Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias An urban legend is a story that has had a wide audience, is circulated spontaneously, has been told in several forms, and which many have chosen to believe (whether actively or passively) despite the lack of actual evidence to substantiate the story.

An example is a story we�ve all heard about Coca-Cola. Drop a tooth in a glass of Coke, and it will dissolve overnight.

Right?

When we were kids, we believed this bit of folklore. In reality, Coca-Cola will not dissolve a tooth (or a nail, or a penny, or a piece of meat) overnight.

Coke has been around for a long time, so naturally, there are lot of false stories circulating about the soft drink.

The Chestnut Street improvement issue has been around a long time, too � going back at least a decade.

Since the Vermillion City Council breathed new life into the project in December 2000, we�ve heard a lot about the impact that improving the street will have.

The loudest critics of the project have expressed a litany of excuses for not going ahead with the street improvement.

They�ve claimed the bluff on the north side of the street will erode.

They�ve claimed that widening and paving Chestnut will make it more dangerous. Vehicles will be able to drive faster on a hard surface than they can through the gumbo that presently makes up the unimproved road.

They�ve claimed children will play on the street, pedestrians will walk on it and will be exposed to traffic dangers (despite the city�s investment in a bike/walking trail supposedly designed to keep walkers, joggers, bikers, kids, etc. away from streets and the railroad) in lower Vermillion.

They�ve claimed the street lights that are part of the plan will be an annoyance � even with their special cutoff design so that no light is emitted above the horizontal plane of the light lens.

They�ve claimed there is a $300,000 plan for improving Chestnut Street that has never been presented to the council for consideration.

They�ve claimed the city is using devious tactics, such as listening to City Attorney Martin Weeks when he advised, in his opinion, that the project was administrative in nature and not referable.

A judge reversed that ruling in a recent court hearing.

But certain critics, specifically Neil and Lynette Melby, claim Mayor Roger Kozak �impeached� himself during the hearing. In other words, they say, he lied while under oath.

These are all stories that have had a wide audience, have been circulated spontaneously, and have been told in many forms despite a lack of evidence to substantiate them.

They are the urban legends of Chestnut Street.

Some people who tell urban legends are simply alarmists. They spread misinformation because they enjoy the havoc and community concern they perceive it might cause.

What�s unfortunate is these alarmists want you and I to base our vote on the Chestnut Street project Tuesday on information that has no basis.

That so-called mystery $300,000 plan that�s never been presented? Our understanding is it was a quick engineer�s estimate of what it would cost to put a hard surface on the existing Chestnut Street roadbed, nothing more.

The result would be a street approximately 19 feet wide. It�s the same width as many alleys in the city, including the one behind The Broadcaster building.

We were curious to see what would happen if two semi-trucks (or school buses or large pieces of farm machinery) met each other on such a road.

The picture tells the story.

Literature distributed by the alarmists at a public meeting Monday urges citizens to vote against the Chestnut Street project. �Tell city hall that in these challenging economic times we can�t afford to waste even one precious tax dollar, and that it�s time for them to update their priorities,� states their brochure.

Ironically, however, not repairing Chestnut Street most certainly will keep Vermillion from reaching its economic potential in the future. That will mean collections of real estate and sales taxes, used to fund the day-to-day operations of our school, city, county and other local entities, will always remain less than they potentially could be.

Why would we want to wish that sort of a future for ourselves?

Yes, $1.3 million is a lot of money to spend on Chestnut Street. But the street has been identified as a vital link in a farm-to-market route that has been developed in lower Vermillion. And there are important elements in lower Vermillion which are playing a vital role in our quality of life �

ranging from the railroad and the city�s airport, to Cotton Park, a bike trail and a nature area.

Chestnut Street won�t take anything away from any of those developments. It will enhance them. That�s why we feel it�s important that we stay the course on Chestnut Street.

That�s why we urge Vermillion citizens to cast a yes vote on Resolution 414-00 Tuesday.

We feel it would be a big mistake for the Vermillion City Council to be forced to turn Chestnut into a sacrificial lamb and gut the project. The city council should be allowed to continue with what it started in December 2000.

It must fix the street according to original plans.

As far as the tales that have accompanied this project nearly from day one, we can offer only one bit of advice: Don�t believe everything you hear.

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