Saturday, January 07, 2017

MOBILITY -- Margo Pope column

Nice to see PRISCILLA BENNETT no longer hiding behind a nom d'guerre (THE MUSE) or her candidate name, "RACHAEL."

Posted January 7, 2017 12:02 am
By Margo C. Pope The Record contributing columnist
POPE’S VIEW: Let’s hope mobility starts to move

On this seventh day of 2017, I continue to be hopeful this will be the year we begin to better manage our downtown traffic. I have confidence that the city’s 2017 strategic plan is not lip service to the community. But it cannot work if the community at large doesn’t follow up. Speak up, speak out.

If you did not know there is a Strategic Plan for 2017, now you do:

All the right buttons are pushed in its guiding principles section. Among them are: “Balance across all sectors of the community, especially between residential quality of life and the tourism economy; Transparency and accessibility of local government, and an Engaged and connected community.”

In another part of the document, there is reference to livability and among its key themes is mobility planning. Among those initiatives is: “To develop a mobility and growth plan stemming from the rise in overall traffic caused by growth of our regional population and increased tourism. Residents are increasingly frustrated by traffic congestion, lack of parking, and a decrease in “livable” quality. This is a long-term commitment to urban improvement with no easy solutions.” One initiative listed is to: “Implement a mobility-planning function to address both short-term and long-term solutions.”

It’s great talk. I give the city officials credit for talking publicly about mobility planning and even trying to do something about it. But, I have not seen enough action yet.

I read all the social media posts about congestion and traffic and have, at times, contributed my two cents over the several years I have been on Facebook.

In St. Augustine, we don’t talk about the weather as much as we talk about traffic jams and the Bridge of Lions draw-span openings for boats. I’m done talking about those issues without seeing any action, or cooperation on actions among governments that maintain our quality of life as the strategic plan suggests.

It seems to me that there has been some success with the Town and Gown Committee which established greater communication at the city level among Flagler College and residents, particularly those in close proximity to the college. Maybe a similar forum that meets frequently with the powers-that-be and the residents is what our congested traffic needs.

My advice is this: Read the plan, formulate opinions and make them known in more than just Facebook postings. There’s Letters to the Editor in The St. Augustine Record, a powerful tool even if I am prejudiced (having been the editorial page/opinion page editor for six years). There’s neighborhood groups, civic and community action groups and forums. There’s the public comment periods at the City Commission meetings (and all public meetings for that matter).

The key is to get the word out strategically to the people who make the decisions. The last time I checked, City Commissioners don’t get to make those decisions unless they are voted into office by the voters, us or, at least those of us who are registered to vote.

The city says it isn’t done with its mobility planning. We should hold them to that commitment rather than just moaning on the sidelines, “Oh, woe is us.”

Margo C. Pope was associated with The St. Augustine Record for 24 of her 42 years with Morris Publishing Group. She retired in 2012 as The Record’s editorial page editor.

An EASY start would be for the City to BEGIN to contribute to the funding of our existing transit- the Sunshine Bus.

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