Rose Street will be repaved and remain a four-lane road. Representative democracy works.
That, however, doesn’t mean the proposal for three lanes with two bike lanes — originally approved by the Walla Walla City Council and recommended by street engineers — was a poor design. The concept might well be the safest, most efficient design. From a technical standpoint, the proposal might be considered the best option for Rose Street.
But the best option from an empirical perspective is not always the option chosen by people. It’s why manufacturers often offer two, three or more options of the same product.
When you go into a hardware store looking for a paint brush, you often are faced with options such as “good, better and best.” If “best” was always chosen, then “good” and “better” would not be offered as options. What is selected by consumers is what they believe will be the right fit for their job.
When the City Council originally made the decision to change the design of Rose Street from four to three lanes, it was not embraced by Walla Walla. From letters to the editor to Facebook postings to the buzz on the street, folks indicated a four-lane preference.
Over the six weeks since the original vote, city officials have been urged by many citizens to reverse the decision. Many argued the current four-lane design of Rose Street has not been a hot spot for accidents nor is it particularly dangerous.
On Wednesday night, Tim Demitor, owner of Champs Garage in Walla Walla, presented two petitions to the City Council in support of retaining four lanes.
“I personally went to every single business owner ... And not one of them was in opposition (to four lanes),” Demitor said, adding he did not get a response for or against from Key Technology and Koncrete Industries.
After debate, the three-lane decision was reversed when Council member Shane Laib asked for another vote. Laib and Council member Conrado Cavazos were absent for the original vote.
By a 5-2 margin, with Mayor Jim Barrow changing his vote, the four-lane plan was adopted.
Perhaps the controversy would have been avoided had Laib and Cavazos not missed the original vote, but we will never know. The public was pretty quiet on the issue until the three-lane proposal was adopted.
“I came to this meeting tonight believing that it is our responsibility to do what is right,” Barrow said Wednesday, making it clear he still believed city engineers were correct in concluding Rose Street would be safer with fewer lanes. “On the other hand, we are elected to represent the people. And unless it is immoral, illegal or unsafe, I think we have a duty to represent the people.”
In the end, despite six weeks of angst and uproar, the representatives of the people followed what they believed (and we believe) was the will of the people.