Censorship of Public Input at DVRPC

March 2010

In the 1970’s under a federal mandate, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) established a forum for allowing citizens from the nine county region to participate in the planning process. The Regional Citizens Committee (RCC), was formed as an advisory committee to focus on the critical issues of transportation, housing and the environment. Forty years later, development and planning in these areas continue to address the changing needs of our region.
the DVRPC’s staff has chosen censorship over open discussion

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If you don't use the stamp, we'll take away the ink pad
---DVRPC RCC Member

What good is it to ask citizens to attend RCC meetings if they can only discuss...DVRPC Board policy?
In the realm of transportation, our region has approached a crossroads. Globally, we are once again witnessing the cause and effect of high gas prices, and the dangers in the energy field. As with the 2008 gas price spike, residents are once again turning to public transportation to defray the costs of driving. The 2008 gas price surge taught us a valuable lesson that our public transportation system is unprepared for a future when high gas prices become the norm. We learned that our buses must become more efficient, and so SEPTA switched to hybrid buses. We learned that we must live closer to where we work, or closer to transit,

In May of 2010, the RCC became aware that many interests in regional rail were calling for a new look at where investments were made in the system that would provide improvements to capacity and coverage. In response to automobile-centric plans to increase capacity at regional rail stations such as Jenkintown, the RCC advised the DVRPC board of directors that better alternatives existed that would reduce driving and better prepare us for the challenging future.

The DVRPC RCC Meeting
Photo: DVRPC

In the ensuing months, the volunteer citizens of the RCC discussed a wide variety of topics that are central to regional planning. Along the way, important policy recommendations were made to the DVRPC board regarding rail expansion, project prioritization and preservation of inactive passenger rail corridors, especially ones that are being converted into recreational trails.

Photo Credit: DVRPC
Aissia Richardson,
RCC Chair 2011
Photo: DVRPC
Unhappy with the policy suggestions and discussions by the citizens, the executive committee of the RCC, chaired by Aissia Richardson, with direction from DVRPC staff, suspended the citizen’s long range planning task force, and redistributed voting rights on all other subcomittiees, including the citizen’s Action Task Force, which is the body that votes to approve or reject transportation improvement projects.

Rather than listen to the needs and suggestions of the citizens, the DVRPC’s staff has chosen censorship over open discussion. At the February 15, 2011 meeting, staff from the DVRPC responded to the ideas, suggestions and requests from its biggest supporters-the taxpayers by rendering their voices silent. With discussion of “non-DVRPC policy” subjects removed from the open forum, such as rebuilding our passenger rail system, the DVRPC’s citizens committee now finds itself on the track to irrelevance.