Editorial: A choreographed dance on Missing Middle?
Many decades ago, we were invited to a football game at a major university, a contest held in a stadium where no alcohol was permitted.
A little dance was repeated again and again, we soon divined. Patrons would bring in coolers filled with cheap beer at the top. The teens and 20-somethings staffing the gates would confiscate the beer (for future consumption, we’d imagine) until they got down to a layer of soft drinks.
At that point, the fans were allowed to pass through.
As everyone in this well-crafted charade knew, below the soft drinks could be found the liquor that patrons intended to get into the stadium in the first place. Everybody understood the drill, and everybody played their part.
We bring this up because it seems that the Missing Middle policy proposals that last week were advertised for public hearings in March (and almost inevitable adoption) represented a similar game.
County staff had proposed some really aggressive shoehorning of housing into single-family neighborhoods. That was the cheap beer at the top layer of the cooler, the fig leaf covering what was really desired.
County Board members, saying they listened to the public, threw that top layer out and effectively said, “Look, everything is OK, we’ve gotten rid of the offending stuff.”
Board members Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol, who pressed to the very end to advertise an even more aggressive policy but didn’t have the key third vote to get it, pronounced themselves disappointed at what they proclaimed a watered-down end result. (But not irked enough to vote against what the majority offered, apparently.)
We suspect Dorsey and Cristol really meant it when expressing their discontent. But last week’s final 5-0 vote also seemed to represent a typical negotiating gambit: Start with a position purposely untenable, then whittle your way down to something more acceptable while piously telling those with concerns about the implications of the action they should be thankful that the final proposal wasn’t as extreme as it could have been.