First up, K street mall. Previous attempts to destroy this cultural landmark have included ripping up about four blocks on each side and building a nicely corporate two story 'open air' mall. While this has brought in a few more tourists to complain about the rest of downtown, it has not managed to truly kill off the non-yuppy presence yet. They also have sunk an impressive amount of money into gutting the remaining older buildings along K street and rebuilding them as upscale bars and nightclubs. If the dress code doesn't keep me out of those places the prices sure will. Todays news is that they think they've come up with the true steak to drive through the heart of our beloved mall -- cars! Story has it they are honestly considering taking what has long been a pedestrian mall where the public can gather for some pleasant socializing and converting it to allow automobile traffic.
The best part of this, what truly hits me as the pure embodiment of evil, is one of the reasons cited: to improve circulation. That means to help people get around in cars. Some of you may not appreciate the irony in this since you don't know the history. Getting around downtown used to be easy as cake till our city council ruined it. We had a very predicable network of one-way and two-way streets criss-crossing the entire grid. The one-ways were mostly timed lights, also, so you could quite effortlessly get from one end of downtown to another without having to stop once! They have now converted a number of those one-way streets to either two-way traffic (destroying the timing of the lights) or to have fewer lanes (more congestion) so now driving downtown is turning into a real bitch. Thus, now that they have people complaining about the congestion due to their own stupid ideas, they are going to use those complaints to implement *more* stupid ideas.
Another plan now making news is regarding our homeless. Some of you may have heard about our little tent city. The various news outlets around the world have reported on it, and quite a few of them got their facts rather mixed up. There are only a few hundred people living in the tent city, and it has existed for many years before the current economic downturn. 90% of the people currently living there are habitual homeless. They live in tents or 'on the street' because they either choose to or are somehow unsuited to shelter living (mental illness, whatever). They were on the street long ago back when our shelters were not overflowing, so for them it's not an issue of finding a cot somewhere. Yet our glorious city council has been working closely with various other agencies and expects to be removing our tent city sometime in the next few weeks. They are going to go in with force, gather up all the people there and truck them all to shelters scattered around town (including the possibility of temporary shelters set up for this very purpose). Nevermind that these other shelters will be significanly farther from our established homeless support network (thus making it much harder for the homeless to live), nevermind that some of these people are ill suited for shelters (thus they will soon be back on park benches). They are going to take what was largely a PR inconvenience, and rather than work with the people to make their lives as comfortable as we can, we'll be forcing them out of a bad situation and into something even worse.
To be clear, I think it is good that the council is putting up more shelters (shame they are only temporary). I agree with that much, but planning to physically force the people to live in them is not the answer. Also, the location they are looking at is farther from the support services as well as across the river from them. So it is *far* more difficult for the homeless to get from the new shelters to just about anywhere they want to go. This will force the few hundred people who were living in the tent city to now take up residence in the various alleyways of downtown. It will lead to more unhealthy conditions not only for the homeless but also for the business and residents of the city.
So, to recap. Not only is our city council planning on forcing the homeless out of what is mostly an empty field along the river and into the streets of the city, they are also talking about destroying what is left of our pedestrian mall and letting cars ravage it.
Worst. City. Council. Ever.