GUEST COMMENTARY: West Broadway decisions the worst of 2010

Thursday, January 13, 2011 | 5:22 p.m. CST; updated 7:47 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 13, 2011

COLUMBIA — I would like to give my stinker award of 2010 not to a person but to a George Kennedy column published by the Missourian on April 15 titled "All residents benefit in West Broadway plans."

Mr. Kennedy, a professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism, might have written others worse than this, but to tell you the truth, since April 16, I have had trouble confronting one of his editorials either before or after breakfast.


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Strong words, you say? Not strong enough, I say.

The following is a breakdown of Kennedy's editorial as it appears online. His keywords and phrases are shown in italics, with emphasis points labeled in bold.

My rebuttals follow, which will attempt to show what, in my opinion, are the many fallacies, inaccuracies and propaganda found in Mr. Kennedy's opinion piece about West Broadway.

  • Here at last is a tidbit of good news, a tale with a happy ending. No, I’m not talking about the recent unpleasantness that was the Columbia election. And I don’t mean the enactment, finally, of national health care legislation. That one’s really more of a beginning.

I mean that the Battle of Broadway appears to be over. The winners are all of us. Not so fast, you may be saying. We’ve thought that conflict over how to fix the two-lane stretch of West Broadway between Garth Avenue and West Boulevard was behind us in earlier times, only to discover that the combatants had merely withdrawn temporarily to reload. This time, to all appearances, is different.

Despite one of my candidate's losing, I felt our April election was a great example of democracy in action. However, in the battle of West Broadway, democracy was stabbed in the back. This was a battle where the opposition (me, a member of the Community Advisory Committee for West Broadway) had his hands tied behind his back. The city formed a study committee, stacked it full of cronies from West Broadway and worked toward a preconceived conclusion.

  • That tentative conclusion emerged last week in a low-key session in the Activity and Recreation Center, attended by a handful of engineers from the city and the consulting firm, a score or so of good citizens, our new mayor and your correspondent.

Mr. Kennedy called this committee session a "low-key session." Our new council members were not at this meeting. Only our new mayor attended. The only people missing were the opposition. How did that happen?

This writer, the primary opponent of this plan, did not find out about the meeting until after it happened. Mr. Kennedy, an outspoken supporter of these elitists, appeared to have been singled out to represent all of Columbia's press. I see this as little more than a travesty of fair press coverage. Mr. Kennedy should not have taken this as a compliment, but he should have objected "in the spirit of good journalism," and he should have downgraded his status to an editorialist and self-proclaimed insider.

  • My optimism arises both from the clear reasonableness of the plan itself and the vastly more important fact that all those in attendance, members of the citizen advisory committee and neighborhood residents, seemed either enthusiastic or at least reconciled to that plan.

Under this plan, the city would help the people who live along this road by also providing a new street; new curbs; a parkway, landscaped and maintained by the city; expensive special street lights; and useless, gigantic sidewalks and bike lanes. Does this seem reasonable? They should act as if they've won the lottery. What the rest of Columbia will get is the bill.

  • Now it’s true that not all committee members and not all neighbors were present. It’s also true that our newly elected Fourth Ward councilman says he favors making Broadway into a four-lane expressway. But I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the sketch we saw last Thursday is what, some day, we’re going to get.

Even before the first West Broadway meeting in 2009, former Mayor Darwin Hindman stated on KFRU/1400 AM that he believed the decisions had been made. In my opinion, this rubber-stamp group was formed only to quell charges by citizens of backroom deals. (It should be noted that a previous study stated only a comprehensive plan involving Broadway from Garth to Fairview could truly fix Broadway for the future.) There is absolutely no plan in place to fix Broadway. The only active plan is to beautify and provide free plumbing for the residents who live between Garth and West Boulevard.

Mr. Kennedy likes to use loaded words to color his opinion. He states that the then newly elected councilman (Daryl Dudley) wants West Broadway to be an expressway where cars are expected to move fast, but this is a falsehood. A study done by the city emphasizing two lanes with occasional left turn lanes is expected to make traffic move more rapidly. What these misguided leaders are demanding is a bumper-to-bumper line of cars moving as fast as possible in a single express lane. What a joke on them. Mr. Kennedy and these people know little about what they want or need.

  • If it plays out that way, the historic piece of Broadway will be both more efficient and more attractive and only a few feet wider. Residents won’t have lost any more of their deep front yards than they can spare.

The conceptual plan, as revealed by CH2M Hill engineer/facilitator Buddy Desai, shows a 71-foot right of way with, on each side, a 5-foot sidewalk, a 5-foot “tree lawn,” a 6-foot bike lane and a 12-foot driving lane. A 12-foot landscaped median separates the driving lanes.

Both the “tree lawn” — that grassy strip between sidewalk and vehicles — and the median will be “bio-swales.” That means, Buddy explained, that beneath the grass and shrubbery will be layers of earth, sand and rock designed to catch, absorb and filter runoff before it enters the storm water drainage system. The utility lines will also be buried.

A few feet wider? This is also a joke. Thirty-two feet wider plus gigantic sidewalks make the changes 71 feet wide. Also, trees are going to be cut right and left for this worthless grass strip in the middle of the road, gigantic sidewalks and 12 feet of little-used bike paths. West Broadway folks care little about the trees and only about all the free improvements and impressive concrete.

  • Making the street more efficient for through traffic will be left-turn lanes in both directions at those intersections where the cross streets go off to north and south. Where the cross street just leads to the north or south, drivers will be able to make right turns only.

To me, at least, even more impressive than the plan is the process that produced it. That process, overseen by the unflappable Buddy Desai, included formation of a broadly based citizen advisory committee, conscientious efforts to solicit and respond to the needs and concerns of the various stakeholders, plenty of opportunity for discussion and argument, and, finally, an outcome closely resembling consensus.

As I sat in on a couple of those public discussions and then saw the result, I couldn’t help thinking that this could be, probably should be, a template for tackling other contentious community issues. Growth planning comes to mind.

It was a good thing for Mayor McDavid to see. He and our other council members, old and new, will get their say in a few weeks when the plan is presented for approval. Only then will we know that the battle is really won.

Why do Columbia residents want these elitists to live on a well-decorated parkway at public expense? Too many residents take a narcissistic view — wanting to live in a big house with a big yard. They favor this West Broadway treatment because they wanted to be born into a situation like this. Well, they need to get real. They should want programs that will benefit the whole community, not just people on West Broadway.

These people are still waiting for the City Council to find those millions to improve their little section of West Broadway at other citizens' expense. The losers will be all of us. Be ready to stand up to these stinkers and schemers as they try to undermine good, fair government in Columbia for their own selfish interests.

Roger Gadbois is a retired tradesman who is concerned about civic affairs. He is a Boone County resident and a member of the Community Advisory Committee for the West Broadway expansion.

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Dennis Catlett January 13, 2011 | 6:27 p.m.

West Broadway seems to be a hassle for about a 1/2 hour in the morning and maybe 30 -45 minutes in the afternoon. The rest of the time traffic seems to move along fine. Leave it alone.

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