Friday, January 11, 2013
Street Maintenance v. Street Building
Speech to Grants Pass City Council, November 17, 2010
Last meeting, I contrasted the non-enforcement of weed and litter nuisance codes with posting on poles, which the City appears to be more concerned about than weeds and litter. This week, we will look at how the City socializes the cost of street maintenance, while loading the cost of building streets and sidewalks on individual property owners.
An important part of maintenance of pavement is keeping organic litter from lying on it too long, turning into soil, growing plants whose roots turn cracks into holes into pot-holes. In the early stages of decomposition, leaves can make a sidewalk or street slippery as well.
This is a part of street maintenance that could easily be handled by owners or occupants of adjacent property, but the City does not make them do it. Our code says that one shall not deposit organic litter on pavements, but that is not well-enforced, and it does not speak to leaves dropped by trees at all, regarding how long they can be allowed to lie on the street and sidewalk.
The City sends out street-sweeping trucks on particular streets but not all. They give the people the impression that cleaning up the street is the City’s job. Some businesses, even next to City Hall, don’t clean up their leaves off their sidewalk until every leaf is off their trees. Some people never clean up their street, and the City doesn’t either; the pavement crumbles, such as on Fry between D and E Streets. Some people actually blow their leaves into the street, and leave them there.
The City also cleans up alleyways so that police can see people who are trying to hide from them. Every alleyway has adjacent properties with owners or occupants who can keep the weeds cut and the litter picked up, but Community Service work crews do it instead.
Meanwhile, the City charges adjacent property owners, sometimes many thousands of dollars, for a basic function of government: street building and improvements. While socializing the relatively small and controllable cost of cleaning and doing a poor job of it, they privatize what the City as a whole should always pay for, and over which the property owner has no control. They even allow developers to charge people who live next to their developments for the streets they build next to their properties.
Neither the former nor the latter should be done. The City and developers should absorb the cost of street building and improvements; individual property occupants should keep those streets clean. The City should use its code and make them do it.
Published at AssociatedContent.com under Land and Liability #4.