We’re a few days into the terms of San Diego’s new mayor and City Council members and the big topics on everyone’s lips are streets, buildings, storm drains and other infrastructure.
The discussion has centered on a large loan that would address one of the city’s most significant problems: It doesn’t spend enough money each year to keep its infrastructure from getting worse, let alone enough to build long-sought new fire facilities and other neighborhood projects. Elected Democrats and business groups say they’re in the early stages of developing a loan plan, but one major conservative group already is panning the idea as an unneeded tax increase.
Money is just one of the issues the city has with fixing its roads. As our investigation last year showed, the city has had trouble spending the cash it does have because of a disorganized and inefficient bureaucracy.
To remedy that problem, the city made a series of reforms this spring designed to speed up road and other infrastructure repair spending and boost transparency.
I appeared on the radio a few weeks ago to discuss all of this and referenced a new story by Investigative Newsource that contended the city hadn’t followed through on its new transparency requirements.
Officials at the Public Works Department called me afterward to make the case for their transparency improvements.
The officials have held meetings with community groups and contractors. They’ve provided a council committee a comprehensive update on their progress. And they’ve launched a website for the public to track individual projects.
“When you take all this in totality, we’ve done a heck of a lot and what we said we’re going to do,” said Tony Heinrichs, who heads the public works department.
The website is still a work in progress. It provides less information and in a less user-friendly way than more developed capital improvement plans in big cities like San Francisco and San Antonio. And the promise of budgeting repairs and other improvements over multiple years remains unfulfilled. The city’s independent budget analyst said that’s expected to take a while. Public works officials hope to address the issue next at a council committee in January.
All of this should serve as important context as the infrastructure loan campaign plays out. While more resources toward fixes are needed, money alone won’t fix the city’s longstanding repair problems.
Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?
Please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.550.5663.
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