The Common Council Session for 1.20.15: Complete Streets

I posted briefly yesterday on Tuesday’s Common Council meeting, and in that post mentioned that I would look a bit more at some of the remarks for, or against, the Complete Streets ordinance that passed Tuesday night.  (I supported the ordinance.)

Council discussed this issue previously, on December 16th.  See, Common Council 12/16/2014.

I’ve included only some of the speakers from the January 20th discussion, for particular points.  Readers interested in the full discussion – always worth watching – can find it online at Common Council Meeting 01/20/2015

For now, I’ll consider the comments of these speakers: Ken Kienbaum, David Yochum, Larry Kachel, and Chris Grady.

Ken Kienbaum, 3rd District Candidate

WhitewaterCouncil012015A from John Adams on Vimeo.

Mr. Kienbaum makes, I’d say, two principal arguments, one of which I’ll consider here, and the other of which I’ll consider tomorrow. 

For today, I’ll address his remarks about cyclists riding on the sidewalks.  Mr. Kienbaum made similar remarks at a council meeting over thirty days before, on 12.16.14.  (See, Common Council 12/16/2014 @ 38:30)

His contention is that cyclists can ride on our sidewalks, without the need for added bike lanes. 

It surprised me when he first made this argument in December, as someone seeking office or following city policy should know that it’s a violation of our ordinances to ride one’s bike on many of our sidewalks.  (See, 11.40.070 – Obedience to vehicle or traffic regulations and riding regulations.)

When I wrote in support of the Complete Streets ordinance, I omitted mention of the existing limitations against riding on sidewalks, as I assumed that as Mr. Kienbaum was likely to speak again this January, he would take the opportunity to correct his prior misunderstanding.

He made no correction, but instead repeated his prior error.  That’s hardly a good sign.  It suggests to me that either no one in Mr. Kienbaum’s circle was aware of the ban on bikes on sidewalks, or no one bothered to tell him about it. 

On Mr. Kienbaum’s second point, about costs, I’ll have more tomorrow. 

David Yochum, Resident

WhitewaterCouncil012015B from John Adams on Vimeo.

Watch this presentation, and I think you’ll see what I see: a strong, conversational speaker, who speaks extemporaneously about his own observations on cycling in town.  It’s persuasive, I think, about what it’s like to bike in town (I do so, too).  It’s persuasive, also, for the quality of delivery. 

Larry Kachel, Great Whitewater Committee, a 501(c)(6) business advocacy organization

WhitewaterCouncil012015C from John Adams on Vimeo.

Mr. Kachel leads with an unexpected opening:

I’m Larry Kachel, I feel the need to speak due to some disparaging remarks I believe have been made by a certain city official which I will deal with tomorrow morning.

I’m not sure what to make of this.  It’s among the most counter-productive openings that an advocate could offer – it scuttles just about everything thereafter. 

Mr. Kachel is a leading member of the Greater Whitewater Committee, a 501(c)(6) business advocacy organization.  He’s speaking on a public issue, and he’s a public figure by virtue of his organizational role.  (The organization’s been around for a few years.)

There are two kinds of speech, from the point of view of public advocacy: speech actionable at law (defamatory speech) and everything else.  Disparaging speech, acerbic speech, polemical speech, etc., all fall in the latter, everything-else category.

It’s a mistake to react to disparaging speech when – as here – that reaction so obviously ruins the tone for successful persuasion.  

I’m quite sure there have been, and may be yet more, many disparaging remarks directed my way from city hall, etc. 

That is for me – and should be properly for anyone – just water off a duck’s back.  To borrow a question from Hillary Clinton: what difference does it make?

The residents of this city – including city officials – have a free-speech right that will sometimes include sharp remarks.  Neither the residents of this city nor her officials are employees of the Greater Whitewater Committee. 

Members of the GWC are free to complain, surely.  When delivering those complaints, they’re no less – but no more – important than any other citizen. 

In any event, it does no good for the Greater Whitewater Committee to advance a literacy program earlier in the evening, only to mute a positive tone with an opening like this.  One doesn’t follow champagne with a chaser of brine. 

One should be careful, too, about declaring a need to speak after supposedly disparaging remarks.  If critical remarks compelled an advocate to appear, city officials might hit upon the opposite idea of sending valentines to keep him away in the future. 

Some of the arguments on flexibility – like Mr. Kienbaum’s on cost – are ones that I’ll consider tomorrow.  (I’m particularly sympathetic to cost arguments.)

Chris Grady, 3rd District Candidate

WhitewaterCouncil012015D1 from John Adams on Vimeo.

Mr. Grady begins with a solid opening, and a gentle rebuke to his Third District opponent, Ken Kienbaum:

I want to start out with a question: Is it legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk?

(Answer from council: no, it is not.)

That’s perfect, just perfect: simple, direct, clear. 

There are times when a single question does the trick.  This was one of those times. 

Cameron Clapper, City Manager

Here, I’m referring to Mr. Clapper’s demeanor throughout the night, rather than a particular point (as with those above). 

Now I have agreed and also disagreed with policies during City Manager Clapper’s tenure. (We may yet have ahead a strong disagreement over a commercial digester for the importation of waste into this city from other places.)    

And yet, and yet, I’ll not underestimate his strengths, nor the evident, widespread hope in this city that his administration succeeds.  (I hope for that success, too, disagreements notwithstanding.)

He kept his cool, all evening, and came out looking stronger for it.


Tomorrow: Arguments on Cost & Flexibility Under a Complete Streets Ordinance.

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