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Are we wasting more money on studies?
Jack Balshaw 6/14/01


Recently, just after the City Council agreed to spend $1.5 million to fund a surface water runoff study, I was talking with a person who comments on the flood plain at every council meeting.  He’s against any building in the flood plain so we got to talking about the water study.  I proposed that I would accept whatever results came out of the study and asked if he would do the same.  His response was, “ Yes, if they come up with the right answers.”

 Recognizing how partisan he is on this topic, I wasn’t too surprised by his response.  But it did get me to thinking about the council and those Councilmembers who have opposing opinions on various subjects. Supposedly, the reason the council is funding all these special studies ( water study, traffic study, land use study, etc.) is to provide them with information to make objective decisions regarding the city’s future.   But I got to thinking, what if they accept only results that support their present positions, (if the studies “come up with the right answers”)?  Isn’t the study then a waste of time as they had that position before the study started?

 If the council is willing to spend several million dollars on various studies, shouldn’t there be an understanding that the study results won’t be questioned or summarily discarded?  We may think the council is agreeing to that when they vote to spend the money, but that’s not the case.  

 Many of these studies are allowed to go ahead because that delays a final decision some don’t want to make.  Others hope that during the time it takes to complete the study their side will either gain numbers or convert someone to their position.  Then again, there is always the chance that the study will support their position and convince the opposition to go along with it.

 For these reasons, I would like to see the individual council members openly state that they will accept the results of any study they’re willing to spend city funds on.  If they’re not willing to accept a study’s results, why are they agreeing to spend money on it?  What’s the use of having a study if those it’s supposed to help won’t accept the results if they don’t agree with those results?

 In the case of the water runoff study, the biggest issue is, “ Is there anything that can be done to allow building in the flood plain and still protect the Payran area?”  If some Councilmembers aren’t willing to accept results that don’t support their position, there’s no reason to do the study. And, $1.5 million is a lot of money to spend game playing.

 In the case of the traffic study, a similar situation occurs.  Rainier can’t be decided one way or the other until proposed land uses are agreed upon for that area and no one is willing to agree on land uses before doing the study.  So, no matter what the traffic study results are, either side can disagree with the results because they never agreed with the land use that was proposed.  Why are they wasting time and money?

 Another traffic problem area is Washington and McDowell. The city is still taking traffic counts around Kenilworth Jr. High even though that school will be closed once the new one is built.  What kind of traffic impact will The Hub and eventually the fairgrounds property generate?  Once the fairgrounds lease is up, any major development there will greatly impact Washington.

 The council hasn’t agreed on what land uses to assume for either the runoff or traffic studies that are now ongoing.   Steps need to be taken to insure these studies don’t waste additional millions of dollars just to give the appearance of doing something. 

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