It seemed to me that 2010 brought about a lot of activism in Athens – that didn’t count. It was all at the last minute. In 4 cases especially – the Downtown parking deck, the tennis courts, Hull Street abandonment, and the Chi Phi ruling – plans that had been public for months, if not years were suddenly challenged at the last minute leaving the Commission is a very awkward position. Two cases went through the 2005 SPLOST, and have been planned for as long, Chi Phi had made it through the Planning Commission, and UGA’s project had to go through the Board of Regents. In other words, none should have been a surprise.
And yet, they were for many people. Now, I’d love to go off on a tangent with each project, and I may with future posts, but for now I want to stick with this problem of big projects that need public input, ‘sneaking up’ on people and putting the Commission in the awkward position of continually having to balance populism with equanimity and efficiency.
My question is whether this problem is endemic to local government, and whether there are actions that can stanch last-minute input. There certainly are some, such as the Neighborhood Notification Initiative, and a better designed website that help. More consistency (such as slowing down the Classic Center) could help the image of the Commission. A more forceful explanation of long-term plans, equal protection, and laws governing our government would help. Many people seem to think that the Commission can change or stop or start anything just for popular outcry, when actually local governments have a whole host of constraints – for prevention of lawsuits, state laws, precedents, and plain justice.
Any other ideas?