The legend of Sisyphus tells the story of the karmic punishment delivered to a former king who was deceitful in his living years. The gods of ancient Greek literature decided to punish King Sisyphus by making him push a boulder up a hill in the afterlife. Once Sisyphus was near the top of the hill, the boulder would fall back to the bottom, causing the deceitful king to go back to the beginning and start the task all over again. This myth from the Ancient Greeks has given us the modern term sisyphean, a word that means any task that is futile.
At the last Loveland City Council meeting (5.9.2018, see video here), City Manager David Kennedy, along with Councilman Ted Phelps, presented a plan for a redesign of Loveland Madeira Road. This redesign would add a bike/pedestrian path along one side of the road. Not all of Loveland Madeira Road would be redesigned, the initial plan looks at a portion near Kroger to West Loveland Avenue. Read the report here.
This idea to create a bike / pedestrian path along Loveland Madeira Road dates at least back to 1993. For twenty-five years the City of Loveland has been looking at options to ease up parking near the Little Miami Scenic Trail, and to decrease the amount of traffic brought in to downtown because of the trail. City Manager Kennedy and Councilman Phelps just happened to be the latest Loveland officials to propose a new plan.
So how did their ideas go over with the assembled crowd at City Hall?
A public hearing, only the second one called by the current council, was part of the Kennedy and Phelps presentation. Six members of the community spoke. Most of the speakers were against the project, or they were wishy washy and gave no indication of how they felt so it is assumed they were against what the city presented. Many of the speakers stood up because of an article they read in Loveland Magazine that spoke directly about the lack of transparency related to the bike/pedestrian trail expansion project. The Mayor Kathy Bailey administration had just received their first taste of community discord.
How did the new council majority handle this negative community engagement?
Councilman Phelps and Mayor Bailey seemed defensive about the idea that the city government were acting in a non-transparent fashion, yet we have seen them suspend council rules to appease the Farmers Market. Councilman Phelps said that no legislation was being offered, yet just a few minutes later City Manager Kennedy declared that he would be asking for legislation at the next scheduled city council meeting. Many members of council stressed the importance of a project like this, yet there was no defined reason to why the city needed to pursue it. The public that spoke seemed to have a more cohesive argument than the people elected to lead. No one won the argument.
How does the deceitful king Sisyphus relate to the drama going on down at city hall?
City manager Kennedy has been tasked by council, and has delivered, a viable plan for expanding the options for bikers and pedestrians interested in gaining access to the Little Miami Scenic Trail. Kennedy has also presented a well thought out plan on how to redevelop parts of a Loveland Madeira Road, a part of Loveland that needs a some serious redevelopment. He, along with Councilman Phelps, tried to thread the needle of serving the city, and making the general voting public happy with their plan. Unfortunately the confusion of the presentation at the beginning of the public hearing, the contradictions stemming from the council and their recent words/actions, and the dismissal of the public's anger, caused any momentum created by the city manager to come crashing down. Years of planning and work looked to be undone by 30 minutes of the public saying they are being left in the dark. The boulder of transparency had no strength, it fell to the bottom of the hill and needed to be pushed back up.
City Manager Kennedy has been behind this boulder for most of his tenure in Loveland. During the administrations of Mayors Linda Cox and Mark Fitzgerald, development seemed to be moving forward. A very engaged group of the electorate was not pleased with this and worked to vote in a majority of council that was different than those under Cox and Fitzgerald. In the first few months of the Mayor Bailey administration, Kennedy has seen every major development project he has worked on be tabled, or kicked back to committee, by the new majority. Years of work disappear in a, usually, 6-1 vote in council. No matter how far the City Manager gets a redevelopment project up the hill, the whims of council will knock that progress right back to the bottom. Reasonable regulations on the Farmers Market, back down the hill. A new tax base increasing housing development, back to the bottom of the hill. A much needed redevelopment of Loveland Madeira Road, one that will spur positive development and could alleviate parking and traffic concerns in downtown Loveland, sorry but we are pushing all of forward progress down to the bottom of the hill. City Manager Dave Kennedy does not come off as a deceitful king, but he sure seems to be pushing the boulder of positive economic development in Loveland up a hill, just to have the city council push it back down to the bottom and make him start over. That sure sounds sisyphean.
Near the end of the public hearing Councilman Tim Butler made a remark about how Loveland Madiera has probably looked the same, sad underdeveloped way, for many generations. He said the time to to talk is over, we need to act. Councilman Butler was trying to help and get the boulder further up the hill with his remarks.
What more will it take to push the boulder over the top?
Council needs to be bold, it needs to be actually transparent, it needs to acknowledge it's hubris, and it needs to engage all the public. The boulder of redevelopment is almost at the top, and Loveland's Sisyphus can see the summit, the only thing missing is vision. Who will make the politically courageous choice to be that vision and get behind the boulder to push it over the edge?
I can not wait to find out.
RD Kulik is a resident of the City of Loveland and the editor at The Loveland Tattler. What do you think Loveland needs to get the boulder to the top?
Contact us on twitter @TattlerLoveland or email him firstname.lastname@example.org.