COWncil Roundup – April 10th, 2012

May 10, 2012

At the recent Town COWncil meeting, the COWncil began to study an issue that is likely to have a major impact on how Woodside is governed – and that has already generated a lot of controversy. The Town took up the cow-ntentious issue of whether, and if so, how to reform Town Advisory COWmittee charters. A number of members of some of those COWmittees showed up to loudly voice their opinions on the matter! Unfortunately, despite the important topic up for debate that night, COWncil members Mason and Burow were not present for the meeting.

Before the COWncil started into that discussion, they took care of some other business. They approved funds for road and safety improvements and responded to a County Grand Jury report on CAL FIRE and the County. Also, Acterra, a local nonprofit, sent a representative to the meeting to inform COWs of their High Energy Programs project, which we alerted you here.

In a moment that foreshadowed the content of the rest of the meeting, Bob Page of the Bicycle Committee reported that despite the no-parking restrictions on Woodside Road, the other night (due to what turned out to be the 2nd grade Choral Concert) cars were illegally parked up and down the road without any special permission being granted. He stated that it shows that there are still issues over enforcement.

Town Manager Kevin Bryant launched into the study session and review of the Advisory COWmittee charters, an effort that was supposed to discuss all of Woodside’s current COWmittees but ended up only covering a handful. Spurred by the recent Town General Plan revision, the COWncil wanted the Town’s advisory COWmittees to be working on goals and strategies outlined in that document. In some cases, goals are already being addressed by advisory COWmittees, or fall clearly under a COWmittee’s charter. However, some goals will require the creation of new COWmittees or the adaptation of current COWmittees. Both possibilities caused some alarm at the meeting!

Instead of a wider-ranging overview of how this might affect the COWmittee system as a whole, the evening became a passionate discussion of the circulation problems in Town, and what can be done about them; a battle between the way we’ve always done things and the possibility of change. The debate centered mainly on the existing Bicycle and Trails COWmittees (and touching on the Livestock COWmittee), with the possibility of dividing up the responsibilities of these groups differently to address the pressing and dangerous circulation issues in our Town. The idea of adapting some of the functions of Trails and Livestock into an Equestrian COWmittee, and some of the functions of Trails and Bicycle into a Circulation COWmittee, was discussed at some length and provoked criticism from current members of the Trails COWmittee and the Livestock COWmittee, who seemed to feel that their COWmittees were working just fine and had a collected wisdom that would be impossible to duplicate.

The many speakers at the meeting clearly stated that Circulation issues in our Town need to be looked at and in a creative, empowered way. It was also generally agreed that pedestrians often get short shift in these discussions, that the Town Center has major circulation issues, and that the majority of Town schoolchildren do not have a safe path to school. The idea of one COWmittee that would look at how we get around in Woodside received support from many speakers at the meeting, and dozens more signed onto a letter circulated by Millo Fenzi, of the Bicycle COWmittee, urging the creation of a Circulation COWmittee. Such a COWmittee would be “comprised of all users” (meaning pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians, and drivers) who could work collaboratively with the Trails COWmittee and other Town bodies to educate and work on the circulation problems in Town.

There was a lot of heat – and eventually a little light – at this meeting, and we strongly encourage everyone to view it on MooTube. There were more raised voices both from the COWncil and from COWs and more passion on this issue than any other recent item before the COWncil. The meeting ended with an agreement to draft a proposed charter for a Circulation COWmittee, and it seems unlikely at the moment that the powerful Trails COWmittee will be disbanded or altered in any major way. As for the rest of the beleaguered Town COWmittees that didn’t get talked about? There’ll be another meeting soon to argue about them, as well.

We applaud all of the COWs who volunteer to work on issues they care about. We believe that COWmittees, where a quorum is maintained and attends the meetings is probably worth keeping although the charters may be somewhat modified. We remind the COWncil that they can form ad hoc COWmittees to work on particular issues without making the COWmittee permanent. That will give an opportunity to have representatives from various COWmittees work together as well as involve others in our COWmunity with a particular interest or perspective.

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