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Parsing the details – Our view: Certain words can create misinformation

Last week’s debate and Glencoe City Council decision whether to begin the process of switching North Greeley Avenue from one-way traffic to two-way traffic was a solid example of government at work. The city’s planning commission made a recommendation to the city council. For better or worse, the council rejected the recommendation. The system worked as it is intended.
A petition circulated among residents of North Greeley Avenue generated a significant amount of pushback against the idea of changing the long-established pattern of one-way traffic to two-way traffic. While there’s nothing wrong with a petition, what is troubling is the turn-of-phrase in it.
Planning Commission chairperson Wes Olson, the author of the proposal to switch the traffic pattern on North Greeley Avenue, told the city council he had been informed by people who signed the petition they were told the city “will” widen the street, create assessments, rip out all the trees, and limit parking to accommodate two-way traffic on North Greeley Avenue. It’s easily understood why people would sign a petition opposing the change in traffic patterns on the street.
Here’s the rub. At no time during the planning commission discussion of the proposal to possibly transform North Greeley Avenue from one-way to two-way traffic was there any discussion of expanding the roadway now or in the future to accommodate the proposed change. The author of the petition denies telling residents of North Greeley Avenue the city would widen the street or take out trees, a project that would require assessments as part of the funding formula. The petition’s author suggested in the letter and on social media the city “could” – it might – eventually order the improvements. And as a self-appointed spokesperson for North Greeley Avenue residents, the author states, “we don’t want assessments.”
When a person is at the door asking you to sign a petition on a hot-button issue, a spoonful of fear of assessments is the sort of misinformation that could convince people to sign a petition. At that point, the difference “will” and “could” is too minute to parse.
What is even more disappointing is the notion the city council refused to even consider the idea that changing the flow of traffic on North Greeley Avenue might address three separate safety concerns – waste haulers driving the wrong way, the occasional driver unfamiliar with the area heading the wrong way, and Trailblazer Transit busses loading and unloading people in the traffic lane. Council members don’t know if Trailblazer Transit can or will change how it serves Millie Beneke.
The city can no longer plead ignorance to the safety issues.
The city council refused to even address those three issues. It voted 3-2 against a public hearing and 4-1 to reject consideration of the planning commission’s recommendation to switch the ordinance.
There was no requirement to make the change after conducting a public hearing. The council could have listened to input and then decided not to make a change. Olson has video of driving up North Greeley with cars parked on the east and west sides of the street. He placed a trailer as wide as a vehicle in the street to demonstrate North Greeley could serve two-way traffic with parking on both sides.
He planned to show it to the council during a public hearing. But the city council was not interested in any additional input beyond what councilors already believe.
How does refusing to hear input serve the community well? It doesn’t.
There will no doubt be more pressing issues than the flow of traffic on North Greeley Avenue to come before the city council in the months to come. Hopefully, councilors will consider issues with a more open mind.

-jm