The City of Norman’s “Community Involvement” is for Kindergartners

Kaye Beach

Nov 11, 2011

At the Wednesday evening’s combined Ward 3 and 8 meeting for the City of Norman’s “Moving Forward” (This is the name given to Norman’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan)public participation planning participants were told by Shawn O’Leary-Norman Public Works that;

“Over the last two years the Norman City Council has sort of collectively decided that maybe we should maybe have a comprehensive transportation plan”

“Maybe”?  “Sort of”?

Come on.  The decision to have a comprehensive plan has been decided and the parameters have already been set.

We were told that these meeting were just the “first step” and that these meetings are a “listening process”

Shawn O’Leary tells us that first they are asking us;

 “Should we have a plan?”

“Businesses have business plans.  Families have family plans.  Norman doesn’t have a plan. . . if we have a plan, what would you like to have in it.”

He also tells us that some prior participants thought the “whole idea was the silliest thing they we have ever done, that is a waste of taxpayer’s money” to the amusement of what seemed to be the majority of the group present who thought that the idea of not having a plan was the silliest thing that they ever heard.

At this point, the average person is going to think ‘Oh dear, if I don’t think we don’t need a comprehensive plan, all of these people are going to think I am silly.’  but never fear.  They make you squirm a little and then save you from this potential embarrassment by never giving you a chance or a box to check for NO.

You may have heard through the grapevine that at an earlier meeting one of the mildest mannered residents of Norman was  escorted out of the meeting for daring to try to actually actively participate, if you did hear about that incident then you might feel that much more relieved that they make it so easy to just go with the flow by providing little opportunity for dissent.

Let me tell you a little story.  When my headstrong daughter was younger (it doesn’t work on her anymore) I would circumvent head butting with her in this way; by posing as a phoney “partner” and offering her carefully pre-approved choices.

Really, we know that the options for liquids that one could drink are many, the ones that I might have in the house at any particular time is usually limited to several options but should I happen to have Kool-aid, milk, water, cokes and juice on hand, but really didn’t want her drinking a bunch of sugar, I would offer her a “choice”   As if we were equals, you know, “partners”.   That “choice” of course, was between two or three items acceptable to me (the boss). “Would you like water, juice or milk, darling”?   She was perfectly free to “choose” any one of those limited options and thus feeling empowered, was a lot less likely to fuss about it.  That game hasn’t worked for years but when she was between 2-5, it almost always did.

Another of my favorite techniques for manipulating my child into doing what was best for her was to distract her and I was good at it!    When she started paying attention to the wrong thing or I sensed a fight coming on I would pull the “Hey!  Look over here!” routine and find something bright and shiny to break her concentration while I babbled on incessantly about some inane thing.

This is the same methodology being used by the City of Norman and their professional facilitators paid for by you-the taxpayer.

I will say that these guys have it down to a fine art.  Of course when they don’t they can always call on Norman’s police officers to back them up by  intimidating the public at THEIR meeting.

Way to go Norman PD!

There is lots to this process but in the midst of all of the  “visions” of bike trails, choo-trains and regional connectivity, please,  don’t miss this part of it;

Mayor Rosenthal said this will be the first CTP [Comprehensive Transportation Plan] for the City and will essentially be the foundation for future land use decisions.

Sept 22. 2011

The plans laid now will effect the character of our town-no matter what, all plans need to respect the property and liberty of each person.  I hate to be pessimistic, but that is not what I am getting here.

This effort is called “Moving Forward”-Creating a Comprehensive Transportation Plan for the City of Norman

The City of Norman is embarking on a multi-year process to develop a Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) for our community called “Moving Forward” link

It isn’t a question. We will be “moving forward” with a Comprehensive Transportation Plan for the City of Norman.

 The “Moving Forward” Plan will serve as Norman’s long-term vision for a range of transportation options and accommodations including vehicles, bicycling, walking, and public transit services. link

Shawn O’Leary says that;

“Our job is to report back to the council what you told us.”

Will everything we told them really be reported back to the City Council?  Maybe so but what about Lochner? 

What was the the firm, H.W. Lochner specifically hired for?

The City’s website tells us that they;

“hired the consultant firm H.W. Lochner, Inc., (Lochner) to lead the community listening process which will result in a series of community transportation planning goals and policies.”

Let’s look at the contract;

Lochner was contracted to hold 8 Ward meetings to engage residents in “facilitated exercises and consensus building“, in order to “build a sense of ownership in the process and the eventual Transportation Plan Recommendations.”

The cost for Lochner’s professional manipulation prowess to the taxpayers almost 43, 000 dollars.   This is a contract and it means exactly what it says-no more, no less.   In order to get paid, the firm is  legally required to do what is laid out in that contract that they signed.

So,  Lochner’s mission is to;

  • “build a sense of ownership”  (for the regular Joes that  might show up at the Ward meetings) and to
  • produce the “eventual Transportation Plan Recommendations”

Eventual is defined as  “expected to follow in the indefinite future from causes already operating”   

The product that the City is expecting Lochner to produce is the “Transportation Plan Recommendations”   This is a proper noun, a specific and NOT a general thing.

Lochner cannot submit to the Norman City Council just any old transportation plan recommendations and get paid.  It has to be THE “Transportation Plan Recommendations” meaning the recommendation are already set, specified, defined…meaning the people of Norman are being manipulated to a set of conclusion that has already been approved as acceptable in much the same manner as I and many parents have managed our little children’s “choices”

Even though we are being told that the ward meetings are ” really just the exploratory part, this is not really in the transportation plan, this is  the listening phase“-the goals are already set and they just need us to fulfill the illusion of public involvement.

Here are some facts;

-The real first step was a scoping effort to determine the “issues and goals that will be developed for the ultimate plan” link  (to be more accurate-the very first step was really  this Encompass 2035)

-After the issues and goals were determined discussions were held about the plan with “Stakeholders that will provide guidance in the CTP development.” link   These “stakeholders” get special accommodations by Lochner for interviews because they might have difficulty in attending a regularly scheduled public meeting. (Pg 8, Lochner contract with the City of Norman)

The consultant, Lochner, is directed by contract to summarize the plans,  policies and goals of the City of Norman (meaning the City council and their staff) for submission to the public.

-The project was “kicked off” with a meeting between the Steering Committee (which is the Norman Transportation Committee) and the Stakeholder Visioning Committee in which the key issues to be presented to the public were identified.

The “Critical Successes” that “must result in order for community involvement to be a success” were to be covered (agreed to, established, set) at this “kick off” meeting.

The “Critical Successesdiscussed in the kick off meeting is your Comprehensive Transportation Plan for the future of your town.

Lochner’s job is to return to the City Council with these “Critical Successes” achieved or the community involvement will be considered a failure.

Read the contract between the City of Norman and Lochner.

Let There Be Light

I did hear some comments from other attendees that I was enthusiastic about like “We need better lighting-it’s too dark”  I was glad someone brought this up.  It was two ladies who put most of their little  day-glo stickers by this item.(participants were given 10 of these stickers to “spend” on the items we really supported by sticking them next to the item written on a large pad of paper on an easel)  I had thought the darkness issue  was just me and that I was going blind.    I added some of my stickers to their suggestion.  The rest of mine mostly went to “maintenance” issues

Another lady, who made a great point that apparently did not get logged on the official “yellow sheet”  about the light rail that everyone seemed so enthusiastic about, said that she said she was from northern California and the light rail project there was a disaster.  It was costing billions and no one would ride it. She suggested that we expand our existing bus system as needed.

Since her well-reasoned comment apparently did not make it to the official yellow sheet-she was told to write it down on a pad of paper called “The Parking Lot” Isn’t that cute? (I bet the “parking lot” is actually file 19.)

I had asked the two ladies at my table, Susan Conner, from the City of Norman Planning Dept. and Teresa Capps, a member of the Stakeholder Visioning Committee, who were very enthusiastic about light rail from Norman to OKC, if that sort of transportation really made sense in this area of the country.  After all, we are in a recession and surely it would be a very costly endeavor…unsurprisingly, they were not deterred and Light Rail was prominently included on our official “yellow sheet “

For those who, like myself, discovered that some of the recommendations that they contributed to the process did not get logged on the official “yellow sheet” or who did not get a chance to attend or may have been too intimidated after police action was taken on one gentlemen-you may also register your input on the City of Norman’s  “moving Forward” Facebook page.

I was told that this is a valid means for registering comments and suggestions and will be presented to the City Council along with the other community input items gathered at the Ward meetings.

These types of meetings serve two purposes;

1) Federal transportation funding often requires it

2) As a former mayor of an Oklahoma city told me, they have them so you can’t come back later and gripe that you don’t agree with the plan.  After all, you had your opportunity to speak up at the public input meeting and you didn’t.


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