By Trudy Wischemann
There was a meeting at Lindsay’s Wellness Center last Thursday about the proposed roundabout at Hermosa and Westwood. It was sponsored by the City of Lindsay and attended by 30-50 townspeople. Though not a city council meeting, the two newest council members attended: Laura Cortes and Brian Watson, supporting staff members Bill Zigler, Mike Camarena and Neyva Amescua.
A small handful of women, however, brought evidence that more people here really care about the future of our town: 815 names had been gathered on a petition against the roundabout over a span of four days. That is spectacular evidence of both the commitment of the signature gatherers and the concerns of the public at large.
I find it hard to imagine a roundabout there, much less that it will improve traffic congestion at the times when students are coming or going. The roundabout will reduce the number of on-street parking places which are highly sought at certain hours and normally overtaxed. It will reduce the four lanes of Hermosa to two, funneling a high-energy stream of traffic coming into our town right at the point where the entrances/exits of the shopping center add some excitement already. And if it’s anything like the roundabout we already have (God forbid), attempts to avoid that intersection will further confound drivers trying to get into or out of town.
The meeting, however, demonstrated another real circulation problem chronic in Lindsay, which I will lay directly at the feet of the city manager. Information flows only one direction here, from his desk down. Despite his attempts to look civic-minded, information coming up from “below,” from the residents of this community, is unwelcome and rebuffed the moment it appears to be in conflict with what he “knows.”
He went to a great deal of effort Thursday night to establish that what he “knows” (i.e., that a roundabout is the best solution to the traffic congestion at that intersection) is supported by outside experts, in particular two community development geniuses who came in 2006 and gave their on-the-spot advice that a roundabout is what we need. Reading their two-page resumes in English, which councilwoman Cortes translated into Spanish, consumed 15 minutes of the meeting.
Yet when questioned by one of the residents who came, a man who asked simply for a cost comparison between the roundabout and a four-way traffic signal, our expert city manager shut down. Although that information was easily at hand, he replied “I’m not going to answer that question now. This meeting is for information only. We’re writing down your questions and we’ll answer them individually after the meeting.”
The difference in costs of alternative solutions sounds to me like pretty simple information to offer at such a meeting. Yet he stonewalled, and I believe it’s because he really does not want to, or cannot handle the ideas of other people. At one point folks became so aggravated by this response, one of the women who had gathered signatures asked “Is this thing set in stone? Are you wasting our time here?” Then she added “How many names will it take to stop this thing?” Her question went unanswered.
People in Lindsay really do care about our town. That caring is a resource that should be nurtured and incorporated into the development of our future. There are planning methodologies that recognize this powerful component of community design, and I think we should bring some of those experts to town.
Trudy Wischemann is a rural advocate with an all-but-thesis Masters degree in environmental planning from Berkeley. You can send her your thoughts on roundabouts c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.