Saturday, September 30, 2023

EDITORIAL: KMPO loses another round with public

| August 16, 2023 1:00 AM

Critics of the recently deceased traffic management center proposal claimed it would have hampered their freedom.

Now they’re perfectly free to drive in congested and sometimes dangerous traffic as much as they wish.

Celebrating a death blow to perceived governmental overreach is increasingly common. There’s a perception in some quarters that the government, at best, gets nothing right, and at worst, that sinister manipulators are at the controls, like little Ozes behind curtains with the means to control everybody on their radar.

You know, steal their freedom.

For the record, the belief here is that improved traffic flow and related safety are needed, and that need will only grow as more people move to Kootenai County. There are no plausible arguments that evil intentions drove the traffic center proposal, which among other things would have coordinated the current helter-skelter traffic flow made nuttier than necessary because so many different entities operate on diverse traffic systems.

But the minute anybody introduces "government-controlled" cameras in society, alarms go off among the healthily wary and the downright paranoid alike.

Last week, decision-makers shut down the proposal after vehement opposition from critics. At this point, it’s hard to see the project’s red light ever turning green in Kootenai County — at least, not so long as wide swaths of outspoken people rank fear of surveillance above improved traffic flow.

Some folks are probably wondering if the group behind the proposal, the Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization, is on the wrong track altogether. That's a fair question. KMPO’s record of late deserves scrutiny.

KMPO floated a vehicle registration fee proposal three years ago that was crushed at the polls by a 2-to-1 margin.

A year later, the Idaho Transportation Department took over project management of the Huetter Bypass plan from KMPO after affected residents went ballistic.

And now, a traffic coordinating system with a proven track record elsewhere blows up in KMPO’s face before the engine ever got started.

There are at least two problems here. In all three cases, communication with the public has been poor. That’s not to say most minds would have changed with better communication, but without it, disaster was virtually assured.

The other problem? Levels of trust with the public dangerously diminished. With KMPO, that problem might now be insurmountable.

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