October 8, 2013 9:46:47 AM
It appears as though the Columbus City Council will not take up the matter of a proposal to close six railroad crossings on the city's Southside, although city leaders insist the idea could emerge again, perhaps as soon as next year.
As opposed to what is happening in Washington these days, sometimes the best decision is to do nothing. The council's no-decision on this proposal is a wise move.
When the proposal from Kansas City Southern Railway and the Mississippi Department of Transportation was first presented, it seemed as though the idea would quickly move through the council. The railway company needed an answer by September in order to start work before the end of the year. Otherwise, the funds reserved for these types of projects would not be available.
Unlike other decisions made by the council, including a controversial decision to hire J5/Broaddus to fill a new position of city project manager, the public was provided ample opportunities to contribute to the discussion.
In two public meetings, Southside residents made their feelings known. Some spoke in favor of the proposal. Others argued against it. But the meetings proved to be far more valuable than simply allowing residents to voice their opinions. In both meetings, citizens again and again raised interesting points, challenged assumptions and offered alternatives.
By the end of the meetings, council members had far more information than they had before the public weighed in. It was clear that too many unanswered questions remained and that many suggestions that emerged during the public meetings warranted careful consideration.
In the end, the council's decision not to proceed with the plan acknowledged that residents had raised issues that could not be resolved in the time frame required. The decision to table the project was the smart move.
Regardless of your views on the railroad crossing issue, the process involved in considering the proposal is to be applauded. It really is how our city government should operate.
Our leaders are elected to make decisions on our behalf. But they should make informed decisions, based on a real dialogue with the residents. That is precisely what happened in this case and the city is better for it.
When and if the proposal emerges again, we expect another healthy dialogue where all stockholders are given an opportunity to contribute.
If you are a looking for a model of how the city should conduct its business, you can find no better example.
We hope it is one our city leaders will continue to follow.