Thursday, June 16, 2016

About Streamlined Corridors: An Open Letter to Mayor Steve Adler

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
1 John 4:1

Dear Mr. Mayor,

As I stated in my testimony Tuesday, I find your corridor proposal intriguing.  I think there could be a lot to work with in terms of applying the Pareto principle to Austin's mobility challenges without busting the budget.  I have one major concern and one piece of political advice that, if addressed, could lay the foundation for a diverse coalition of Austinites to support your idea.

First, my concern: Is the city transportation department capable of actually executing this plan in anything resembling a competent or timely manner?!?  It looks great on your website, but translating a plan like this into the real world is difficult for anyone, and the City of Austin's bureaucracy doesn't have a history that inspires confidence.  Absent a credible plan for execution, it's very difficult to say yes.

A corollary: If taking on five of these project at one time is biting off more than the city transportation department can chew, might it make more sense to select one corridor and use it as a model to prove the concept works?!?  If the city could prove the concept works, there would be a lot less opposition in the event y'all were to come back to us in a few years to request the funds to complete the project citywide.  Starting small would build credibility and trust.

The political advice: drop the word "smart."  With all due respect, citizens have seen politicians telling us how 'smart' they are since time immemorial.  For me personally, the word "smart" is one of three words ("bold" and "comprehensive" are the other two) that instantly set off my BS detector; changing that one word (ie. 'streamlined' instead of 'smart') could go a long way towards alleviating the cynicism that understandably accompanies most governmental requests for money.

I congratulate and thank you for presenting an idea that, at a minimum, cannot be dismissed out of hand.  That's already light years better than the dopey proposal with which the old council presented us two years ago.  While it's a start, I need to see how the city will follow through.

I look forward to watching how the full council and the city manager pursue this process.  I'd love to support it, but the devil with projects like this is always in the details.  Time will tell.

Adam Cahn
District 3
June 16, 2016

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