KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
Last night, KUSI’s Dan Plante reported on the continued debate surrounding removing 420 parking spaces on 30th Street to make way for a protected bike lane. He said Chris Ward changed his position and wanted to save some parking. He claimed that bike lobbyists were organizing a boycott of businesses involved in the Save 30th Street Parking movement. He accused a man of starting the boycott and having no public accountability because he made his Twitter private. He also claimed that man’s wife voted on the North Park Planning Committee to support the bike lane. In a baffling moment, he said the executive director of North Park Main Street asked the alleged organizer of the boycott to delete his Tweets. It would have been an interesting report if any of it were true.
“Dan Plante’s report is laden with errors,” said Angela Landsberg, the executive director of North Park Main Street. She said she did not communicate with the man accused of organizing the boycott about his Twitter account and certainly did not discuss it with Plante.
Meanwhile, the man in question, who preferred his name not be shared in this report, also denied having any contact with Landsberg. Instead, he said he put his Twitter account on private after he received abuse and threats from people after screenshots of his tweets were shared by a prominent business owner in the Save 30th Street Parking movement.
On his Twitter account, he frequently takes pictures of empty parking lots along 30th Street. This particular business owner pointed out that the picture of the parking lot by her business was taken on the weekend of July 4 when many businesses were closed. She accused him of bullying and intimidating businesses opposed to removing parking as well as encouraging people to boycott businesses.
The private citizen denied taking photos was a bullying tactic, instead saying he has spent time discussing parking as a barrier to improved safety so he takes pictures of empty parking lots. In addition, he denies calling for a boycott. The claims of a boycott can be generously described as a mischaracterization of some conversations bike advocates have had about supporting North Park businesses. In the tweet described as calling for a boycott, the man encouraged his 500 followers to put their money towards three businesses who had signs about saving parking up, but took them down after discussing the matter personally with pro-bike lane activists.
The tweet did not direct anyone to not spend money at businesses against adding the bike lane. Other conversations between bike advocates have included people’s intentions to buy a beer or support 30th Street businesses aligned with their values, but nowhere was there a direct call to boycott vulnerable small businesses.
“I have never called for a boycott of any businesses. In fact, I utilize businesses that both support and oppose bike lanes,” tweeted the man accused of fomenting the boycott. He also said no news organizations reached out to him regarding his tweets, including KUSI. Plante claimed this was because his Twitter was on private and accused him of not letting the public hold him accountable.
In another factual error, Plante said the man’s wife was a part of the North Park Planning Committee that supports adding bike lanes. In reality, her term on the NPPC ended in March 2019. The bike lane vote was held in May 2019.
Lastly, Plante’s claim that Councilmember Ward changed his position on bike lanes is unsupported. Ward issued his first and only memo on 30th Street last week in which he pledged support of Option B. At no point did he officially endorse fully-protected bike lanes, known as Option A.
Landsberg said, “the facts related to the report that Councilmember Ward previously supported Option A is unfounded. I discussed this fact with Dan during our interview but he clearly was not interested in listening as he ranted on about his views.”
Under the strong mayor system of governance, the Council’s recommendation does not actually matter. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who directed the city to implement Option A back in May, can change his mind but has yet to do so. KUSI’s website said Ward announced a change to the plan. Since Ward has no power to change the plan, his support is what is being debated, not the plan itself. At this point, the compromise is an idea only, not what the city intends to build when 30th Street is resurfaced.
In addition to the factual errors in Plante’s reporting, Landsberg took issue with the way Plante treated her. Despite knowing her name and title, Plante referred to her on air as “the young lady who runs North Park Main Street.”
Landsberg said she worked with KUSI reporter Michael Turko in the past on controversial issues and she was never bullied or disrespected by him the way Plante disrespected her.
“The smell of liquor on his breath as we spoke and the aggressive way in which he conducted himself caused that interview the be the last I will ever do with Mr. Plante,” Landsberg said. “I am an executive director of a non-profit and referring to me in the way he did in his report only further displays his unprofessional and condescending attitude. KUSI may want to take caution with Mr. Plante. Contrary to his report, I am not young, I am experienced, and I have seen many men with such attitudes cause themselves and their respective employers problems that could be avoided.”
Dan Plante did not respond to a request for comment. KUSI said they did not have a statement on the matter at this time. The original video on KUSI’s website has been taken down and replaced with a shorter version.
The man targeted with the Twitter abuse has decided to step away from bike advocacy for the time being.
Plante did get one thing right. He said in his report, “There is no doubt there is some ugliness going on.”
Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.