Wednesday, August 15, 2007
The Battle of 9600 West
Somehow I manage to incorporate chemical warfare, invasion, trade sanctions, and passive resistance into a discussion about widening a street in Highland. (I'm having fun. Are you?)
Last evening's American Fork City Council meeting featured a very long comment period -- Mayor Thompson is very patient -- filled with the thoughts of American Forkers who are troubled by something the American Fork City Council and the city's Mayor are powerless to change. It seems there is now some discussion of incorporating 9600 North (instead of 9850 North, perhaps) into the Highland general plan as a desperately-needed east-west collector street. (I may have the term wrong; in any case, it's a major traffic artery.)
9600 North is just north of American Fork, though perhaps American Fork's boundary dances up that far north at a point or two. (It dances everywhere else.) The proposed change undoubtedly would affect traffic patterns in American Fork. Perhaps it would even relieve some pressure from 100 East. Such things are multifaceted, complex, and perhaps even somewhat speculative. (I intend no offense to my engineer friends in using that last adjective.) But the overarching fact here is that we're talking about a street that is in Highland, and a feature of the Highland general plan, which is approved by the Highland City Council, which is elected by Highland voters. In official terms, you may as well complain to the American Fork City Council about the quality of school lunches, another matter which is not within that Council's jurisdiction.
But jurisdiction is just a technicality, right? We shouldn't be daunted by technicalities. Moreover, sometimes we need to think outside the box. Here are some possible actions American Fork might consider, if the fate of 9600 West matters that much:
What's that? You think I'm mocking my fellow American Forkers? That is entirely possible. Whatever I'm doing, it's kinda fun. But I can be serious, I promise.
If the boundary of American Fork really does cross, or reach the middle of, 9600 North in a place or two, maybe American Fork officials have grounds to exert some influence on our neighbors to the north. If not, but if they can demonstrate a clear negative impact on, or a substantial measurable cost to, American Fork as a result of the proposed plan, they may not have any standing with their Highland counterparts, but at least they would have some credibility if they wanted to discuss the matter.
More realistically, the American Forkers who are troubled about 9600 North need to get some of their Highland neighbors who are so troubled to lobby Highland's mayor and city council. That's politics, folks.
It's entirely possible that Highland is in more trouble than American Fork, where traffic patterns are concerned, especially because of a dearth of major east-west routes in south Highland.
I spoke the other day with a former member of the Highland Planning Commission, who described the Commission's efforts two decades ago to incorporate a traffic plan into the city's general plan that would be sufficient to accommodate foreseeable growth. But whenever such changes were proposed, owners of property bordering the proposed major roads threw a fit, and some threatened legal action. (That doesn't happen just in Highland, of course.) The Highland City Council at the time lacked the spine to do what was necessary despite some residents' displeasure, as he put it, so nothing was done. Two decades later, the growth has arrived, and the traffic problem has become impossible -- or at least enormously expensive -- to solve reasonably.
In short, Highland's leaders over the years have been unwilling to restrain growth and have chosen not to plan for it -- not that Highland is unique in this. To some extent, these flaws are a common expression of human nature. In any case, pain is the inevitable result.
There's an argument to be made that our communities, states, and nation bend over backwards much further than they should to accommodate automobile traffic, and that it would make sense to subsidize automobile travel less and move towards walkable communities and mass transit. Be that as it may, there's a more general argument to be made for electing people with spines to public office, and expecting and requiring them to plan as far ahead as reasonably possible, and thanking and praising and rewarding them when they do.
Copyright 2007 by David Rodeback.