Editorial, 8/11: School zone vote sets problematic precedent | Editorial

Parents of northeast Lincoln and city council members, it’s time to hit the brakes.

The desire for the school zone proposed at the intersection of 84th Street and Leighton Avenue is completely understandable. Everyone wants the children of your neighborhood — and all children — to be safe.

But the approved City Council resolution for this controversy, set to be completed without the approval of Lincoln Public Works and Utilities, would solve matters in a troubling way.

An affiliated ordinance, which passed along with the resolution to create the school zone, allows the council or mayor to override engineers’ decisions. It’s the wrong means to an end. If the city’s engineers are presented a situation they can’t endorse using their best professional judgment, the council authorized going elsewhere to find someone who will.

Permitting elected officials, when convenient, to overrule the experts the city employs sets a problematic precedent and seems like a knee-jerk reaction to this situation.

In this case, city engineers argue installing a school zone would actually decrease safety at the intersection. The sudden decrease from 45 mph to 25 mph and deployment of school zone lights, they said, would lead to more accidents that could jeopardize the safety of students walking to nearby Kahoa Elementary School.

This decision isn’t being made to spite a particular part of town or endanger children. The Public Works and Utilities Department, which said it won’t sign off on the school zone, believes it’s justified by data and standards.

Its expertise shouldn’t be ignored — or overruled.

Too often, such debates are framed around fairness and perceived inferiority. Cries of, “Why do they get all the nice things?” distract from the topic at hand. This controversial proposal is not North Lincoln vs. South Lincoln, as some have framed it.

It’s a matter of safety vs. danger. Everybody must err on the side of safety, even if we disagree which course of action is best to achieve this common goal. Just because South 84th Street has two school zones doesn’t mean City Hall deems those children any more worthy of protection.

As it is, the Journal Star reports one of those school zones, between O and A streets near Pyrtle Elementary School, is being studied for removal because it may actually cause more…

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