After I wrote about a June 25 meeting of the anti-bus rapid transit group the Ashland-Western Coalition, Roger Romanelli, executive director of the Randolph/Fulton Market Association, emailed me with some objections. “You incorrectly name me as the leader of the Ashland-Western Coalition, and I seek a retraction,” he wrote. “Our group is a volunteer coalition, and everyone has a leadership role.” He also asked me to refrain from running his name in the future.
Romanelli led the coalition’s first public meeting on January 24, as well as the June meeting, and was the only member quoted in a June 7 Gazette article that broke the story of the group’s watered-down “Modern Express Bus” alternative proposal. Therefore, I responded that no retraction seemed necessary. Since then he has been the main spokesman for the NIMBYs in articles that ran in Lake View Patch on August 9, DNA Chicago on August 12, and Bucktown-Wicker Park Patch on August 15.
I also emailed Romanelli that Streetsblog Chicago would continue to run his name in future articles when appropriate, but invited him to provide a more accurate title or description of his role with the coalition. He didn’t respond.
In early July the NIMBY group launched a website, AshlandWesternCoalition.com, also accessible via the alarmist url SaveAshland.com. The site includes a four-page “Executive Summary” of the MEB proposal and an eight-page “Official Statement,” as well as an anti-BRT petition and flyer. One thing that’s missing is any mention of who’s behind the coalition. Nowhere does it list the names of the several businesses and community organizations involved, and there’s no contact info, save for an anonymous email address.
On August 2 I tried to report on another coalition meeting, which was listed in the newsletter for the West Town Chamber of Commerce. When I showed up, Romanelli, unhappy with my writeup of the June meeting, barred me from attending but agreed to do an interview afterwards. When I asked why his group has an anonymous website, he responded, “There’s nothing anonymous. We’ve made a lot of public meetings and presentations.”
After I wrote about that experience, someone from the WTCC – wait for it – anonymously commented on the post to ask for a correction, claiming I had inaccurately described the chamber as a member of the NIMBY group. “The West Town Chamber of Commerce does not have an official stance on the BRT and simply attended coalition meetings and shared their group’s stance and website in newsletter,” the person wrote. “WTCC is not a member of coalition – the board is gathering information, forming an Ashland Ave committee and garnering more input prior to voting on a stance.”
I replied that the chamber was listed as a member of the coalition in the invite to the January meeting. Unless something had changed since then, I wrote, it didn’t seem like a correction was necessary. There was no response from the nameless commenter.
So we’ve got Romanelli’s refusal to admit he’s the leader of the coalition, his request that Streetsblog not run his name in articles about BRT, the anonymous website, and the nameless WTCC staffer denying that the chamber is a member of the group. Why should anyone take the NIMBYs seriously if they’re not even willing to operate in daylight?
Nonetheless, the local media has been giving the anti-BRT crowd plenty of airtime. It’s crucial for the thousands of Chicagoans who already understand that the CTA’s plan will create a safer, more efficient and more vibrant Ashland Avenue to make their voices heard. Contact your alderman and sign Active Trans’ petition to express your support.