Dr Joe Rallo has a strange idea of how to get off on the right foot in a new town. He is proposing to exercise eminent domain in order to close down Johnson St. through campus. Never mind negotiating with City Council, forget taking community comment or inconvenience into consideration. Dr. Rallo has decided that since he can, he will.
No one has bothered to justify this in terms of cost/benefit. If there has been a rash of student pedestrian injuries, no one has made that case. The inconvenience is undeniable. Johnson is described by the city as a level F feeder and handles over 10,000 vehicles a day. Parents of Crockett students, residents of the area, anyone wanting to get from Knickerbocker to Av N, all that traffic will either go to Bryant on the east, the construction constricted Sherwood, or jam up residential streets never designed for heavy traffic.
Turns out, city has looked into this possibility. Seems that if ASU exercizes eminent domain, as a state entity, ASU wins. Dr. Rallo may be feeling a bit bullet-proof, with good reason. He can't be voted out, no one in the city has any authority to dismiss Rallo. Winning hand all the way 'round, trump suit. Pardon me if I ask, does he really want to play it?
Dr. Rallo might want to check with Mayor Lown about the trash can episode from Lown's first term. Lown had supported a plan by Trashaway to go to an automated pickup system, would have saved gas, money, time, looked great on paper. Problem was, San Angelo residents were unexpectedly proud of their private trash cans. San Angeloans are some of the most welcoming people on the planet, ask the veterans who recently were feted to a parade and deer hunt. Still, those warm hearted folks keep a handy supply of the metaphorical pitchforks and torches if one crosses them. I was most recently on the wrong end of that when I supported an appointed Police Chief.
Dr. Rallo, ASU is a real jewel-in-the-crown asset for San Angelo, no one doubts that. When ASU desired the change to the Texas Tech system, the almost unanimous public support helped our State Rep. Drew Darby make it happen. I'm here to tell you, if you do this folks will still be cussing you ten years from now.
There are alternatives. You could add to freshman orientation a short course folk in my generation learned in kindergarten; Look Both Ways Before You Cross the Street. Seriously, some have suggested a pedestrian overpass, but I counsel against that. Look at the one on S Bryant. By the time one adds the ADA serpentine ramps on either end, it is a huge time-waster, all the healthy kids still cross the street and jump the low median fence. One I have seen is a pedestrian tunnel. It's as quick as crossing the street and by nature ADA friendly.
Hold off until Rosemont can be opened as a detour, briefly close Johnson, build the tunnel. The students are safer, the short inconvenience is quickly forgotten, the pitchforks stay in the closet, everybody's friends and we all live happily ever after.
I live on the other side of town. I think I have used Johnson St maybe 4 times in the last year. When I first heard about the eminent domain plan, it hit me as arrogant, autocratic, pick an unpleasent adjective. I can only imagine how people who actually depend on Johnson feel. Friendly advice to a newcomer; San Angelo is chock full of great people, it's easy to make friends for life, folk who will watch your back when you need them. Leave them feeling like you have crossed'em and gotten over on them, they will never trust you on anything. Real sure you want to go there over a glorified crosswalk?