query: shopping and public transport

colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Wed Jul 3 21:15:03 CDT 2002

[ed:  thanks to Larry for responding to Sharon's query.]

From: Larry Yates <lyates at chej.org>

These folks in Asheville are asking a question we frequently get 
from groups around the nation. While every community is different, 
this answer reflects the basic principles that we have seen succeed 
for hundreds of communities:  

You can't "prove" that this loop, or the whole development, is a bad 
idea. The developers can hire all the appropriate professionals they 
need to say that the project is the greatest thing since sliced bread, 
and thus draw you into a battle of "dueling experts" that will never 
be resolved on anything from traffic counts to toxic runoff.  

What you can do, though, is assemble a few basic common sense 
arguments against this loop idea and mobilize your community 
behind them. Of course, you need information, possibly including 
information from Comm-Org folks about how such a project went 
wrong in their community. But you will be making reasonable 
arguments, not scientifically provable assertions. Test these 
arguments out on some average folks in your community, and then 
put them onto a non-wordy flyer, and hit the streets with your 
message. (Don't limit yourself to arguments that the local 
government is legally allowed to consider; use the arguments that 
mean the most to people in your community.)  

Some arguments that might work in this case: - promises of public 
transit and sufficient parking will be broken once the project is built - 
the taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize commercial development 
- flooding and contamination will increase on the River - transit loop 
will not decrease impact of delivery trucks - Wal-Mart is inconsistent 
with the character of your town  

The decisions about this loop, and about this whole development, 
are political decisions. On the one side, there is a small group of 
people who stand to make a lot of money, and who are connected 
in various ways to the local power structure of politicians, banks, the 
media, etc. On the other side are the people you can motivate by 
face to face organizing to take action against the project, using yard 
signs, letters to the editor, house meetings, art auctions, contacts 
with the politicians who will make the decision, press events, web 
sites, rallies, chicken suits, and showing up at the hearing in 
matching T-shirts -- the whole range of democratic grassroots 

The issue will not be decided on evidence. If government was 
naturally even-handed and fair in making these decisions, we 
wouldn't have had Love Canal, and we probably would have very 
few Wal-Marts. The decision will be based on which side the 
political decision-makers feel the most pressure from.   

Larry Yates

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