Quashing Ford Plant Plan Public dissent by “Technical Error”: Democracy isn’t supposed to work this way in St. Paul


This Friday, July 28th the Saint Paul Planning Commission is likely to advance the City’s Ford Plant site proposal to the City Council.

Despite the fact that the City has failed three separate times to present to the public an accurate depiction of the depth of opposition to its plan.

Neighbors have started to come together to reach out to elected officials asking them to delay the Planning Commission vote on Friday.

The reasons are as reasonable as the lack of response from some of those elected officials has been unreasonable.

On three separate occasions, the City failed to accurately account for and present public comments submitted by neighbors in opposition to this project. 

Opposition which shows an overwhelming percentage of respondents reject the City’s proposed plan for density on the Ford Plant site which could mean upwards of 10,000 residents, workers and visitors on roughly 112 acres of land.

Density so radical and massive that it will put thousands of more cars and vehicles onto the roadways throughout the neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul that are within two miles of the Ford Plant site.

So much traffic that it will choke traffic and streets in ways we cannot even yet imagine.

Until it becomes reality.

The Ward Three City Councilmember who represents this area, Chris Tolbert, is refusing to meet with or respond to residents who are asking him to call on the Planning Commission to delay its vote.

A delay justified on the grounds that reasonable efforts should be made to ensure that the public record detailing opposition to the project is accurate.

A request that is as reasonable as his unwillingness to meet with them is unreasonable.

After all, shouldn’t the Planning Commission have accurate information before them before they vote on a project this important to the future of St. Paul?

Wouldn’t any citizen representative on any city committee want accurate information before they vote?

Shouldn’t any elected official want the same?

In a form letter response from his office he calls the egregious mistakes that silence the voices of dissent simply a “technical error.”

One can be forgiven for being offended that their elected officials consider their opinions and voice of dissent nothing but a “technical error.”

Those whose voices are being silence by this “technical error” might consider the actions of the City, whether purposeful or otherwise, an act of suppression.

How else to interpret that Councilmember Tolbert refuses to meet with his constituents to hear their concerns about how their voices are not only not being heard – but not being counted?

I can’t imagine he supports suppressing the voices of the people in his community.  Even if he disagrees with them.

However, it’s a reasonable conclusion give his unreasonable decision to ignore that dissent.

Democracy isn’t supposed to work this way.

It’s not supposed to be a choice by elected officials to listen to only those people who agree with them and ignore the voices of those that don’t.

Public projects, using public dollars, that affect the public in ways in which the9 public rises in dissent require more than a form letter from an elected official.

They demand more than a form letter in which citizens are told that their opinion may or may not be counted because of a “technical error.”

The issue is simple.  It is straight forward.

If the City has failed on three occasions to accurately account for and represent the opposition from residents impacted by its zoning plan for the Ford Plant site there should be a pause on any vote on this matter.

The City which wants this project – and the community which does not – should have equal standing in wanting to make sure that the results presented to the public are accurate and credible.

What reasonable person could oppose such a reasonable request?

Perhaps the person that believes that public dissent can be ignored by calling it a “technical error.”

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