Opinion Your Views — 10 April 2014
Why can’t we just give compromise a chance in this city?

By Dino Drudi, Alexandria
(File Photo) 

To the editor:

Your bicycle lanes editorial (“Bike lane debate: the good, the bad and the ugly,” March 20) tried to put a happy face on the contentious issue of adding bicycle lanes along King Street, which consumed six hours on two occasions at the traffic and parking board and another six at city council. Yet, in focusing on the issues, the editorial missed more subtle procedural abuses.

Rarely had previous city councilors overruled the traffic and parking board. But in the past year, this city council has twice done so: allowing bicycling on sidewalks last June and approving bicycle lanes on King Street last month.

City employees are ministerial, meaning they carry out the ordinances and policies enacted by city council. By contrast, the traffic and parking board is magisterial, meaning they enjoy delegated authority from the city council to make policy judgments within predetermined limits. So for the city’s transportation and environmental services department director to ignore the November traffic and parking board decision to delay bicycle lanes in hopes of working out a compromise seems, on its face, insubordinate.

And for city councilors to ratify the director’s decision and overrule the traffic and parking board undermines the city government’s credibility.

Instead, city councilors could have postponed consideration of the appeal to afford time to work things out. In that scenario, they still could have heard the matter in May if a compromise couldn’t be reached. But city council’s hasty rush to judgment suggests that the city’s transportation chief was simply tasked to take the heat for a controversial initiative, one that key members of the council wanted taken care of ahead of time. In such a scenario, his decision appears insubordinate, but is not.

Lastly, we write off compromise as unattainable at our peril. The 60 days the traffic and parking board desired would have allowed additional ideas — such as bollards to protect pedestrians, which I raised without success — to be calmly considered.

When our country holds out hope the Israelis and Palestinians will find a compromise in a conflict older and seemingly more intractable than this one, we have no good excuse not to afford another month or two to see what might be worked out.

 

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