There is a pathology to much City of Boston public process, especially when it comes to introducing a new program such as parklets, the business seating areas designed to replace parking spaces. It involves viewing the public as an audience whose applause is desired rather than as the bosses whose permission is required.
With parklets, that means a handful of people got to comment on pretty drawings of a done deal. They didn’t get input on the actual location and didn’t get crucial basic information. Most of us got no input at all.
That already resulted in a waste of time and, therefore, money. The City spent a lot of time on a parklet site in central JP before realizing it was a bad spot and relocating it. A meaningful public process would have noted that immediately and suggested many better spots.
We still don’t know the budget of the parklet program, though the Gazette has been asking for months. We still think parklets sound like a good idea, but we’re not sure taxpayers rather than private business organizations should be paying for them. Knowing the price tag certainly would inform that decision.
But of course, the real message is that all the important decisions already have been made. This is just asking about asking a few people what they want to drink with the pre-cooked meal we’re all going to eat.
The City and its close partner, the local Main Streets organization, argue that small abutter meetings, held without notice to the media, were sufficient public process. Somehow, we suspect these same officials will want the entire city and all media to know about the parklet when it opens.
Because that’s public process in Boston: minimize the public scrutiny, maximize the credit-taking PR at the end.