Streets in my town are beginning to recover from a period of neglect in recent decades, when various local pols artfully manipulated budgets in order to fund projects they couldn't con the voters into paying for. To a large degree by "re-arranging" funds from street maintenance coffers.

Granted, "street money" is complicated. It comes from many different sources; it may or may not be specifically designated for individual projects, or for general application; it may have originated in budgets many years previous. This level of complication makes it very hard for the average citizen to follow. You get a lot of "why the heck are they re-paving that brand new giant boulevard that they only put in 5 years ago, when the street in front of my house, or business, or my kid's school, is almost impassable and has been for as long as anyone can remember?!?!"

Now this town has 3 different sand-n-gravel companies that make substantial contributions to those who keep the paving projects rolling in, so the period of ignoring local street work must have been difficult to maintain, but we had a talented city manager, who had a talented financial officer, and both were encouraged by a determined mayor…

So, what did these geniuses think was more important than passable streets? Among other things, a fancy new airport terminal. Which the voters turned down funding measures for at least FOUR times. Voters around here just WILL keep noticing when funding measures are written so that the PTB get to spend the incoming funds on anything they want after the first year or two... But back to the airport proposal, voters nix it 4 times in about 6 years, but suddenly, oh amazing, we found the money anyway. And the month after the big new terminal was opened, more than half the airlines servicing the area LEFT!, scrammed, closed up shop, vamoosed outa' town! (This WAS a couple of decades ago, some service has been recovered from new airlines. And SOMEbody is now promoting a fancy big hotel for the airport!)

All this money-finagling ancient history is on my stream-of-consciousness-mind currently because a bunch of spray-paint notes appeared on the streets of my little 1950's suburban tract a couple of weeks ago. Turns out that most our tracts streets are going to get a slurry-seal treatment in another 2 weeks. Not MY street, it's past the stage of deterioration when slurry is efficient. It will need an overlay of some sort, but it won't be this year. That's OK. This sort of maintenance should come from General Fund, but "Downtown" often try to arm-twist home-owners for partial costs.

The City is operating with its usual finesse. We got a flyer in the mail with an explanation of the project and a map of the work area, with 4 phases-of-work indicated in four tones of black & gray. So residents can figure out how to get in and out of the neighborhood without driving over sticky slurry tar during the project days. Well, I was having a fair amount of difficulty figuring out two tones of black and two tones of gray (4 days of work), so I looked up the project on-line, assuming there might be a more colorful version there.

The project manager's phone number came up as disconnected, AND there was no sign of a map. Again, there was a good description of the slurry process, and a printed list of the streets on my B&W map. There were also no dates given on either the flyer or the webpage.

So I applied myself to the larger city website and eventually got to the guy with the disconnected phone. Nice guy, but I proceeded to pretty much ruin his Friday afternoon. He was amazed to find out that the mailer had been done in B&W because it was supposed to have been in color. He was very surprised that the slurry page had neither a map on the page, nor a link to the map. And he was quite dismayed that the webpage was still showing the old land-line phone numbers, since the department switched over to cell phones recently.

I expect that somebody somewhere got yelled at pretty good! Corrections finally turned up on-line, Tuesday. And yes, the map was considerably more colorful with violet, turquoise, fuschia and green Phase code colors! So, all's well that ends well, we still have 2 weeks to go before things start, but I wonder if they're going to re-do the mailing actually in color?

We have a rather jaundiced view of City operations and politicians, informed partly by several years I spent working as a laborer in the Street Department, but also by working other jobs for the City, and just being alive with our eyes open… the machinations, both attempted and successful, have long been a source of both frustration and amusement.

So, does YOUR town come with politi-critters and operational mix-ups like these? Do YOU have similar tales of OMG-itude to share?

On with the games!!  

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Originally posted to chimene on Fri Jul 26, 2013 at 07:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Mojo Friday.

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