Potholes and peens

An artist’s ridiculous effort to force road repairs; plus, Chico’s roundabout is being dedicated

I couldn’t help but chuckle recently when I read a story about an anonymous graffiti artist—perhaps tagger or vandal is a better descriptor—who paints phalluses on badly maintained roadways in Manchester, England. The artist is called Wanksy. I kid you not.

“The road is my canvas,” he writes at wanksy.mycindr.com.

Readers can head to that webpage or Facebook for a rundown of Wanksy’s “fight against potholes and just generally shite road conditions.” There, folks also will be treated to a thesaurus’ worth of synonyms for penis—you know, shlong, dong, etc.—in Wanksy’s hilarious descriptions of various street doodles.

The goal of encircling those hollow depressions in the streets is to get them filled. And, according to Wanksy—yes, that name is a play on England-based street artist Banksy—many of the potholes get filled quite swiftly.

Wanksy actually is an artist, according to a Manchester-based newspaper that interviewed him, though you wouldn’t know it from his cartoon-like drawings. Given the circumstances, however, that style is better than realism.

This may be the first time in my life I’ve had penis envy—albeit not the Freudian sort. It’s just that Chico is plagued with potholes, too. There’s even a sizable one right in front of the Chico Municipal Center—on Main Street by the fish fountain.

Of course, I’d never encourage anyone to copy the mysterious peen painter from across the pond. For one thing, it’s illegal. For another, I know a lot of pothole-filling is taking place locally these days. I noticed a couple of biggies on Vallombrosa had been taken care of recently, for example.

I just find it absurd that somebody feels compelled to deal with the situation in such an unorthodox manner. Also ludicrous: Domino’s Pizza has a campaign called “Paving for Pizza” in which the American-based chain pays local governments to fill potholes in exchange for positive public relations. The city of Milford, in Delaware—population 11,075—reportedly filled 40 holes with the $5,000 it received.

Potholes are a popular perennial topic among Chicoans, especially after the winter rains when they seem ubiquitous. With all that talk—including during City Council meetings over the past four or five years—I was pretty surprised a few weeks ago when our elected representatives voted unanimously for a budget that moves $350,000 in general fund revenue previously earmarked for road repairs to public safety. That money is being taken from the $800,000 in waste-hauling franchise fees that the panel in 2017 explicitly dedicated to road maintenance and repair for a five-year period. That couple hundred thousand dollars was a little bit of help, but so much for that.

As we’ve reported repeatedly, the city doesn’t have the funds to maintain the roads—43 percent of which are graded as poor or very poor—let alone improve them. It’s so bad that even conservatives Stephanie Taber and Loretta Torres have suggested the city raise taxes.

I do have to give city staff a hand for working hard to generate funds through grants. That’s how the roundabout at Second and Flume streets was finally completed. Speaking of which, that awesome project is being dedicated this Friday (June 21) at 10 a.m.