvement. Community engagement via the Meeting in a Box was undermined when Penelope Huang, Chairperson of the Transportation Commission, attended more than one meeting. Even if she may have indicated that she was not acting in her official capacity, it remains a compelling reason not to speak up when the Commissioner states "If the up coming Willows Traffic Study does not affect some change to traffic flow patterns, I think the battle and the war is lost and the neighborhood might as well resign itself to the fact that there will not be a viable solution and there will be no increased quality of life, that other neighborhoods in Menlo Park, with less traffic, experience." (email dated September 23, 2010, posted to several Willows mailing lists.) When the Chairperson of the Transportation Commission evinces such sentiments what hope is there that you will actually be heard. Community engagement was further undermined by the failure to include the "Do Nothing" option For example, here was no "Do Nothing" option in the possible courses of action on the Ranking Activity Board of the second community meeting. Many people had placed their dots BEFORE a resident, not a city representative, made that option available by writing it on the board and placing their dot under that option. Getting accurate feedback is essential but by leaving out significant options the results are doomed to be skewed. Council member Robinson's desired goal to have the community engaged is admirable. In order to ensure that goal is met there must be 1) follow-through by those tasked with involving the community, 2) no undue influence exerted by public officials and 3) full disclosure of the available options. This study fell short on each of these and has resulted in a deeply flawed process that needs to be addressed in the few years before the next study is initiated by the few bellicose residents driving this issue. Sincerely, Vickie Brewster “Unity, not uniformity, must be our aim." --Mary Parker Follett, American social worker and political activist cc: Transportation Commission (transportation_at_menlopark.org ) Received on Mon Nov 22 2010 - 07:47:34 PST

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