A special meeting of the Clintonville Area Commission scheduled tonight, March 21, to deal with an especially contentious issue will begin not with a moment of silence or a prayer, but with a call for courtesy.
The purpose of the session, to begin at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium at Beechwold Christian Church, 280 Morse Road, is to vote on a resolution that would again reverse the commission's position on Columbus' proposal to add a left-turn lane at the intersection of North High Street and East North Broadway -- this time, back to favoring it.
The absence of District 2 representative Nancy Kuhel due to illness at the March 7 regular monthly meeting led the eight members present, over the protests of some in the audience, to put off the vote to the March 21 special meeting. The decision to delay was approved 6-2.
In distributing the agenda for the special session last week, commission Chairman Daniel B. Miller included his own five-minute "preface on civility" at the outset.
It's not that people have been exceptionally rude to one another this time around in discussing a major dividing point between residents, Miller said in an interview -- it's that they have been civil with one another. He wants that to continue, he said.
"It's really just a reminder," Miller said. "I've been overall just very generally impressed with the civility in the community in discussing the issue."
He said he intends to express his gratitude for the way people have approached the resolution he first proposed Feb. 27 and to remind meeting attendees that "arguments and positions are going to be much more persuasive if they're expressed" in civil terms.
"That would include recognizing when it's your time to speak and your time to listen," Miller said. "This is not about correcting bad behavior. This is just a reminder that the community has been discussing this civilly and I hope it continues.
"It's pretty simple," he added.
Up for consideration will be a resolution that urges the addition of a left-turn lane on East North Broadway, allowing westbound motorists to turn south onto North High Street.
Such a maneuver currently is prohibited.
Residents who live near East North Broadway have complained about traffic cutting through their quiet streets to avoid the intersection, while people who live on North Broadway have expressed concern that widening for a turn lane will lead to further widening and an eventual four-lane boulevard stretching to Indianola Avenue.
The North Broadway Street Association filed suit against the city, Franklin County, the Ohio Department of Transportation and others in November 2010 to block the project, arguing the public land needed for the widening was, in fact, private land given to residents of the streets by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners in 1952, before the area was annexed into Columbus.
When the resolution to again urge city officials to go ahead with the turn lane initially was to be heard at the regular March CAC meeting, Miller, expecting a deluge of people wanting to voice opinions both for and against it, limited speakers to four on each side and had them sign up in advance.
After the vote was taken to put the question off to a special meeting, District 3 representative James R. Blazer II urged Miller to consider allowing more speakers.
Miller said last week that he has given some thought to the suggestion and would consider it, as long as it doesn't become repetitive.
"If time is available and the speech coming from the community is productive to the commission, I'd be more than willing to allow additional speakers," he said. "I think it's something that will be determined at the meeting itself."