Wednesday, February 04, 2015
Full speed ahead- Has anyone learned anything from the Wallace-Bajjali fiasco?
The first, Wildwood Acres developer Jimmer Pinjuv, asked for the roads to be widened and for sewer service to 700 acres he owns so that the area can be used to attract industry.
Industry seemed to have been all but forgotten during the initial $894 million worth of projects David Wallace sold to the City Council following Citizens Advisory Recovery Team (CART) meetings. The emphasis was on retail and service businesses and the bizarre (a theater over a library).
The second speaker, Joplin resident Dan McCreary, added a different thought to the public discourse. "I lost my home on May 22, 2011, like so many others, but not once did I hear anyone say we need a restaurant or a strip mall or a movie theater above a library."
Can anyone think of anyone who was saying those things were needed in the days, weeks, and even months after the tornado?
The well-intentioned folks from the CART held multiple meetings, made a big show of pinning all of the ideas on the wall so people could see just how much public input they had received, then proceeded to provide a laundry list of ideas they had been working on since long before the tornado (with some additional flourishes from the master developer).
Public input is not easy to come by in any situation. While businessmen, bankers, CEOs, and highly-paid administrators for public and quasi-public organizations have the time and the incentive to involve themselves heavily in "dream sessions," such as the ones held by CART and by the Joplin R-8 School District, most people who do not work in such comfortable circumstances have a hard enough time just dealing with the difficulties of day-to-day life,
That makes it more difficult to learn what it is the public really wants. It takes people actually taking the time to seek out those people and that is not done by checking the pulse of those who are attending the latest Chamber of Commerce meeting.
With all of the controversy that has surrounded the implosion of Wallace-Bajjali, there seems to be a rush to get projects underway. And while some of these projects will no doubt benefit the community, no one seems to be willing to reflect on what has happened and it could lead the city and the school district into even more problems.
McCreary requested that the city wait until the state audit results are in before moving forward. No one seemed to be paying any attention.
Wallace-Bajjali is gone, but the people who are responsible for hiring the master developer are almost all still in place, both on the City Council and in the non-elected private organizations, including CART, that have been setting the agenda for the community in this multi-million dollar recovery effort.
The city's newspaper of record, the Joplin Globe, also seems to be taking little, if any, time for reflection.
In its coverage of Monday night's council meeting, the Globe relegated Jimmer Pinjuv's request to an inside page of the newspaper.
As for Dan McCreary's suggestion that the city wait for the audit results and his comments that he had not heard one person saying Joplin needed strip malls or restaurants that would cannibalize existing businesses, the Globe also had a place for it.
Unfortunately for readers wanting to be informed, it was not in the pages of the newspaper.
Any suggestion that the city's power brokers may have acted in haste and may have made dangerously unsound decisions is not going to wind up in the pages of the Joplin Globe.