Patch potholes, pave a new path

Dr. Richard Ek is a retired Chico State University journalism professor and department chairman who contributes frequently to the Chico News & Review.

In a recent special report for the CN&R (“Breaking the bank,” cover story, March 29), I wrote that runaway gravy-train wage and benefit packages for city of Chico unionized workers starve other government services, particularly street maintenance, while also threatening fiscal disaster.

City residents everywhere rate good streets on a par with good police and fire service in defining quality of life. Many Chico neighborhood streets are in awful condition, and City Manager Greg Jones says he doesn’t have money to properly fix our roads and such repairs will take years.

While the city fixed some major roads last autumn with redevelopment bond money, that money can’t be used for routine maintenance like filling potholes, which to the motoring public is where the rubber meets the road. Instead, Jones says filling potholes is “like chasing your tail.” He needs to develop a can-do attitude and start some serious tail chasing.

After all, Jones told Chico residents in a newsletter last fall that “staff is working hard [to be better, faster, and smarter] and take service quality to the next level. We want to ‘water your eyes’ with superior services.” Such eye-watering service needs to start at the top with him showing the way by launching an anti-pothole drive. Plus the city has a new pavement-management survey that inventories all 233 miles of Chico roads and shows the worst spots.

On the City Council level, Councilman Steve Bertagna told me city drivers “incrementally” get used to deteriorating streets and that the council does not often discuss the subject. Such an attitude is hard to understand. Fortunately for the council, we had a pretty dry winter because a wet one would have produced nightmarish street conditions and hordes of very disgruntled motorists. If unhappy drivers packed a council meeting and jammed the do-nothing council and city manager on this issue, they would get action. Pressure makes these reactive folks respond.

Fred Davis, Chico’s city manager for 33 years, duly notes the unhappy state of the streets ("Debunking the Bunk” blog, April 23). He says in part: “Almost every day I hear complaints about the serious condition of our neighborhood … streets. He [Jones] should direct his General Services Department to get going and immediately move ahead on a maintenance program to fill up the chuckholes, and the City Council should provide the funds to do the maintenance of the streets now.” It’s great to have someone of Fred’s stature singing with the choir.

Jones deserves credit for passing up a raise this year as an example and a start to freeing up bucks for the real essentials.