I have been reading with growing frustration about the informal poll and how some businesses and the city council seem to be taking that as a true representation of how the community feels about the ongoing, persistent street closures on weekends.
I’ll be blunt: I don’t go downtown any more on the weekends. And I barely go downtown at all anymore. The downtown core no longer feels like it belongs to the community – instead, it is a big party venue for the many breweries and wine bars, and for the car clubs that bring the street to a nearly full-stop closure at least one night per month. Now, the car aficionados and the folks patronizing the watering holes all have community needs and the businesses they patronize surely enjoy the enhanced access their customers have.
But, as others have pointed out, the constant closures limit access to many stores, including the ability to park near a store. Not everyone with mobility challenges has a handicapped parking permit, and the community needs the opportunity to actually park near stores they want to patronize. Sumner is an example of a community that maintains a vibrant weekend shopping vibe … without closing the streets.
Now let’s address that poll that some claim “proves” that the community is all in favor of keeping the streets closed. Research bias is when someone conducts research in a way to achieve a particular outcome. Let’s say you want to know who will be the next president of the U.S. So you send your pollsters out, but they talk to only people from one party. Well, we can guess what the results will be because the research has selection bias – who is actually polled.
There is a ton of research bias built into a process where the people being polled about Cole Street being open or closed are the people who are already hanging out at businesses on Cole Street. You completely miss the part of the community that used to shop downtown…or used to shop and eat there more often than they do now. If the City Council really wants to know what the community thinks, then you need to find a way to reach out to the whole community – not the part of the community currently spending time there. And then a really decent researcher will also go beyond the obvious yes/no question about whether Cole Street should be open, and ask why the person thinks the way they do. What makes the community tick? What do we value in a shopping experience and what does it take to get the whole community to re-engage with the downtown core?
I can accept street closures continuing if there is a true community consensus on that as the preferred thing to do. But the City Council needs to make that decision in a way that includes everyone in Enumclaw.