Waguespack Sends a Fear Mongering Email About BRT to Constituents

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32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack

As I’ve written many times on this website, 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack has done some good things for the city, and he’s a likeable person. So it’s painful to see him take an increasingly reactionary stance against the CTA’s plan to create a more efficient and equitable Ashland Avenue by building a bus rapid transit system.

I worried I’d gone a tad too far when I recently argued Waguespack should have his progressive card revoked for comparing the project, which will create fast, reliable transit for tens of thousands of Chicagoans, to the disastrous parking meter privatization deal. However, an extremely slanted email the alderman sent to constituents today, implying that they should contact the CTA to speak out against the plan, confirmed that he has officially jumped the shark when it comes to transportation issues. Read the entire text of the message here.

“Ashland will be permanently reduced to one lane north and south bound,” the bulletin reads. “While several meetings have been held by the CTA, concerns by many businesses and residents in our area included the lack of official notification given to businesses or property owners along Ashland, financial costs, and the impacts to communities adjacent to Ashland.”

The message has an alarmist undertone to it. “If you have concerns about the closure, please be aware that TODAY December 20, 2013 – is the LAST DAY of public comments on the assessment undertaken by the CTA before final engineering of the street happens,” it states.

For media reports on the BRT issue, the bulletin only directs constituents to articles from Our Urban Times, which has featured consistently negative coverage, and the Expired Meter, a driver advocacy blog. The ward email includes an excerpt from the latter blog, a reference to my post about Waguespack’s wrongheaded parking meter deal comments. “Greenfield spanks the alderman for having the audacity to even question the Ashland BRT, for giving the issue thoughtful and rational consideration and for daring to listen to the fears of his constituents,” wrote pseudonymous blogger Mike Brockaway.

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Waguespack’s email (forwarded by Bike Walk Lincoln Park’s Michelle Stenzel) mentions the travel lane reduction three times within a few lines.

Despite being a pro-car blog, the Expired Meter is often a useful news source, but Brockaway is off-base here. I’d be the first to acknowledge that healthy skepticism of the mayor’s office has been Waguespack’s strong suit in the past. But while Waguespack’s analysis of the parking meter contract helped people better understand what was at stake, with BRT he’s obscuring the issue and putting out misleading info, downplaying the benefits and exaggerating the risks. This latest fear mongering email is the icing on the cake.

Aldermen should listen to concerns from constituents that the BRT project will create traffic problems, but Waguespack is not being “thoughtful and rational” in his response. He’s feeding people’s fears, when we know from experience that reconfiguring city streets to prioritize transit won’t unleash traffic chaos.

It’s baffling why Waguespack, who has been a voice of reason on many other issues facing Chicago, is taking such a negative position on a project that has the potential to have a hugely positive impact on his ward and the city. Frankly, it’s a sad thing to witness.