Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Your city government at work

From page A12 | January 23, 2014 |

By David Hughes

Snuggled up next to my cold fireplace, I noticed in your fine fish wrap (remember, bring your own container when you go shopping), that the city of Davis has some sort of budget shortfall, somewhere in the millions? Or is it tens of millions?

Oh, great, says David, I can hardly wait to see where this is going. My eyes usually glaze over when the City Council says it doesn’t have enough money. I could use a few more bucks, myself, but I don’t see anyone offering me any free nickels. When I have a budget shortfall, I reduce spending and look for more income. I haven’t been able to rely on nickels falling out of the sky. I could live on my credit card, but that doesn’t work for very long, and the payback is a (rhymes with witch).

I also noticed, in a different issue, that there is a big “deferred maintenance” issue with the streets. The council is acting like it is a big surprise, appearing all at once. However, let me note: When I defer maintenance on the house, it is no great surprise when the roof starts to leak, although one can always hope to get a few more years out of it.

If I ignore the roof, I deserve what I get, no? Not being very responsible to the family or keeping the value of the house up, am I? Nothing wrong with hope, but it should be tempered with realism.

And who is responsible for this mess? The Lords of the Manor? The previous Lords of the Manor? Wolk I or Wolk II? Or city staff? although it should be noted, if the Lords of the Manor don’t want to hear about the rats in the cupboards, the servants will avoid mentioning them. Really don’t see anyone stepping up to the plate, do I? Cricket … cricket … cricket …

And how is the city going to pay for the failing streets? I believe it was Wolk II himself, who mentioned, in an interior paragraph, “loans,” almost like it was mumbled. Can anyone there on Russell even spell “credit card”? And please note my observations above. How are they going to pay it back? There is some sort of budget shortfall, right? It doesn’t even rain water anymore, let alone nickels.

I would mention reducing spending, but the first thing that comes to mind is that future fiasco of Fifth Street. If removing two lanes is going to speed up traffic, then I suggest we make it a dirt trail and prove Einstein wrong, by moving traffic faster than the speed of light. But the City Council has bought into it wholeheartedly, and unicorns and rainbows will appear, and we’ll heal the sick and feed the poor.

I leave it as an exercise for the reader, on how the city can increase income. I will give a hint, the second word rhymes with ax, which is not what they will use on that bill that comes due twice a year.

— David Hughes is a Davis resident.

Special to The Enterprise


Discussion | 5 comments

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  • Alan MillerJanuary 23, 2014 - 9:45 am

    With all that has been said and explained about Fifth Street, it amazes me that there are people who still embarrass themselves by writing that of course two lanes have less capacity than four lanes. Fifth Street is a dangerous death trap path for bicycles, and the argument that there are decent alternate routes is a lie -- no car would put up with such a detour. This shows a selfish vision that only cars deserve infrastructure and exposes a disdain for bicyclists, unjustified as in a collision the bicycle uses loses, sometimes their life. This project end up being the single greatest thing that has happened for bicycles in Davis since the first bike lane, especially as the most direct route through the center of town will finally be made safe. The reduction of two lanes per direction down to one need not reduce capacity or throughput. This is because both right and left turners who currently block the through lanes as they wait to turn -- causing dangerous lane jumping that has caused numerous accidents -- are now able to turn out of the through lane. This models as near neutral in car capacity and throughput, plus the new design in much safer for both bicycles and pedestrians. The complete street design has been built in many towns and it works. You obviously are not a bicyclist, and those of you who choose to always bathe in the protection of a steel shell (I'm not a car hater, I use all three modes through downtown) as your ONLY mode of transportation cannot sit on your high horse and use the two lanes are better than one argument anymore. After years of fighting for this project against such simple-minded reasoning, we have explained to those capable of thinking how a complete street model works, and soon the project will be built and those of us who pushed for this will be vilified and we will not have to listen to this rhetoric anymore, and we can bicycle down Fifth Street less likely to die. Davis is rated a "10" for bicycle infrastructure. That designation is a pathetic joke so long as "bicycle friendly" Davis lives with this shame of a four-lane Fifth-Street with no bicycles lanes.

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  • Chris LambertJanuary 23, 2014 - 4:33 pm

    Thanks for saying this, Alan. I too am a bicyclist, and I also drive a truck for my job. I'm really looking forward to the change to two lanes. My truck is wide, and has mirrors making it even wider. Coming across a cyclist on 5th is always scary, as I have to either change lanes quickly, or if that isn't possible just scoot over to the left, which I'm sure is startling for drivers there. I'd gladly give up a few minutes of travel time to make it safer for everyone involved.

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  • Alan MillerJanuary 24, 2014 - 11:05 am

    The point is the models show you will NOT experience increased travel time in a car A-L on 5th.

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  • Chris LambertJanuary 23, 2014 - 4:19 pm

    David, you might want to consider a wider issue, when complaining about infrastructure maintenance. Roads, bridges, pipelines, all are decaying everywhere faster than they can be rebuilt. This is because most of it was built during the cheap-oil era of the twentieth century. Concrete, asphalt, and steel all require immense quantities of energy to produce and form. And despite the propaganda promoting fracking, we won't escape energy descent. In fact this is exactly what we are witnessing now. No amount of "fiscal frugality" will change the simple geophysical reality.

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  • Alan MillerJanuary 24, 2014 - 11:11 am

    Spot on. This country built out explosively based on an economic growth model sustained on the idea of explosive growth, and on a new mobility parameter, the car. Thus our infrastructure is like a cheap appliance that will wear out. This massive unmet fiscal need now plagues all levels of government. Rather than spell out this rather dull reality, the government dangles shiny objects, like $100 million to relocate railroad tracks that are fine as is, or water tunnels, or high speed rail, or new buildings on campus. The reality of mass deferred maintenance -- hard to run a campaign on that. Not shiny.

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