Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
Over the past few years I have written a number of times regarding the deteriorating conditions of Manteca’s roadway system and the less than progressive municipal budgeting process that City Hall regurgitates each year. So a recent column by Dennis Wyatt that highlights the continuing deficiency and declining funding available for streets maintenance, prompted me to write yet another letter. In all my years at city hall and years after my retirement, I have observed the same old routine twice a year — the budget preparation process and then the mid-year review — that results in no improvement to public services or infrastructure maintenance. Not once has city hall reviewed and prepared a budget that fully funds amenities or infrastructure maintenance, or includes a recovery program that addresses deteriorating conditions. The budget process has simply been reduced over the years to a routine process that marginally highlights easy to fund items and the occasional partial funding of good news worthy projects.
It is time for the “new majority” city council to recognize that public service levels have been declining each year and that decisions made during the budget process is the common link. Simply asking a disjointed question or making an irrelevant statement to a budget line item while accepting a rote response from Staff is not progress, it is the same old routine and backward movement.
Let’s be frank. If council members really want to know, then ask the Public Works Director and the Finance Director why the streets are strewn with cracks and ruts, and why tangible roadway maintenance is not taking place. Their answer should be that there is no money available for proper maintenance. Then ask the tough question, “why is there no money available for roadway maintenance.” Their rote answer (should be), there is insufficient State, Federal, and City revenue (generated annually to properly address this problem. (This is where the questions usually stop, and the roadways continue to decline.)
Herein lays the fundamental reason why the roadways are not being maintained, and why many of the other amenities in the community are lacking. Neither side of the equation takes the initiative to resolve the matter of lack of money: Staff is looking for direction from Council and the Council is looking for direction from staff. I fully understand the stalemate, for who wants to take the first step outside of their comfort zone. If council members truly wish to make progress on this particular issue, do not simply accept Staff’s response and leave there. Ask the next questions: What is Staff’s short-term proposal, including funding, to improve the situation; what is their long-term proposal, including funding, for a recovery program that repairs existing long forgotten roadways; and what needs to take place to generate appropriate levels of funding.
The Council has but three assigned tasks — maintaining public health, safety, and the general welfare of the community. This means you (the Council) are ultimately responsible for these three elements and the level of service of each. If you are OK with the current situation then lay back and make occasional irrelevant statements for the next eight years.
“The first step to solving a problem is to recognize that there is a problem.” The second step is to systematically confront the problem.