The just-completed smart growth summit was the subject of the “Our Views” editorial Sunday in The Advocate.
From the schedule of events, it appears that the primary thrust of the summit was to use Baton Rouge as an example of “nonsmart” growth. Many speakers were from outside Louisiana, and they informed us of just how to conform to the New Urbanist manifesto.
The keynote speaker, in fact, was a former mayor of Pittsburgh, Tom Murphy. He said we should look even beyond the usual smart-growth mantras of proper arrangements of streets and sidewalks, beyond improving the efficiency of traffic or providing mass transit. He said what we also need is a social and intellectual infrastructure.
He also denounced critics who may think something is too expensive. He said then the question should be asked about those critics: “Do they set your agenda?”
My reply to him would have been, “Yes, we taxpayers do want to have a voice in how our money is spent. Either through our representatives or via tax/bond elections, we actually do expect to have that voice.”
Coincidentally, an article in another section that day reported that four people drowned Friday in flash floods in Pittsburgh. The aging sewer system was overwhelmed during clogged rush-hour traffic. Aging sewer system? Clogged rush-hour traffic? One wonders why former Mayor Murphy hadn’t taken care of his own infrastructure during his tenure, and why he apparently feels no embarrassment in telling us in Baton Rouge what to do about ours.
Another point brought up in the editorial was the proposed $19 million demolish-and-rebuild of the downtown library branch. It was termed a “flashpoint of political controversy instead of an opportunity to build a high-quality institution that serves the larger community, not just one neighborhood.”
Up until now, its proponents have lauded it as a library for those (approximately 1,400) people living downtown (as well as all those library-patronizing daytime state office workers). Suddenly it’s “serving the larger community.” Do they mean the city? The city-parish? Note that there are 13 libraries in the parish, including the Goodwood Main Library, which ALREADY serve the entire city-parish. Note also that the downtown branch is by far the least-used of all 13 — the very one they want to demolish and double in size!
The smart-growth speakers probably were blissfully unaware that, during the precise period of their summit, an apparent majority of our Metro Council members were speaking out against the new downtown library fiasco. It seems that the public had had enough and was indeed “setting an agenda,” but from the grass-roots level and not from a speaker’s podium.