On Tuesday, July 7th, the Topeka City Council voted 5-3 to approve $15,000 to provide the city’s part of a $75,000 expenditure to hire a consultant to create a citywide biking master plan. The mayor then vetoed the expenditure calling the expenditure “unnecessary.” To override the veto requires 6 votes and seems unlikely as the only council member absent, John Alcala, indicated he was against the measure, saying the expenditure was not budgeted and that it would be irresponsible to approve the expense.
Let’s look at some of the facts: Topeka’s Heartland Visioning plan calls for the development of bike paths and trails in Topeka — so, support of Topekans is well-established. The major says he supports the Visioning process, but argues that the city personnel can do the study. Ok, Mr. Mayor, please tell us who on the staff is going to do it! Who has the extra time to take on one more task? Name the person who has the expertise, and can do a comprehensive study in 3 to 4 months (that’s how much staff time you can buy for $15,000)? We will stand by to hear the name and when they plan to complete the study. I believe this is a political cop-out. You’re saying, “I support the idea, but not enough to really make sure it gets done.”
2) Topeka need a comprehensive plan. Too often this community takes a piecemeal approach. A little here and a little there. Suddenly we look around and we wonder how we got where we are.
3) The actual creation of bike lanes and comprehensive commuter biking network can be funded in many instances quite inexpensively, sometimes by restriping streets. The 1/2 cent sales tax cannot be used to build bike trails. Ordinance 19257 states the sales tax is ” for the purpose of paying the costs of certain improvements within the city exclusively for costs of maintenance and improvements of existing city streets, gutters, curbs, sidewalks, alleys and street lighting…” So do not worry about spending the sales tax money on this cause. We still need to find the funds, but not from this source.
4) The matching funds will not be there next time. The mayor is giving up $60,000 of federal funds. And don’t think that we are doing the taxpayers a favor! This money is going to be spent. Maybe Wichita, Manhattan, Lawrence, or some city in Colorado will benefit from our short-sightedness. Next time we will have to come up with the whole $75,000. We can probably float some bonds.
What to do? There are 30 days to override this veto. We need to let our council members know that we disagree with the veto and that we want the study to be funded. Those that are currently not in favor, Jack Woelfel, Bob Archer, Richard Harmon, and Art Alcala need to hear from you. If you know them, or are in there district please talk to them and let them know how you feel.