Read Emerge 2040. Go ahead. I dare you. You’ll encounter lots of that nonsensical gibberish found throughout government documents, meant to impress, not inform. For example:
It is important to note that the priority is the order of tasks when the implementation begins within the priority framework established for the recommendations.
Or how about this:
The County and municipalities should bolster and expand on the efforts of a coalition of cross-sector partners, including municipal, county and neighborhood groups as well as advocacy organizations, to provide technical assistance and expertise as part of a meaningful community engagement process for the purpose of identifying priority issues at the neighborhood level and developing strategies to address them.
What? The plan is filled with page after page of this eye glazing nonsense. No one has to write this way, this isn’t quantum physics, but if you want to sound profound while saying little, it’s required. It’s also necessary if you really don’t want people to read it, to look too closely, to ask too many questions, relying on this barrage of confusion to keep people at bay. If someone tries to take a stab at it, after a few pages he remembers something else he has to do and that’s the end of his investigation. From the planners’ perspective, mission accomplished.
What do you find if you dig in anyway?
If you are one of the intrepid souls who has gone deep into the plan, I feel your pain, but, though painful, it’s rewarding because you’ll begin to notice a plan meant to correct problems, in some cases, Erie County doesn’t even have. For instance, common to all of the ‘2040’ plans mentioned in the last article, is traffic congestion. Think about that. In all of Erie County, the most congested spot is probably upper Peach Street in Erie and during the Christmas shopping season the most congested time of all, except it wasn’t. This past year there was very little congestion and during normal commuting time, practically none, traffic flows just fine. Where else in the county is traffic congested?
This is not a trivial point, because parts of Emerge 2040 are aimed at taking action to correct this problem. In the section titled Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure is this introductory paragraph explaining the challenges requiring government action:
Longer distances between residences and jobs lead to increased commuting and traffic congestion. Lower density development cannot support transit service extensions and so most people drive to work. A coordinated approach can address congestion and infrastructure maintenance, strengthen urban centers and core communities and keep tax burdens low.
It’s almost as though the Washington bureaucrats from HUD and the DOT, based on their experience every day, think congestion is a problem everywhere so it can be used as justification for making changes they think appropriate. That might go by unnoticed in regional plans for San Francisco or Atlanta, but Erie? Really?
You’ll also notice a few hints at what they want to do when they use language like “lower density development cannot support transit service extensions” or “strengthen urban centers.” Translated, that means, congestion is caused by commuting from the suburbs so pack everyone into the city. See what happens when you use plain language? It doesn’t sound quite as friendly.
I don’t think regional vision means what you think it means
The “regional vision” of Emerge 2040 evokes lots of warm and fuzzy feelings, except, when run through a plain speaking translator, it becomes more like “plan for the collective.” That’s starting to sound a bit more ominous, and oddly enough, the word “collective” which I seldom run across anymore since the fall of the Soviet Union, is used several times within Emerge 2040.
I don’t think the younger people working on this plan have any idea what it sounds like when they write:
A clear sense of purpose and alignment toward this collective vision is needed to achieve success.
Maybe that’s a little too clear.