Nov 17 2014

OPINION: City Council Busy with Turkey Trots and Bike Plans

The following is an article written by Piedmont High School student observer Minhong Yang. 

On Monday, November 3, 2014, the Piedmont City Council met in the City Hall Council Chambers at 7:30 sharp that evening for its semi-monthly meeting. Acting as the legislative branch of the city government, the council reviewed various proposals on issues that ranged from the street use permit for the annual Turkey Trot Race to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan, most of which welcomed the members of the public to participate in the decision making process before the votes were casted by council members.

The major issue discussed at the meeting was the consideration of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan (PBMP) as recommended by the Planning Commission. As one of Piedmont’s most comprehensive community based planning projects, PBMP’s goal is to promote safer and more convenient walking and bicycling in the city while paying special attention to the needs of school children. Since the summer of 2013, the City’s planning staffs, particularly Kate Black and Janet Chan, had been preparing this extensive plan based upon inputs received at 9 commission public hearings, 2 special sessions at community workshops, 2 online community surveys, several Piedmont Unified District Board meetings, and a number of other community outreach.

The final draft plan was introduced by Mr. Niko Letunic, the City’s transportation and planning consultant, through a detailed powerpoint presentation. According to Mr. Letunic, PBMP has received a $1.6 million fund from the Alameda County Transportation Commission. Covering a 10-year period, the plan contains a series of projects to improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists throughout the city. Those that are the most important and promising physical improvements for improving conditions, such as bikeway network and enhanced street crossings at busy locations, are given high-priority; those that may be implemented if the city obtains additional funding, such as curb ramps and bollard lighting, are given low-priority. Most of these projects target the Civic Center, arterials, and routes to school.

Public testimony for PBMP was received from Sue Herrick, Park Commission Chair, and Nick Levinson, Recreation Commission Chair, who praised the plan for providing an excellent template for clear and consistent safety measures, as well as regulations for both pedestrians and school children with bicycles. They emphasized that the compelling concern is safety, particularly for school areas and major intersections, and voiced strong support for slowing traffic speeds. Tracey Woodruff, a resident of Piedmont, also showed strong support for PBMP, noting specifically how the road diet for Grand Avenue would help to protect school children when they cross this heavily-traveled area. Her opinion was concurred by Margaret Ovenden and Susy Struble, who also noted the need to reduce traffic congestion at school sites and the need to improve pedestrian and bike safety along areas not directly mentioned in PBMP, respectively. Finally, members of the council, including Tim Rood, Jeffrey Wieler and Robert McBain, all complimented the plan, and requested the City to work with the City of Oakland in implementing the Grand Avenue road diet, to pay more attention to sidewalk maintenance, and to work with community organizations in raising more money for improving pedestrian and bicycle pathways within the community. PBMP was then passed unanimously.

I personally support PBMP, mostly for its overall detailed layouts and efforts to improve students’ safety around school areas. In fact, this was the topic that I spoke about during the meeting. I voiced my hope to see street guards at both the middle school and high school to ensure students’ safety as well as to reduce traffic congestion. My concern was well-received by the council members, particularly the mayor, Margaret Fujioka. I was initially a little nervous about speaking in a city council meeting, but afterwards I felt that this experience was not scary but was rather pleasant and refreshing.

In an interview with Ms. Fujioka, she said the council is currently trying to reach out to the community by making announcement during the meetings, regularly putting up posts on the city’s website, and having more articles about city projects on The Piedmont Post in order to encourage more people to participate in the projects that the city is working on. She noted PBMP as an example of great public participation, and expressed her hope to see more of it in the future.

Minhong Yang

One Response to “OPINION: City Council Busy with Turkey Trots and Bike Plans”

  1. Kudos to this student reporter for a well-written article. Do note, however, that a reporter digs for the facts behind the curtain.

    The City Council approved the TurkeyTrot race this year after the School Board announced an agreement ending a year-long fight about not receiving $30,000 profits from last year’s race. So, how was that disagreement settled? Will Piedmont’s school programs receive the $30,000 owed from last year?

    Perhaps Ms. Yang can investigate, and doing so, learn how to become an Investigative Reporter.

    P.S. The public MUST be given access to the Agreement document under the California Public Records Act.

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