Questioning the 'Wisdom of Crowds' in Minneapolis

In a familiar refrain for anyone who's lamented the veto power of NIMBYs or the added cost of citizen engagement events, one writer expresses concerned about a recent succession of developments shot down by community groups in the Twin Cities.

Marlys Harris is concerned about a number of proposed projects that have come under fire, and were subsequently killed or indefinitely delayed, by neighborhood groups in the Minneapolis area. The "mother of all" projects to recently suffer the ire of neighborhood groups, according to Harris, is the Southwest LRT. Says Harris: "The objections of local groups both in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park to various aspects of the route have forced the Met Council into proposing a fix that would raise the cost of the line by about $140 million to $150 million. Even so, they are unappeased, and a major piece of the region’s future transportation network is now teetering on the edge of a cliff."    

Harris then goes on to provide a primer on "advocacy planning" as espoused by Paul Davidoff, who founded the urban affairs program at Hunter College in New York City (and which Harris attended) by discussing the defeat of the South Richmond Plan, which called for the massive redevelopment of Staten Island, at the hands of neighborhood advocates.

The lesson Harris learned at the time, and is sharing with Minneapolis at this moment: "So much for the wisdom of local interests. For a brief moment, they had an opportunity to shape a plan that could have provided continuing vitality to their neighborhoods, the city and the entire region. But they let it drop, and they're now paying a steep price."

Full Story: Citizen participation: blessing turned curse?

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