Tucson’s roads are a mess. The city’s transportation department estimates it will take 20 years and about $1 billion just to recover from years of neglect.
And that’s on top of the $20 million or so a year needed to keep up with annual maintenance and prevent the roads, and the price tag to repair them, from getting worse.
So, what do we do about it?
The city doesn’t have $1 billion lying around. If it were to try to fund fixing all of the cracks, potholes and crumbling alligator roads out of its general fund, it would need to gut some other program or agency. We’ve been down that road many times the past four years of the recession. The city has cut nearly $50 million of annual spending out of its budget. The budget is cut to the bone. One of the reasons the roads are in the shape they’re in is because the city doesn’t have the money to pay for adequate annual maintenance, let alone years of neglect.
Nevertheless, if it wanted to, the city could pay for the repairs out of current revenues if it laid off about 1,000 cops and firefighters or shut down Sun Tran. For 20 years.
But only fools want that.
So the only option is to borrow money and pay it pack with a modest increase in property taxes.
And that takes a public vote.
Enter the city’s professional againsters – the Citizens Against Virtually Everything – the complainers-in-chief who love to whine about all things that are bad about Tucson but never want anyone to ever do anything about it, especially if it means a tax increase.
They are lining up to oppose the road bond vote, saying the city lacks credibility and will just squander the money, ala Rio Nuevo, and should be forced to find some other way to fix the roads.
Any ideas, then, you CAVEs?
The CAVEs, though, are right about the city lacking credibility. Rio Nuevo and other recent city scandals – cough, cough, Parkwise, cough – are gaping chest wounds in the city council’s trustworthiness.
Just seven months ago voters had the opportunity to radically change the city council and they chose instead the status quo. They put their faith in business as usual.
Well, they’re going to have to put their faith in this council again with the road repair bond vote, even if the proposed $100 million is woefully inadequate.
The amount the council has proposed is the equivalent of taking a mile of cruddy road and fixing the first 500 feet and saying, “There, that oughta do it.”
Clearly, $100 million isn’t enough. But it’s a start.
The magic roads fairy is not going to swoop into Tucson and fix our roads with a wave of a wand.
We’re going to have to do it ourselves and we’re going to have to pay for it, regardless of city bungling.
We’re just going to have to trust them. There is no other rational choice.