Editor, The Bulletin,
During the past mayoral campaign my opponent proclaimed that Manteca streets were being maintained regularly; essentially, the same response proclaimed by city hall for some time. My position has been the streets have not been properly maintained for decades. In fact, Manteca’s grading standard for streets went from “C” to “F” and then the grading system was eliminated when it hit rock bottom. Rather than seek a solution to diminishing revenue resources, management simply relied on stagnant highway and fuel tax revenues for street maintenance, a revenue resource that was annually losing its effectiveness in light of rising maintenance costs and added new streets. City hall’s less than responsive streets maintenance program became the accepted standard for decades.
As reported in the Bulletin, the City Council has only about $1.5 million annually for street maintenance, a mere drop in the bucket in the face of the immense problem. The Bulletin also reported that $5.5 million is needed annually to prevent severe deterioration of streets which would require considerably more money to repair. Frankly, those numbers fall short of responding to the need. A responsive street maintenance program will need at least $8 million to $10 million annually over a period of 10 years, which includes money for “catch up repairs” of long ignored older streets. The dollar values can be debated but what cannot be debated is that the current and past “street maintenance program” is a losing proposition.
What happened? The answer (which can also be attributed to other declining public services) is simple. Rather than increase revenue over several decades to provide for regular maintenance of streets, city hall instead reduced the quality of the repair and called it maintenance. Forty years ago streets were paved; then some were paved; then cracks were filled with oil; then some received a layer of fabric and oil; now, few are paved and most receive a covering of oil.
“The city got along fine without [it] for years,” is an all-telling statement. Rather than seek a solution, this ingrained response became the standard of city managers and department heads; not only for roadway maintenance but for every other declining public service in this community. Both management and Councils purposely walked themselves into a corner over time because it was easier and politically friendly. And so goes the fundamental reason why we are facing this problem today. My hope is that the new Council majority pulls the curtain aside and takes the financial helm from management and moves towards a much-needed road to financial recovery.
Finally, the Public Facilities Implementation Program needs to be completed and implemented with a transportation chapter that includes provisions for the collecting of funds for roadway maintenance. Mr. Wyatt is correct, City Hall and Councils have a tradition of leaving money on the table, which has only benefited developers and transferred the financial deficit to the existing residents.