Recently I attended my first public hearing. It was the Planning Commission meeting March 26 on east/west light-rail plans for 400 South.
After the consultants' report, it was apparent that 400 South was favored mainly because light rail doesn't have enough power to make it up the 300 South hill.After the meeting was opened to the public, I found that each of us was allowed only two minutes to speak. The consultants and commission get unlimited speaking time.
I thought there were some good arguments against the east/west alignment. "There isn't enough ridership to justify an east/west light rail from the university to downtown." "Why not live with the north/south light rail and see how it does before we spend millions more on an east/west line." "Fourth South is the main artery for traffic from the east downtown and back again. Why disrupt that artery by putting light rail in the middle of 400 South." "Eliminating parking on 400 South will adversely affect existing business up and down the street." Even one of their consultants stood and personally expressed his opinion that 400 South could not handle the additional volume of the light rail east/west and the better alternative would be 300 South.
Well, it seems that three-quarters of those present favored not having light rail travel east/west on 400 South - that is if we exclude the commission members.
It's interesting that everyone was reprimanded if they took more than two minutes to speak, except one gentleman, who was in favor of light rail on 400 South. He was allowed to continue much longer. I guess if you agree with the commission you are allowed more time.
Next, I expected the commission to say thank you, we will take your comments under advisement.
Instead, I was shocked when, after a short discussion, they put a motion forth to accept 400 South as the choice for the east/west alignment for light rail. I was further shocked when a lady sitting next to me said, "Excuse me, but isn't she (Diana Kirk) reading off a sheet, word for word the motion? You don't think it was already typed before the meeting, do you?"
Does this mean that at a public hearing, the decision had already been made before considering what the citizens have to say? Why have a hearing if the commission has already made up its mind?
I was concerned about the alignment east/west on 400 South. Now I am more concerned about community government.
By the way, the Planning Commission vote was unanimous.
Michael D.G. Weiss
Salt Lake City