Saturday, June 27, 2009

Some quick notes from Janet Miller's District VI coffee

This morning I attended Janet Miller's end-of-the-month coffee with constituents, held in its new venue of Mead's Corner. The chief order of business was to discuss the city's projected budgetary shortfall of $13 million for the next fiscal year and some of the measures being considered for dealing with it--some of which you may have read about here. Miller announced that on Wednesday, July 1 in the evening the Council will hold a public meeting in the council chambers. See this story in the Eagle for more information, including an e-mail address for sending your questions about the budget.

Given the subject matter, this wasn't among the cheeriest meetings I've ever attended. But after the meeting's official end, I spoke with Miller for a moment about my upcoming appearance before the Council and some admittedly-vague observations based on some things thought here about the Midtown path and the proposed path through the Delano District. It struck me the other day that, given the new central library's location and the potential for integrating activities between it and Exploration Place and other venues along the river, that might encourage the city to grant a higher priority to funding the Delano District path; when I mentioned this to Miller this morning, she agreed and gave me the impression that she had been thinking along those lines as well. When I mentioned that the path isn't quite in her district, she said that she is a strong advocate for that project and for the neighborhood. Good to know. It is, in fact, something of a shame (and with no offense intended toward the Delano District's other representative, District 4's Paul Gray) that the vagaries of district boundaries dictate that so little of Delano falls within District VI, given that strong advocacy (I think everyone there this morning was from Riverside--that includes the couple who self-identified as being from "North Riverside"). Regarding the Midtown path, she agreed with me that the potential is large for encouraging development and projects along its route that will make it an attractive space for residents. She mentioned to me that a couple of the schools along the route would be creating murals along the path, as well as other projects that would seek to integrate the path with the school's campus. For my part, I wondered aloud if some of the businesses along the path who, let's be honest, have sides facing the path that only a passing freight train could love, could be encouraged in some way to remodel their buildings so as to take the path into account--something along the lines of the Douglas Street streetscaping and facade improvements from McLean to Seneca.

In one way, talking with Janet Miller about such things is preaching to the choir: in each meeting I've had with her, she has never wavered in her commitment to cycling infrastructure and larger issues having to do with livable cities; today was no different, despite the fact that we had just been talking about a very large shortfall in the city's projected revenues for next year. That said, the city is not exactly awash in money just now . . . and even if it were, there's still the fundamental matter of changing hearts and minds so that the city (and the public) come to see that cycling infrastructure, if done right, can be a practical, long-term investment that will not only save the city money over time but also attract and keep people here as the city becomes a little more livable, a little less car-centric. Especially when money is tight, having this conversation becomes even more vital, even with those council people who already agree with you: they need to know their constituents' thinking so they can present--and represent--that thinking in their deliberations and voting.

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