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Finally some action on fixing our streets
Jack Balshaw 10/2/2002

Our City Council has finally found some money for street repair and set priorities for the first round of repairs. Let's take this time to give credit for this where credit is due, Councilmember Bryant Moynihan. While Bryant has received all kinds of bad press, it was him and him alone who kept insisting there was money available to fix the streets if the council really wanted to. After a series of incremental steps the City Council finally "found" $ 6 to $9 million that could be used. Many of you may dislike that Bryant isn't a "team player" but you should acknowledge that he is a "doer". He insisted the money was there and it was. He caused this to happen. He got something done.

Credit is also due to those who publicized the need for street repairs and kept the issue in the public spotlight. That would be Pierre Meirmont and his sidekick "Animal". Without them and Bryant we would be delayed from even starting any street repair until the issue of a parcel tax, sales tax or assessment districts was decided and voted upon.

Unfortunately, because the city is using only redevelopment funds, these repairs all have to be west of McDowell. Essentially west of the freeway except for some of the intersection work at Washington and McDowell.

This leaves McDowell itself, Washington, Ely, Sonoma Mountain Parkway, and especially the intersection at Sonoma Mountain Parkway and Washington out of the picture for several years. If you note the streets that have been given priority, they're all in better shape than that intersection.

Then there is the fact that, since the City Council won't construct Rainier, the Sonoma Mountain Parkway/Washington intersection is very heavily used. Surely the council that said Rainier was unnecessary has some special responsibility to maintain this intersection which services most of the traffic Rainier would have carried.

But what can be done about this heavily used and critically deficient intersection? Where might there be more money for some work on the east side of town? How about the $4 million the city is keeping in the "reserve" fund? The story we heard about fixing streets is that if you let them go, they cost even more to fix when you finally get around to fixing them. Wouldn't it seem to be more fiscally responsible to use that $4 million to fix streets than to just leave it in the bank?

The state budget is out now and the cities know they won't need such reserves to replace any money the state might have held back. Why is the council insisting on keeping the "reserve" funds?

An associated but separate item is what will be fixed with the money the council "found"? The section of Petaluma Blvd. Between B and Washington Streets has a pavement rating above 70, which means that it doesn't need any work other than something minor like crack sealing. Similarly, Lakeville between Caulfield and D Street and Washington between Lakeville and Petaluma Blvd, have ratings that don't warrant reconstruction, only maintenance. What's happening here?

Either the City Council has been snookered by staff or they're trying to snooker us to make it seem they're fixing streets that really need fixing. Drive these street sections and see if you think they're some of the worst in town. If these are the worst streets in town, perhaps we don't need a parcel tax. If this is the way money is going to be spent, maybe we don't need a sales tax.

What's happening is that the council is trying to develop the streets, sidewalks and landscaping in the Central Petaluma Specific Plan area to higher standards while getting credit from the public for "fixing" those streets. Streets that don't need fixing by the city's own standards.

Is this an instance of our being misled by our own elected officials?


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