Criminal complaint alleges no crimes

As detailed in a previous post, the anti–Mass. Ave group last week filed a criminal complaint againt the Town that alleges no crimes, unless disagreeing with the opponent’s opinions is a crime.

With this stunt, rephrasing their old arguments as a criminal complaint, the opponents have fallen irrevocably into self parody. Fittingly, the Arlington Advocate broke the story on April 1.

I usually follow the convention on this blog of showing my personal opinions in red. I do so below, but really every other word should probably be red. If you only want my cub-reporter voice, stick to the news post; however, I am not making any of this up. Heck, I couldn’t.

You can read the complaint for yourself courtesy of the Arlington Advocate. But here are the highlights.

Pages 1 and 2 of the document are a press release from Eric Berger. Read it if you are unclear about what Eric Berger thinks about the Mass. Ave. project.

Page 1 of the complaint (the third page of the document) includes the only new allegation from the group, that “the Town has suppressed widespread public criticism of the plan.”

There’s a lot of crazy for one little sentence, but consider that if the criticism is widespread it has not been suppressed, and vice versa.

Page 2 blames everything on the bicycles and says Mass. Ave is plenty safe already. This continues to page 4, where we hear again about how the Town has “suppressed” opposition to the plan. There are three turgid, self-pitying pages of this.

What form does this suppression take? It seems that the Town has said, in various places, that there is “widespread support” for the project, that “as people become more informed about the project, they become more supportive,” and that the CCC is a “small group.”

Sounds about right to me, though at this point there are other adjectives, in addition to “small,” that might reasonably be applied.

On page 7 the claim returns that the bike lanes will kill cyclists because the 10-foot parking lanes are too narrow.

Opponents abandoned this argument earlier this year in an about-face, calling (on this blog!) for parking lanes of only 8 feet. It seems all the demands the opponents had made for wider and extra lanes added up to more than the width of the street.

Page 8 complains that people shouldn’t be allowed to cross bike lanes in their cars, which would be news to everyone entering or leaving a street with bike lanes. There also opponents say the Town has “offered no evidence” that the plan will work, temporarily ignoring the 800-page functional design report filed by the Town but then citing it (selectively) in ways they seem to feel support their arguments.

On page 9 the complaint notes that Berger asked the Town last year to study a 4-lane configuration. The Town actually did this in the FDR and found it wanting (on pages 31–35). The complaint alleges that the Town did not perform this analysis. Selective FDR amnesia back on.

Also on page 9 we get another summary of Eric Berger’s goofy legal theory about how the Town does not have the power to “narrow” a “highway,” (though there’s no narrowing).

Town Counsel has already said this is frivolous, and the opponents have not filed suit, but what the heck, throw every stupid thing at the wall and see what sticks.

It’s not clear if this is in retaliation, somehow, for the difficulties the East Arlington Concerned Citizens Committee had getting a permit for their short-lived protest march. However, they bungled that themselves, and Michael Rossi, the lawer who wrote the complaint on behalf of the group, was among the bunglers.

It’s also not clear if opponents honestly believe there is any criminal case in this complaint, or if it’s just a stunt to grab headlines the week before the hearing.

That’s all I’ve got tonight.

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3 comments so far

  1. Mark Kaepplein on

    The most interesting part of Dr. Berger’s suit concerns the way projects get funded. *Everybody* lies when claiming how bad things are now and how great they will be following a project. Then, after a multi-million dollar project, no evaluation of outcome is done and compared with the promises. Even lowly customer service workers get metrics collected on their call processing rate, revenues, and customer satisfaction. Not multi-million dollar taxpayer funded projects, however!

    Berger is really blowing the whistle on all road projects. $15 billion or so on the big dig, and it leaks like a sieve such that lights corrode, ceiling panels fall, and roads in and out are just as congested. All that land recovered from the elevated structure has gotten used how and for how much cost offset?

    Arlington’s need for safety improvements is no more or worse a lie than other projects. I’d like to see the road paved, signals modernized, and wheelchair access improved, so I hope we don’t get to be an example of a new honesty in projects – the only example.

    My reading of the FDR shows it confirming Dr. Berger’s claim that the road is diminished: “Consequently, the revised design for Massachusetts Avenue does not increase existing roadway width along these sections of the corridor and, instead, widens existing sidewalks in a number of critical locations, specifically the Lake Street/Capitol Square area between Orvis Road and Milton Street and at crosswalk locations.” (top of p. 33) It neglects the road narrowing/ sidewalk widening in front of Walgreen’s also.

    The FDR DOES NOT find 4 lanes wanting. It merely says 4 lanes is more than necessary. It could meet demand longer than 20 years. While the design firm had a look at 4-lanes, they don’t seem to work out a project plan for both 4 lanes and fewer lanes. Too little revenue for them not changing much!

    While selectman candidates and the Vision2020 survey seem to support a menu of budget choices for residents, no such choice is presented for Mass Ave.

    • Adam Auster on

      The FDR finds that the 4-lane design is unsafe and notes it would not meet state guidelines. Among other things

      the four lane, shared use cross section does not allow enough space between the door zone of parked vehicle and a bus traveling in the right side travel lane. (FDR 33)

      This is the analysis you folks requested.

      I write a bit more about this part of the FDR in this post. But the FDR is perfectly readable, and available online.

      • dr2chase on

        Wowsers. Great comment thread on that post there.


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