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A job well done

Jack Balshaw 4/10/2003


Last week I watched the the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) for Roads and Streets presentation to the City Council. It was impressive.

I started watching with a critical eye, expecting a lay committee's unfocused response to the charge given them by the council. Instead, I saw not only a focused report but also a well thought out report that evolved logically step-by-step. The use of both a narrator and an easy to read projection screen view of the report allowed easy following of the presentation. It equaled or exceeded anything professional consultants have developed.

The CAC didn't simply take the figures given to it by staff, but compared the cost of some actual reconstruction and rehabilitation work with theoretical estimates from the Pavement Management Program that brought about all this interest in street repair. They developed a comprehensive computer spread sheet that allowed them to compare alternative street repair procedures.

The CAC was able to weave a path between the top-of-the-line, gold plated, $146 million street repair program given to us by staff last year and the professional criteria used by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in developing the rating system for a Pavement Management Program. The CAC's final cost estimate of $73 million to repair our street system seemed reasonable and doable based on the assumptions and decisions they made.

Their calling attention to the problem of high crowned streets on some of the westside and a proposal to stripe bike lanes as part of the street repair program was positive but somehow seemed outside of the purpose of their report. (My only criticism)

Their recommendations for funding, basically that we have to depend on ourselves and not expect very much state or federal support, were rational and of a scale that can be expected using mostly local funds.

Unfortunately, two of the three members of the public who commented following the presentation said in effect. "A great idea but don't tax me". I hope this isn't representative of the community or at least that a follow-up committee pursuing funding will be able to convince the public of the reasonableness of the funding request.

There were two areas in the report that, though no reflection on the CAC, will cause some difficulty in getting the city manager and council to buy into. The CAC's recommendation that a number of millions of dollars in next year's and following years' budgets be earmarked for street repairs will conflict with both the city manager's and council's needs and desires to use these funds for other city functions.

With this in mind and from my view of intergovernmental relationships, I would advise the CAC to just give this draft report to the City Council as their final report. Let the city manager and council change whatever they will insist on changing. Otherwise, the council will request changes in the report but will point back to the CAC as the source of these changes. If the devil is in the details, let the council designate the details.

The city manager and council can appoint or reappoint a CAC for the sole purpose of recommending a funding mechanism and a process for obtaining the necessary funding. This is an entirely different process and will no doubt require some people with knowledge of how to obtain public approval via an election.

There is too much to comment about in the CAC report but it should be noted that they recommended establishing a dedicated account for street repair funds so that these monies aren't drained off for other purposes. Additionally, they were aware of the need to adjust numbers for inflation and to recognize funds that could be misdirected to administrative costs.

I think the mayor and city manager should take these committee members out for a good dinner in appreciation of their work.


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