A car accident can be a traumatic experience, no matter how serious. Even experienced, cautious drivers can be involved in accidents due to the negligent...
Thank you to the Cleveland Jewish News for this wonderful story as I get ready to travel to Ohio this weekend to work with Cleveland...
A special thanks to Paula Tutman and WDIV Local 4 for their interest in the work of Achilles International as they begin working with the...
7-5 vote means Green Bay City Council will not reconsider roundabouts
Green Bay Press Gazette
By Paul Srubas
February 17, 2009
After suffering their second loss in as many weeks early this morning, opponents of Military Avenue roundabouts promised to fight to kill the borrowing needed to complete the reconstruction project.
After a debate that lasted more than six hours, the City Council voted 7-5 to uphold its decision to install six roundabouts onto Military Avenue. Two weeks ago, the council voted 7-5 in favor of the series of roundabouts but put the issue back on the agenda when Alderman Tom Weber, who voted with the majority, requested reconsideration. This morning’s vote was to reject reconsideration.
The vote breakdown was the same as the original approval: Weber, Chris Wery, Celestine Jeffreys, Dan Piton, Amy Kocha, Tony Theisen and Jerry Wiezbiskie voted against reconsideration; Tom DeWane, John Vander Leest, Steve Deneys, Guy Zima and Andy Nicholson voted for it.
Vander Leest said the next step is to attack funding for the project. The city must borrow slightly more than $10 million for the reconstruction project, which is intended to tear out old concrete, replace it, reduce the street to four lanes for much of its length and install the series of roundabouts.
Vander Leest believes he can get enough signatures to force a referendum on the borrowing, and he’s optimistic that citizens of the city will reject it.
“I’m committed to doing that,” Vander Leest said. “I feel strongly this will be overturned.”
He said opponents would need to gather about 3,500 signatures — 10 percent of the number that voted in the last gubernatorial election — to force a referendum.
Two Military Avenue business owners circulated a petition that collected 5,830 signatures of people opposing roundabouts, and that got that number in less than a week, Vander Leest said. They would have 30 days from the publication of notice of bonding to get the signatures, he said.
The only question is whether that referendum will happen this or next year, he said. He called upon Mayor Jim Schmitt to move the bonding request to this spring, to give time for a design without roundabouts to meet full approval in time for a 2010 project completion. If the borrowing is delayed until spring of 2010, it could mean a delay in the project plus unnecessary design costs, Vander Leest said.
Schmitt declined to say this morning whether he would move up the bonding request by a year.
The council heard testimony from 34 members of the public. All but five of those spoke in opposition to roundabouts.
“Thousands oppose this, and very few favor it — I don’t see what the problem is,” said Roger Vander Leest, a former City Council member, uncle of John Vander Leest and an owner of property on Military Avenue. “You may have the authority to ignore the public wishes, but you certainly don’t have the right to.”
Michael Cuene, of Broadway Automotive, said if even a small percentage of people refuse to drive Military Avenue for fear of negotiating the roundabouts, his business would suffer greatly.
“Let’s say we lose 10 percent. That’s 9,500 people that choose not to come back to Broadway Automotive,” Cuene said. “It’s 14,266 if 15 percent won’t come. I can’t make it with that.”
Greg Polacheck of ShopKo challenged the council to make the Military Avenue Business Association the same promise that the city of Golden, Colo., made to one of its stores before installing roundabouts: The city offered to tear the roundabouts out if business revenue declined.
The longest testimony came from Richard Bernstein, a Michigan lawyer who is visually impaired and who has built his legal career around fighting legal battles on behalf of the rights of the disabled.
While Bernstein did not threaten to file suit, he said the installation of six roundabouts on Military Avenue would make Green Bay a perfect “test case” in federal court.
Bernstein’s legal work forced a Michigan community to install manually activated traffic signals at the site of its roundabouts to aid the visually impaired in crossing them. Bernstein, who is both a lawyer and a University of Michigan law professor, said it’s been proven that roundabouts present an obstacle to the visually impaired.
“A blind person can’t cross the street unless traffic comes to a complete stop,” Bernstein said. “And guide dogs will not go as long as traffic continues to move.”
The only reason communities in the U.S. even have roundabouts today is because they haven’t been contested in court, he said.
Bernstein acknowledged that roundabouts may be safer than signaled intersections when it comes to vehicle crashes, but he dismissed statistics that claim they are safer for pedestrians. He said pedestrians who are too afraid to cross at roundabouts avoid the situation, which artificially reduces accident statistics.
The council members favoring roundabouts rejected the arguments and dismissed criticism that they weren’t listening to their constituents.
Weber said that viewpoint defied the American system of representative government. Elected officials have a responsibility to do the right thing with the facts, and all the evidence pointed to greater safety, lesser environmental impact, less expense and better business development with roundabouts, he said.
Wery dismissed claims that “not voting with the majority means not representing them. Our job is not to be popular. We have to do what is right.”
He cited Green Bay’s decision 50 years ago to build a water pipeline to Lake Michigan. The decision flew in the face of public opposition, but turned out to be the right thing to do, he said.
Opponents tried to force Schmitt to take a strong stand for or against the roundabouts. Schmitt responded that he was sensitive to the needs of small business and said he thought four lanes with signals “could work,” and that the development of six roundabouts was “too much, too fast.” However, he added, “the council did its homework … I’m not twisting arms. I’m going to respect your decision.”
Visually Impaired Athlete Sues USA Triathlon
Richard Bernstein Challenges ABA for Discrimination Against Blind Law Students
Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Honors Richard Bernstein with Courage Award
Attorney Richard Bernstein Named Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly
Victory! Disabled Win Access to U-M Stadium