Editorial: Navigating the jargon jungle
Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail, CO Colorado
The Colorado Department of Transportation recently released its preliminary plans and budget requests for the next state fiscal year, and is seeking public comment.
The thinking here is that the “public” part of the comment period will be limited to lawyers, lobbyists, bureaucrats and others well-schooled in the language of transportation jargon. Few civilians would have the time, or the specialized vocabulary, needed to wade through the state report.
The 247-page report is a tough read, even for those of us in the gobbledygook translation business. Here’s a sample:
“CDOT relies on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) public involvement processes. In rural non-TIP areas, CDOT provides public involvement with the Transportation Planning Regions and by posting STIP amendment information on the CDOT external website.”
There’s no shame in acknowledging you have no idea what the previous two sentences actually meant. “Impenetrable” comes to mind when describing the writing here. And if you need two pages just to decode acronymns ” our favorite is “SURF,” or Surface Treatment Pool ” you’re probably using too many initials and too few words.
We’re picking on state transportation officials here, but this is a problem common to all levels of government.
Elected officials say they crave public comment, but then let their minions get away with acronyms and words like “rubbilization.” Another one we heard recently at the town of Vail was “pedestrianization.”
So here’s a helpful hint for those enamored of TPRs, MPOs and STIPs: If you really want the public to know what you’re doing, and truly value the opinions of people who might be affected, keep your reports short and in plain English. If you absolutely must provide dizzying columns of numbers and letters, do more than provide pages of translation, and provide a few summary pages of what your agency is doing.
Maybe the public wants to comment, but isn’t sure how.
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