After rocky start City Mobility Plan meetings begin in two weeks

MARTHA GRAHAM

MARTHA GRAHAM

After dropping the bomb when he named his controversial 15-member “Mobility Advisory Task Force” Monday night, St Augustine City Manager John Regan left town for a three-week vacation.  According to sources, Public Works director Martha Graham and Xavier Pellicer will inherit the task of making Regan’s missteps right. 

Residents are saying that they are confused about the purpose of the Task Force and how it will benefit them, but now, they have more questions than answers.  Questions about the $100,000 consulting engineer, the reason that 40% of the Task Force members are not city residents, the pro-non-profit business enterprises represented in the group, and why volunteers recommended by some neighborhood associations went unnoticed by the city manager.

In selecting the local Task Force members, many residents had hoped for a voice in improving the worsening transportation and mobility problems that have seen little more than lip-service during the six-year-long obsession with the 450th Commemoration. What we’ve wound up with is a pile of never acted upon studies, recommendations and surveys, under which everyone’s expectations were buried.

In the city manager’s absence, the mayor indicated to Historic City News that Public Works director, Martha Graham, would be following up on the questions and issues raised Monday.

On the schedule in two weeks:

Wednesday, June 8: Mobility Advisory Task Force meeting @ 5:00 p.m.
The Mobility Advisory Task Force will hold its inaugural meeting in The Alcazar Room, City Hall, 75 King Street at 5:00 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.

Thursday, June 9: Day-long Open House, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The public can meet with the team of planners, engineers, and landscape architects with the consultants, Littlejohn Engineering Associates (Littlejohn – An S&ME Company), who will be available for one-on-one exchanges in The Alcazar Room, City Hall, 75 King Street from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Friday, June 10: Mobility Advisory Task Force and City staff joint meeting @ 1:00 p.m.
Members of the Mobility Advisory Task Force and key city staff will meet in The Alcazar Room, City Hall, 75 King Street from 1:00 p.m. -3:00 p.m. The meeting is open to the public

Mayor Nancy Shaver reached out to the city manager to determine how the communications on this first high profile activity could have been so poorly handled.

After all, part of the reason that Littlejohn Engineering Associates was chosen was their assertion of the importance of communication. Apparently, after the engineers got the city’s contract,  they “lost” the staff person who they were counting on to deliver those services. Our project did not receive the benefit of her talents.

Historic City News obtained an e-mail to the city manager from Mayor Shaver, indicating that she expects improvements to be made. In part, that e-mail reads:

“From my perspective this was the first opportunity to engage with the community in a positive way on this big, high profile issue — and we need to regroup to make that happen.”

The mayor informed the city manager about the issues residents are already bringing to her about this process. In summary those items included:

  1. The role of the task force was never defined. Is it supposed to gather suggestions, provide two-way communication to groups in the community? Is it supposed to come up with “quick wins”? Is it supposed to weigh in on consultant recommendations? All those are very different and would require different skills.
  2. What is the duration of the Task Force appointment? If it is 6 months? For example, would another group be appointed for the next six?
  3. What were the selection criteria and process? For example, why would engineering be a needed skill? A process that reaches out to the community and clearly defines both the skills, the time commitment and duration and asked for people to apply would be the right way to proceed and to engage the community in this long-term and complicated initiative in a positive way. The lack of openness and transparency on this so far really sets us back.
  4. More than a few of the selections have very bad optics.

In closing, Mayor Shaver told Regan, “Given the importance of this project, investing more time and care in this first public step is wise. And, if we need a do-over, we should acknowledge it.”

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