Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Project DeRenne Gets Off The Ground With a Good Start

Last night I attended the first Project DeRenne public meeting. Connecting Savannah was the prior study name and after great expense to taxpayers, little was accomplished to advance the widening hopes of the commercial interests along the corridor (mainly Memorial and Candler hospitals growth).

From a roll call basis, I should point out that Pete Liakakis arrived about midway through the discussions, basically very late. I did see Karen Grainey who arrived early. She is a candidate for the county commission 6th district but her opponent, incumbent Dave Gellatly, was a no show. Helen Stone was there and so were new alderpersons Larry Stuber and Mary Ellen Sprauge. Larry lives in the affected area and knows engineering and committee process, the people along and around DeRenne are lucky to have him actively participating in Project DeRenne.

It's a good thing that Connecting Savannah failed. In my opinion, that is the principal reason the widening of DeRenne has not happened. It's because citizens (called stakeholders) did participate in the lengthy Connecting Savannah study process. Further, when the Connecting results were finally published and advocated widening DeRenne, those same people said, "wait a minute, what meetings did you participate in because these results don't accurately reflect what the study group concluded." Nice try CUTS, but spin alone will not trump citizen involvement.

Let's hope that this time with Project DeRenne that citizens input is given the weight it deserves and I believe it will be. Judging from last nights first meeting, it was clear that widening is not a forgone conclusion. In fact, at my table of 8 people, 7 out of 8 said traffic/congestion is manageable the way it is - especially when the alternative is taking peoples homes and widening to 7 seven lanes. I looked around the room at the "masts" where each table of 8 people where asked as their last task to place seven cards in order of most important to least important, most important on top and least important at the bottom. The traffic card never made it to the top of any of the masts I saw, it was either at the middle or below middle. What was on top of virtually every mast? Respecting and preserving neighborhoods.

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