Scrutiny of city’s street plan

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board June 05, 2013 08:44 am

The proposed update to Baker City’s Transportation System Plan has some residents concerned, and we understand why.

Designed as a guide for how the city’s system of streets, sidewalks and paths develops over the next 20 years or so, the plan, not surprisingly, covers quite a lot of ground.

And although none of the myriad projects in the plan is set in stone (or, rather, in asphalt or concrete), any of them could become reality.

This could have major effects not only on residents’ property, but also on their pocketbooks.

With the City Council preparing to adopt the updated plan, this is the appropriate time for citizens to express their opinions, including suggesting that some projects be left out of the final product.

It’s important to remember, though, that nothing proposed in the plan will be sprung on an unsuspecting public.

If, for instance, the City Council decides to build a street that’s listed in the plan, it would have to go through a lengthy process of hiring contractors, and possibly applying for grants, all of which would be conducted during public meetings at which residents could chime in with their ideas or objections.

Some residents who have concerns about the transportation plan told the city’s Planning Commission last week that the city failed to give citizens adequate notice that the plan was being written, and failed to involve a wide range of residents in the process.

Being in the information business, we’re sympathetic to such complaints, and there is some validity in this case.

The city didn’t cast the widest possible net — mailing a notice to every property owner in the city, as required by state law — until a few weeks ago.

On the other hand, the city’s website has posted information about the transportation plan for pretty close to a year, and there have been multiple stories in local media over the same period.

We understand that the city doesn’t bear the responsibility of trying to force residents to find out what’s going on at City Hall.

But concerns citizens have expressed over the transportation plan make it clear that the city ought to consider sending letters to all property owners early in a planning process rather than toward its end.

City officials made the right choice in scheduling an additional open house on the plan for this evening at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1655 First St. Residents can comment during the Planning Commission meeting, which follows the open house, at 7 p.m.

Another way to keep abreast of city business is to sign up to receive City Manager Mike Kee’s weekly newsletter by email. You can do that on the city’s website, www.bakercity.com.

Ultimately, we hope residents will continue to take advantage of the information available from multiple sources, and attend public hearings, not only related to the proposed transportation system plan, but on all aspects of city business.