20151029_MassDOTLast night’s transportation “Conversation” in Pittsfield was a bust.

As you can see it this photo, there were six DOT people ranged at a head table with signs in front of them saying “Rail” “Bike” etc., and tables at the side of the room with computers.

First, we had pitches from our three state reps. They were pretty good, and they all mentioned train service. They then left, and the crowd, 60 or 70 people, rustled expectantly, clearly eager to get to the conversation. People were there in groups, and had papers in hand, notes or speeches written. But lo and behold, there was to be no speaking at all. The moderator explained that the “conversations” would be us as individuals going up to the head table to explain our concerns, one by one, to the appropriate person. And, he said proudly, we could go to one of the computers at the side of the room and enter our questions and concerns there.

There was nearly a riot. People were furious, and said that this was “exactly what’s wrong with Boston.” Some walked out. I spoke to a number of people because I’d got up to voice the general feeling that this was not what we had come for, and that it didn’t serve the purpose of creating an exchange with Boston. “This way they can just bury what we say,” someone told me. “I wanted to hear from other people, and I wanted them to respond to us.” “Don’t they know we have computers at home?”

In 1989, offering citizens computers at a public meeting would have been innovative. In 2015, when we’re all sitting there with smartphones and the DOT is handing out slips of paper with Twitter and Instagram handles, it was just plain bizarre.

A legislative liaison did come over to me and gave me his card. I’ll be circulating contact information as I get it.