Newton’s divisive Austin street debate of 2015 and Orr Block debate of 2017 reflected the many diverse interests and agendas each side had as well as the agendas each assumed the other side had. Reflecting on the months of discussion and public comment, it is easy to enumerate over 30 interests on each side.
Unfortunately, in the head of debate, each side often presumes the other embraces the “worst” and rejects the “best” of their respective positions. Furthermore each side will tend to defend the spectrum of positions beyond their individual priorities in service of their cause.
The outline below lists just some the stated concerns and goals of each side of the debate. Each side also alleged a fair number of unsavory agendas on the part of the other as well. All this added up to a fairly toxic debate, not unlike divisions seen nationally in the recent election.
So what can be done? Recognize each side of an issue has worthy goals and do our best to debate with civility and mutual respect, and to build consensus solutions that the city can get behind before bringing things to the point of an up or down vote. Hopefully we can all agree that developers should not get an out-sized return at the expense of residents.
When it comes to choosing the city council composition for the city, we should recognize that Ward Councilors, elected smaller-scale elections by 8 different slices of the city’s electorate along with the At-Large Councilors elected city-wide provide the council with the diversity of viewpoints needed to balance the desires and concerns of all residents.
|Impact Area||Desire for||Concern over|
|Local Business||foot traffic||Loss of convenient parking|
|Retail eatery competition|
|failures during construction|
|rising lease costs|
|Area Business||Downward rents|
|City Character||Inclusive/Diversity||Density/village character|
|Beautify lots||Building scale out of character|
|40B avoidance||Loss of future use flexibility|
|Smart Growth||Green construction||Loss of commuter parking|
|“transit oriented”||Loss of short errand parking|
|Walkable||Increase in density/traffic|
|Solar on roof||Congestion/traffic|
|Dense village centers||Loss of senior center parking|
|Housing||“affordable”||Downward rents (landlords)|
|voucher-eligible||Upward rents (renters)|
|downsizing seniors||Loss of naturally affordable|
|Shorter waiting lists|
|“Help the region”|
|Neighborhood||Get rid of ugly lot||Up/downward rental pressure|
|Underground utilities||On-street parking demand|
|Increased retail||Lack of process/early input|
|Downsize nearby||Improvement delays|
|New plazas||Insufficient new parking|
|Avoid 40B elsewhere||Residents parking at-grade|
|Flawed parking studies|
|City Hall||Increased tax base||School costs|
|1-time revenue||Public to private transfer|
|Political success||Public land giveaway|
|Employee housing||Flawed assumptions|