Every time I think we’ve found most of the tradeoffs in the proposed city budget, like closing the zoo to pay for cops, another one crops up. This time, it’s potholes. Turns out we’re cutting back on road repairs to pay for the cops, as well.

There’s a bunch of mumbo jumbo about satisfactory rates (how many potholes are allowed in a satisfactory road, anyway?) and lane miles here. The numbers and facts are in the budget tell a more clear — and more depressing — story:

• There’s a program called pavement management, which inventories city roads. And, as near as I can tell, the inventory is not complete. If the inventory isn’t complete, how can we do a road repair budget?

•  The budget for signal construction and repair has been cut by one-half million dollars. The service goals, meanwhile, require that temporary repairs be made in no more than 3 1/2 days. That’s 3 1/2 days with one of those temporary stop signs at a busy, four-way intersection.

• The budget has been cut about 4 percent (and 4 employees have been eliminated) in the department that does asphalt repairs, while the budget has been cut 7 percent in the department that does concrete repairs.

• The aforementioned budget cuts are actually more severe, since construction prices have increased significantly, according to budget estimates. This means we have less money to buy more expensive materials, so even fewer repairs will be made.

I understand that choices and compromises need to be made at budget time. What I don’t understand is why every member of the council doesn’t comb through the budget and make their own decisions about what needs to be done. The budget is just a guideline –- it’s not law, and the budget police aren’t going to arrest a council member who dares to disagree with it, the city manager, or Mayor Park Cities.

If the city isn’t going to fix pot holes, what’s its reason for being?


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