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Is anyone doing anything?

Jack Balshaw 8/7/02


What with all the attention being given to how to pay for street repairs, it's been completely overlooked that no one seems to be preparing to actually do anything about it. I have no knowledge there is even one set of street repair plans sitting on a desk somewhere in Public Works ready to go out to bid the instant the City Council gives the OK. (Which they still haven't done.)

Despite the council being aware of this problem for the better part of a year, they have yet to authorize dollar one to actually get any work done. It does seem they have trouble making any type of decision other than to have another special study or appoint a citizens committee. More on that later.

Of course, we must realize they have been busy on other things. Despite giving the city manager a 40% raise in four years and providing him with a $100,000 golden parachute in case a less appreciative council might fire him, they managed to get no more than the minimum 30 day notice that he was leaving them just when they needed him most.

Then there is the vendetta (that's all I can call it) against Council member Moynihan for having the gall to ignore a poorly written campaign finance ordinance. Just last week a judge agreed with Mr. Moynihan but that's not stopping the council from still trying to "get" him in some manner. Just like the fiasco with the cable TV franchise fees, they don't care how much it costs Petaluma as long as they don't have to back down.

Then there's Lafferty still hanging in there. $900,000 spent and who knows how much to go. Again, it's "other peoples money" so it's not important.

And lastly, for this list, there is the invisible $3 million plus General Plan that no one has heard about for quite some time. You'd think a city with a built out growth boundary and limited vacant land for infill development could do a General Plan on the back of a napkin, or at least in house in six months.

Back to street repair. The latest news is the usual suspects now want the council to appoint a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to review everything staff has done or might do regarding street improvements. These amateurs or laypeople are supposed to review the city staff's identification of street segments needing repair, review the repairs recommended, review the staff's prioritization and estimated costs. What a crock!!

This is about as rational as having a Citizens Advisory Committee second guess a brain surgeon on his diagnosis, what needs to be done, and how to do it.

If you've noticed how long it takes the city to get anything done through committees, you'll realize it will be 2005 before any work could get started. Of course those requesting this committee are mostly anti-auto and so it won't bother them if it takes several years to get started with the repairs.

My cynical half suspects this is just a way for the council to avoid having to identify any specific street improvements before the November election. As long as no street is singled out for repair, we each can assume the one we think needs repair the most will be at the top of the list. Also, when and if a CAC endorses any priority list, the council will be able to say, "The citizens wanted it this way."

And if the council can delay this thru September, when they're scheduling a discussion about a CAC, staff will advise them it is too late this year to go out for construction bids (30 to 60 days lead time) and no work can be done once the rains start. This will cause the council to reflect, "As long as we have to wait until next spring, we might as well let a CAC have a shot at it."

They will conveniently overlook that while staff is educating, briefing, meeting with and generally hand holding a CAC, no in house work will get done towards repairing any streets. I've long said, "You get the government you deserve", but I don't think we deserve this one.


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