Around Thanksgiving, I spent some time trying to understand what the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) was, what it would do, and where it was in the process. While poking around, I discovered the public feedback form and table of the feedback so far. At the time, there were around three comments from Rhode Island, all supportive.
Now that tide has turned in a big way, with dozens of comments from Rhode Islanders, almost all opposed. Here’s John Cullen from Lincoln:
Stop burdening tax paying citizen with more taxes that do little or nothing to better the lives of ordinary taxpaying citizens.
Do not create more taxes for others to parasite off those who drive gas powered vehicles.
Start your low carbon initiative with China and India before you attack myself and other Rhode Island Taxpayers.
The big contrast in RI results over the past month and a half points to an important lesson I’ve been learning over the years. It’s understandable just to shake one’s head and not get involved, coming to the reasonable conclusion that your one voice won’t make a difference because things have either been decided by insiders or the public opinion will overwhelm the decision with or without you.
Even if one of those two possibilities is true, however, it’s important for the people in power to know that there is opposition. Where no opposition is expressed, decisions can be presented simply as the public desire.
This is especially notable when it comes to things like municipalities’ comprehensive plans. Such documents are often developed by a handful of people on an unelected committee, working with professional consultants (who are often thinly disguised advocates), with “public input” from a very limited number of people who were willing to spend a boring night or two at a public meeting without being on the committee.
Yet, when the report is released and the plan adopted, the government moves forward under the pretense that it is the people’s vision for their community. That’s often true only inasmuch nobody cared enough to keep track of it and make time to object, which is a very weak form of support, indeed.
Conversely, when a public forum like the TCI feedback table shows overwhelming opposition to the project, it at the very least removes the value of a propaganda tool and might even become the basis for elected officials to listen to their constituents.