Fresh back from a lovely if wet weekend in western Massachusetts with lots of dogs (mostly though not all malamutes) and dog people, tonight I did my civic duty and went to a land use planning committee (LUPC) meeting.
Plus je vois des hommes, plus j’aime mon chien. That means “the more I see of men, the more I love my dog.” Hommes in this case includes both hommes et femmes.
The LUPC isn’t a real committee. It consists of whatever members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) decide to show up to discuss an issue that the MVC is considering — in this case, the roundabout. After duly discussing the issue, the LUPC can recommend approval, disapproval, or approval with conditions. The MVC is not obliged to follow the LUPC’s recommendation. Commissioner Sederholm noted this as if to suggest that the MVCommissioners are capable of independent thinking. Having seen what I have seen over the last couple of months, I remain skeptical on this point.
How to describe the LUPC meeting? The mind boggles. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? The honorable commissioners obsessed about the details of the roundabout plan: How will the roundabout affect congestion at either end of the Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road? How often does summer traffic back up as far as NSTAR (the electric company)? They made a big deal about the supposed confusion that drivers are said to confront at the current four-way stop while ignoring their own statistics, which say that there are 4.25 “crashes” (that’s expert-speak for “accidents”) and 1 “injury crash” (you can figure it out) per year at the four-way stop. If the confusion were that serious, wouldn’t the number of crashes be worse?
One of my most favorite stories is “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” You know the story, right? Some fast-talking scammers sell the emperor a new wardrobe to parade down the street in, but the new wardrobe is strictly virtual: no one can see it. But the emperor is parading down the street thinking he’s decked out in these fancy duds, and who’s going to tell him anything different? He’s the emperor, after all. He knows what’s what and the rest of us are just peons. He’s walking down the street buck nekkid and most of the crowd is totally convinced they’re seeing velvets and laces and brocades. Until an uppity kid calls out: “But he isn’t wearing any clothes!”
I bet that every one of us who knows the story identifies with that kid, the one who cries out, “But he isn’t wearing any clothes!” We’re convinced that in that situation we would be that kid. I bet most of the commissioners are convinced that they’d be that kid.
They’re wrong. Every last one of them is wrong. This roundabout is parading down the street with no clothes on. It has no reason to exist, but none of the commissioners can say that out loud. They can’t say “This project isn’t necessary.” They can’t say “The ‘applicant,’ aka the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, never had popular support for this project.” They can’t say “All this project has going for it is momentum.”
So the LUPC meeting, which began at 5:30, hit 7 o’clock, and the commissioners had to decide whether to continue the meeting to the next night or to skip straight to Thursday’s MVC meeting. Without making a recommendation. Without obligating any commissioner to go on the record as yea, nay, or yea with conditions.
Just as I was thinking that my contempt for these people couldn’t get any worse, the hearing officer said that this was one of the best discussions this body had ever had. The mind, like I said, boggles. This evade-the-issues, miss-the-point discussion was one of the best this body had ever had? That’s beyond pathetic.
Weasels, all of you. Weasels.