The present council is facing this problem even though they profess the importance of "outreach" to the public, deferring action on issues until they feel that consensus has been reached between differing opinions.
How one determines "consensus" is the hard part and requires considerable diplomacy and standardized procedures in order to make anything happen. Consensus among a group having similar agendas is quite easy, but is it fair to take city-wide action based upon agreement among a small group, even if these are the activists who attend all the public meetings on the issue?
This is the dilemma facing the council now in determining what actions should be taken to implement the various proposals made under phase one of the Menlo Park visioning plan.
For instance, a questionnaire was sent out to about 16,000 people, asking them to rank various problems in Menlo Park from 1 to 5 based upon the need for improvement. The problems included east/west travel across El Camino and the train tracks, the need for a bicycle tunnel, traffic congestion on El Camino, and so on. About 2,000 people responded. The top-ranked problem was the need to improve traffic flow on El Camino. It was the only problem ranked in the No. 1 category.
And, yet, when we discussed El Camino Real at the public meeting before the Planning Commission, seven out of eight tables felt that El Camino was fine the way it was. This meant that the "consensus" among the 80 activists was that El Camino congestion was not a problem.
According to the consultants running the show, nothing needed to be done to improve traffic flow on El Camino, but a bicycle tunnel was definitely needed under the tracks.
I don't know how the council will sort out the El Camino conflict, nor the other controversial issues among the visioning proposals. I do think and hope that they will put aside the agendas of various activists (including my own) and do what is right for Menlo Park as a whole. Perhaps they can send out a city-wide questionnaire asking for votes on each visioning proposal that is being contemplated before deciding what action to take.
Reginald W. Rice is a member of the Menlo Park Transportation Commission and lives on Tioga Drive.