The county and city of San Francisco has a $6.8 billion annual budget. But for some reason, this world-class city fails to properly maintain its streets, which are riddled with potholes, buckling sidewalks, and seismically unsafe bridges, tunnels and stairways.
San Francisco’s streets score 64 out of 100 on the pavement condition index, which correlates to the significant levels of distress that may require rehabilitation and preventive maintenance to keep them from deteriorating rapidly. The City is tied for 73rd among Bay Area cities in the condition of its streets.
The reason the streets are in such a sorry state is because city officials have spent so little to maintain them, especially in lean economic times. Consider what has happened this fiscal year — the mayor and the Board of Supervisors cut the street repair budget in half.
But rather than spend more out of the budget for street maintenance, city officials are asking residents to approve a $248 million bond measure on the November ballot. Not only is Proposition B unnecessary, it is incredibly wasteful because the interest on top of the borrowed $248 million will total $189 million, according to the budget analyst.
If the $248 million intended to be financed through a bond was instead taken out of the city budget and spread over 10 years, it would average $24.8 million annually. And the $189 million in bond interest payments would be avoided.
By placing this bond measure on the ballot, city officials are admitting they have failed in their fiscal management and need overtaxed San Franciscans to dig deeper into their pockets to bail them out. That is a tall order in this recessionary economy, especially when the bond measure requires two-thirds approval.
Instead of sticking it to the taxpayers, city officials should reorder their priorities so that they are not neglecting basics such as road repair.
The sad reality is that even if voters approve Prop. B, there will only be a negligible improvement in pothole-filled streets, because just $148.4 million of the bond is slated for street repaving. As a result, the pavement condition is expected to improve only to a score of 66 from the current 64.
To their credit, two supervisors voted against placing this measure on the ballot. Sean Elsbernd said that it’s wrong to pay for ongoing maintenance needs through debt. Mark Farrell agreed, saying, “I believe we should be paying for our street maintenance out of our annual budget.”
We hope city voters strongly reject this proposition, sending a message to city officials to get their fiscal house in order and stop neglecting road repair.