EDITORíS DESK: Distressed about calming

       Looking for proof that Westsiders are just a wee bit different than the rest of the world? You should have been at the 17th Street traffic-calming meeting Aug. 6. The city officials came in with the advance impression that the outcome would be to refresh the citizens about project details and then to discuss schedule and funding issues. Wrong bet. With true Westside individualistic skepticism, a majority (though not all) neighbors attacked the traffic circle and brought up numerous suggestions that weren't in the plan. Then, by the time Principal Traffic Engineer Dave Krauth was probably convinced he was dealing with some ornery 25-headed monster (about the number of folks at the meeting), they shocked him by agreeing unanimously on one plan element - the bump-out designs at two intersections.
       Maybe it was the city's fault for waiting three years since the last meeting, allowing time for memories to fade and new ideas to form. Maybe Councilman Tom Gallagher, who reportedly called for the new meeting, should have dropped by to explain his position. Maybe the city had a mailing problem in 2005 (because a few long-time residents Aug. 6 said they'd never been notified of that go-round). Maybe some of the residents who went to that meeting should have shown up to explain to the current group why they liked the traffic circle back then.
       A really great hindsight argument is that the city should have gone in and fixed things nine years ago when the 17th Street neighborhood first identified a speeding problem and city studies supported that fact. The cost would have been about half what it is now, plus the city had money then to do it. Of course, that assumes an unlikely scenario - that a true consensus could have been reached in a short time by all neighbors. Never automatic on this side of town. And besides, nobody wants some government handout, just to have it. Better nothing than something that doesn't work. That seemed to be the overall attitude Aug. 6. It remains to be seen whether the result of that will be a better project or, well... nothing.

- K.J.