A recent article, nominally about local government review of road projects, was sufficiently misleading that I feel compelled to comment on the issue.
Let us not lose focus, as the article did, on our community's real and serious need to improve our transportation infrastructure. People are dying on our roads, like the Richardson Highway in North Pole, because the priority for correcting known problems has suffered at the hands of state politics.
Many on this Assembly, in DOT's Northern Region Administration, and throughout the Fairbanks area recognize the problems and are working hard to resolve them. There's plenty of agreement to go around. One key step we can take to ensure that our transportation needs are indeed met, is to increase public participation in the planning process.
Our Borough has planning authority and a Planning Commission mandated by state law. For years I've publicly advocated that the role of our Planning Commission needs to be increased with regard to transportation. Through that Commission, citizen's ideas, and concerns would be more effectively incorporated into the planning and design processes. It is primarily to further that goal that I expressed interest last fall in serving on the Assembly's Transportation Committee suggested by Ms. Webb.
That was a mistake. The News Minor article inadvertently pointed to one key problem right up front. Their sub-headline read "Hove disbands Webb's committee." In order to have been effective, this committee would have been The Assembly's Committee. It was not. I was disappointed to hear from the News Minor that the reporter had not asked anyone who was on the committee. Officially, I was. I attended several FMATS meetings in that capacity. I'd find the membership question hard to answer as it was very informal. It was a committee in name only. It added inappropriate weight to one Assembly member's interactions with various organizations. In my view it bordered dangerously close to misrepresention of this Assembly. Along with other Assembly members, I encouraged our duly elected Presiding Officer, Mr. Hove, to abolish it. I commend him again now for doing so quietly, in an impersonal manner, allowing everyone involved to focus on the issues such that those issues could be resolved.
As Mr. Hove was reported as saying in more pithy language, there are more on-going efforts to involve the public and improve DOT's and the Borough's planning processes than just this dysfunctional Ad Hoc Transportation Committee.
At our August 21st work session, Assembly members discussed the need to revisit the Borough's agreement with DOT and review the Fairbanks Municipal Area Transportation System, or FMATS, process. We listened at length to Ms. Webb's views on the subject and had a lively and productive discussion. Mr. Hove assured us that an FMATS Policy Committee meeting would be scheduled in the near future and that the review process would not be stalled. I left encouraged that the Assembly as a whole was becoming actively involved in making progress.
I urge my fellow Assembly members not to let counterproductive behaviors, which we all engage in more than we'd like, interfere with our responsibility to address our community's transportation needs. Please remember that our failures here may be paid for by our neighbor's very lives.
Needlessly, I'm sure, I remind the public that these issues, like so many others, in real-life contexts are not as obvious and sensational as they are sometimes made to appear in black and white.
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