The meeting’s format called for residents to write their questions on cards to be turned over to moderator Jimmy Robertson of Jacobs Engineering, the project’s consulting firm. Citizens were not allowed to ask follow-up questions or engage in dialogue with the consultants.
In fact, some attendees thought their written questions might have been ignored.
In addition, unforeseen circumstances forced two consultants scheduled to attend the meeting at Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library to participate by teleconference from Colorado. On several occasions, residents complained they could not understand the answers given by the out-of-state consultants.
Those problems rubbed a few people the wrong way.
Maureen Heffernan, executive director of the Myriad Gardens Foundation, stood up and chided Robertson about the lack of dialogue between the consultants and the audience.
“I felt very muzzled,” she said. “It was not the kind of forum that is invigorating or helps shape what plan is best. I realize there was no evil or nefarious intent, but the public wasn’t allowed to talk and engage with those making the presentation. It felt very controlling.”
Heffernan has attended other MAPS 3 meetings, including some Core to Shore hearings that allowed the public to interact with consultants and officials.
“I really enjoyed the give-and-take in those meetings,” she said. “I found it a far more invigorating process, and I was expecting something similar here.”
Mayor Mick Cornett said the format has been used for several years at other MAPS-related presentations, but this was the first time fault had been found with it.
City spokeswoman Kristy Yager said the format will be reviewed.
Heffernan wasn’t the only person to express disappointment. Ward 4 Councilman Pete White attended, while Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid watched it live on the Internet.
“I’m not trying to disparage the staff, but we need a better format,” White said. “I heard one lady asking, as she left early, if this was the city’s version of a dog and pony show.”
During the July 16 council meeting, Shadid recommended consultants with opposing views discuss streetcar issues while also addressing audience questions.
“It would give the public a sense of what is and is not controversial,” he said.
For people unable to attend such critical public discussions, Shadid suggested the city maximize its use of the Internet and social media to engage citizens.
At the same time, White said city officials have expended “some considerable effort” to inform citizens about the streetcar costs and routes.
“You have a handful of advocates, people who are in love with the streetcar idea, and you have a similar-sized group who are against it. I doubt everybody else knows much about it,” he said.
The next meeting of the transit/modern streetcar subcommittee is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today in the 10th-floor conference room at Main Place, 420 W. Main.
Hey! Read This:
- OKC residents are invited to voice opinions at a Monday public meeting on proposed routes for the MAPS 3 streetcar
- City officials educate the public on plans and next steps for the MAPS 3 streetcar
- A city councilman pushes back on the anticipated MAPS 3 streetcar amid concerns it will hurt the bus system