It's snowing again in the northern portions of the country. Cautoning emails from our Northeast offices are urging safety during commutes, and some workers are announcing they'll be telecommuting today.
In Atlanta, fortunately, there's currently no precipitation forecast, but temperatures are expected to dip below freezing within the next 24 hours. Obviously, any local residents who suffered through the seeming blizzard of last week are thanking their lucky stars that the city won't be brought to a standstill yet again.
Of course, blame has been pointed at numerous local and state officials, and even to meteorologists. Additionally—and maybe not surprisingly—various conspiracy theories have popped up that seem to seriously suggest that it wasn't really snow that fell on Atlanta. But, hey, that's the Internet for you.
Perkins+Will's Ryan Gravel—a.k.a. "that BeltLine guy"—says that the fault for Atlanta's big problem with a little snow should be spread across the entire metropolitan area. (Photo courtesy Ryan Gravel)
A more thoughtful response came from Perkins+Will's Ryan Gravel—also known as "that BeltLine guy"—who asked via a personal blog post, "Isn't This Exactly What We Wanted?" (Readers may recall that ENR honored Gravel by naming him as one of the Top 25 Newsmakers of 2011.)
In his rant of sorts, Gravel suggests clearly that it is "ourselves" who deserve the blame:
"It has been fascinating to watch the fickle finger of blame be pointed at meteorologists, as if they were also accountable for our response to their predictions. Later we pointed at planners without the nuance of differentiating between planning and our region’s consistent rejection of planning as a valuable professional practice, (A recent stadium proposal comes to mind, which has never made ink on any regional plan). The finger of blame has also been aimed at various points of leadership and the dysfunctional lines of communication across our increasingly fragmented regional politics. What’s most curious to me is that we don’t ever point at ourselves. Why don’t we own up to it? After all, isn’t this exactly what we wanted?"
Gravel goes on to lament the "car-dependency" that has defined the Atlanta metropolitan region, adding: "Our economy and our way of life depends on people being able to get around, and in most areas of our region, we rely exclusively on an infrastructure that gets jammed up in any emergency."
In terms of the available infrastructure, what's done is done, Gravel admits. But, he says, "While we may not be able to un-choose the infrastructure system that we built for ourselves over the last sixty years, we can choose to build a better system to support the next million people that will make Atlanta their home. Let’s at least do that." (Emphasis Gravel's.)
In a bit of timing that is, if not ironic, at least interesting, Gravel and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed are in Washington, D.C., today to be recognized as the "Overall Excellence" winner of the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Of course, it's not the sprawling highway system that's being honored, but the Atlanta BeltLine's Eastside Trail and the Historic Fourth Ward Park.
Here's the EPA video in recognition of the award, which inherently illustrates Gravel's point that there is a choice.