By Linda Scott
Democracy? I know you’re out there somewhere…
This is not a letter that I could even imagine having to write, but here goes.
When I looked at Tuesday night’s agenda for the City Council meeting, I noticed an unusual item. Then I started getting phone calls. Other people were curious about this item as well. So I got curious. Why would there be a sudden change to the structure of the Traffic Commission without any visible input from them?
And why was this worded in such a way that the decision about what that change would be was already spelled out to specifically involve a member of an advocacy group in the City (Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee) who fall under the umbrella of the Department of Community Development and Planning (DCDP), and who already have a (powerful) member on the Traffic Commission, DCDP Director Steve Magoon?
The Traffic Commission is a group of people in very high and responsible positions in our community (police, fire, planning (DCDP), Department of Public Works (DPW), as well as two respected community members).
What’s the deal here? And “deal” seems to be the operative word, (having nothing to do with the people on this Commission that I can see).
After exploring some more, here is the letter that I read last night at the City Council meeting, questioning what was happening:
I’ve read that on the agenda tonight there will be a motion to amend the Traffic Commission ordinance. One of the parts of this amendment is to change the member composition of this Commission.
I just have a couple of process questions:
I’ve been going through past minutes and meetings of the Traffic Commission. It’s very democratic. They vote on everything, but I was unable to find a vote for exploring adding members to that commission.
If there was one, could you please give me the date of that meeting and the name of the person who proposed it?
As part of this search, I also checked the approved Bike/Ped plan and the 2023 City Comprehensive Plan. Nothing!
This is truly a mystery how and where and by whom this was initiated!
Mysteries don’t work so well in democracies. Any light that can be shed on this issue will be greatly appreciated!
Also, in a parallel question, wouldn’t the Traffic Commission vote to explore adding members to the Commission? Not a specific member from a specific advocacy group? It seems like all of the relevant departments are covered already.
As I look at the roster of the Watertown Traffic Commission, there’s the Police, Fire, Planning, and the Department of Public Works, as well as two citizens, one representing the public and the other one representing Watertown businesses.
I will also be interested to learn how this Commission’s “mission” might change.
Clarification on any of this would be very helpful!
So, as of today, it remains a mystery how this decision was made, changing the composition of the Traffic Commission to bend to the will of a small group of influential people.
Again, the Traffic Commission is composed of seasoned professionals, but they’re also very busy people. Should they really have to deal with this political cloud over their work?
And should one of our City Council Committees (the Committee on Public Safety) have to spend time and energy seriously discussing something that originated in such a dubious way?
There is nothing stopping community members and groups from attending these meetings in a non-voting capacity and bringing up issues.
As former City Councilor, Angeline Kounelis wrote in her letter that was read at the City Council meeting last night, she shared concerns about transparency (or lack thereof):
“Where was the open, public process to review and discuss the Ordinance? As presented: there is no “draft” proposal. Only a fast track for an imminent vote.”
So, dear readers, I leave you with this to think about and discuss. And by all means, if you have questions, please reach out to our Councilors and the City Manager to let them know of your concerns.
(Letters to the editor can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)