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Show me how PedNet spends its grant money

Thursday, May 8, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:43 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The 1996 movie classic “Jerry Maguire” said it all. We know the scene well. Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) in a telephone shouting match with his agent, Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise): “Show me the money!”

Mike Martin, citizen journalist, science writer and keeper of the ColumbiaCitizen blog, has me on his list. E-mail list that is. I receive regular postings from Martin and the responses from other subscribers, which are always interesting and insightful. Not unlike my editorials, some of Martin’s postings go unanswered. Some receive one or two responses. Yet one topic took the ride of its life with an exchange of a dozen e-mails over 3 days. It may still not be over.

I challenge you to guess the source of the heated discussion. Nope ... not the city council’s “land grab” annexation schemes. Nope ... not the Police Citizen Advisory Board, though I foresee future commentary. It had to do with a single set of parking meters — parking meters for bicycle parking. Really, it’s true.

Martin asked his subscribers to read Jonathon Braden’s Missourian report, “New downtown bike corrals ask for voluntary meter payments.” With a few clicks on a keyboard, Martin started what could be one of the longest discussions concerning spare change, alternative transportation and a federal grant to date.

The article was filled with praise of the successful opening of a new “bicycle corral” at Ninth and Cherry paid for by a federal grant. However, it was not the grant or the elimination of automobile parking that caused the outbursts. It was a little grey parking meter left after construction. “But a fixture of car culture — the parking meter — will remain in place at the bike corral, and cyclists are being asked to plug the meter,” wrote Braden.

Martin’s position was telling. “After installing a $1,000 bike corral— which holds 12 bikes, replacing an auto parking spot using 1/21,000th of a $21.5 million federal grant — city leaders now want to charge a ‘donation’ to park a bike using an old parking meter.”

Both sides fervently argued. Brian Ash made as powerful of an argument for plugging the meter as Martin made for a boycott. Paul Sturtz, our newest city councilman, suggested that the parking meter is sending the wrong message, while Darin Preis, former school board member and executive director of Central Missouri Community Action, would drop in a quarter or two. Someone even suggested that the money collected in the meter should be donated to the Mid-Missouri Food Bank.

For three days e-mails were exchanged. The discussion finally broke with an e-mail from Martin about the Planning and Zoning Committee’s meeting concerning the new school on St. Charles Road and an e-mail from New Balance about a running shoe problem. Oh, our short term memory and interest.

I seem to remember that this money had a few caveats with which the city needed to contend, something about removing paradise and paving the MKT Trail.

More important, the grant was to create a system of marked street routes with dedicated bicycle lanes, bicycle and pedestrian trails networking through the city, and more. The PedNet Coalition was to administer the project. The mayor created a citizen advisory committee in February 2006 to make recommendations concerning the expenditure of these funds for bicycle and bipedal transportation. Both papers had supportive articles in 2006, again in 2007 and again in 2008. There has been a lot of talk, but... .

Looking at my bicycle, sitting in its designated spot in a corner of my office, tires in need of air, a bit dusty from winter neglect and the spring rains and longing for road, I ask two questions. Why am I not riding my specialized street bike to work, saving on fuel and maybe losing the 20 pounds I have gained over the last year or so? More importantly, will someone please ask the question that Mike Martin failed to ask: Where is the other $21.499 million? Show me the money!

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.


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Comments

Darin Preis May 27, 2008 | 3:08 p.m.

David,
Thanks for keeping this in Columbians' hearts and minds. I might repeat one of your questions, Why AREN'T you riding your bike? I decided I was going to try it and signed up for one of the Safe City Cycling classes and now I'm riding a couple of days a week. Our city is evolving in the direction that this is doable for everyone. Don't use the federal grant as an excuse to do or not do the right thing for yourself, the environment, and our economy. Also, the PedNet Coalition is not the administering organization for the federal grant funds. Get About Columbia is the administrator. Check out the following links to learn more about both organizations. (www.pednet.org and www.getaboutcolumbia.com) Columbians should be out in force supporting this federal pilot program. We can make transportation affordable again but we have to support these efforts. Find out what GetAboutColumbia has done, and plans to do, at their website and then get on your bike and see how good Columbia feels with the top down.

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