Monday, April 6, 2015

Ridin' the Broadway Gravy Train

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2015 at 4:30 PM

click to enlarge Retired planner Gene Caywood (center, pointing)
  • Retired planner Gene Caywood (center, pointing)

I'll tell you, in my next life I want to come back as a consultant. Doesn't matter what kind‚—environmental, medical—hell, even toilet bowl technician will do. I just want a starboard seat on that gravy train of perpetual expertise. And hey, if my karma holds out, I might even reincarnate as a consultant on the Broadway Boulevard Project.

As you may recall, back in 2010 the City of Tucson convened a Citizens Task Force, ostensibly meant to represent various interests along the the proposed Broadway widening project, from Euclid Avenue to Country Club Road. Around that time, the city also brought onboard a gaggle of consultants, from Tucson's own Kaneen Advertising and Public Relations, and "facilitator" Nanci Beizer, to Philip Erickson of Oakland-based Community Design+Architecture.

So, just how much have taxpayers dished out, for all this per-hour prowess? Well, darned if these folks or their city handlers care to talk numbers. City staffer and project team co-leader Beth Abramovitz didn't return a call from the Weekly seeking sums. Neither did facilitator Nanci Beizer. When I ran into Kaneen project manager Joan Beckim at a Citizen's Task Force meeting, she simply couldn't say what the firm earned for chores such as erecting flip charts and fetching sandwiches and setting up meeting rooms. I did receive a return call from Kaneen Vice President Rick Kaneen, who referred me back to the city. Same for Community Design President Phil Erickson. When I reached him at his Oakland offices, Erickson told me in several different ways that such numbers—even ballpark figures—just weren't quite available.

Finally, with help from City Councilman Steve Kozachik—whose Ward 6 encompasses the Broadway project—I learned that, as of October 2014, this tribe of consultants, spinners and facilitators had collectively lassoed upwards of $2.5 million in taxpayer dollars.

Beneath all that hard cash, however, lurks a tart little irony. The entire Broadway project had nearly collapsed at a meeting in mid March, when the Citizen's Task Force was asked to enter a parallel universe, wherein existed a roadway plan that reflected almost none of task force's well-publicized priorities, such as historic preservation and dedicated transit lanes. Refusing to be bulldozed, many members revolted.

A week later—and some five years after this process began—city officials allowed a volunteer and retired transportation planner named Gene Caywood to present his own proposal before the task force. With a bit of creative pinching and squeezing, Caywood was able to place the road alignment without demolishing some 40 historic properties and businesses as suggested by all those wise consultants. The task force quickly adopted his route as a guidepost.

Caywood diagramed the whole thing in less than two weeks. His fee? Zero.

For details on Caywood's plan, go to http://www.tucsonaz.gov/broadway/citizens-task-force

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