Takin’ It to the Streets: Addressing the Status Quo

Corpus Christi, Front Page

SPMPsignage

     “Problems are hard to see when buried in a culture of this is how we’ve always done it,”  says Andy Taubman, CC Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee chairman.  He could not stress enough how the City staff are good, decent, competent people who have been more than willing to assist the street committee.  “I believe they are trying to do the right thing.  I’ve had interactions with plenty of government people over the years, and it’s very rare when I can make a blanket statement saying that I really think most of the people are doing it for the right reasons and doing a decent job.”

     Taubman went on to say, however, that the current culture doesn’t foster accountability, importance of shared communications, or respect for innovation.  The system absolutely fosters “We’re going to do tomorrow what we did yesterday, and we’re absolutely not going to look at what we did yesterday because we may not like what we find.”

     Taubman says that this is just typical of human beings in general, so he can’t blame individual people.  “There’s a cultural problem that we have to decide as a community if we’re okay with that or not.”

     When asked if the SPMP (Street Preventative Maintenance Program) is well-run or efficient, he took a deep breath and said he thought the SPMP is an extraordinarily good idea because it requires that we take care of the streets that are in acceptable condition since the cost of reconstructing a street is enormous.  However, the program is short on funds by $5 to $10 million dollars per year, and if the City wants to take care of what it has, then they need to find that amount to do it.   “Should we scrounge to do that?  It wouldn’t be a bad place to spend money,” Taubman said.

     The residential street committee is staying out of the funding discussion at this stage of their work because “it has a way of sucking the oxygen out of the room,” he said.  Taubman points out that there really is only one source of funding.  The dollars used for any city service, whether in the form of a property tax, a fee, or an excise tax, come only from “the pockets of the citizens.”   He went on to say that it appears that other avenues of funding have not been explored because it just is not the way the status quo thinks about the problem of funding.

     “At the margin, there are some sources out there that ought to have a bigger role in the paying for things.  The RTA (Regional Transportation Authority) has a role to play here.”   (RTA current contributions to streets)

       Kirsten Crow of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported in April of 2015: “The agency draws funds through a 1/2-cent sales tax, which generally supports its day-to-day operations. The RTA’s sales tax allocation dropped about 8.2 percent from 2008 to 2009, but overall increased from 2004-13, from $17.7 million to $32.9 million annually, according to the comptroller.”

Andy Taubman 1     In Taubman’s  report,  “Street Methods and Standards:  Residential Streets”  (Read full document here), presented at the January 4, 2016, Corpus Christi Ad Hoc Residential Street Committee meeting, other findings were revealed:

  • Conditions leading to poor streets
  • Street standards implemented in 2013
  • Additional changes to standards and practices that might be required
  • Focus of current street programs
  • Citizen satisfaction priorities for streets
  • RQI (Ride Quality Index) vs. PCI (Pavement Condition Index)
  • Street safety
  • What a million dollars gets the City in residential streets
  • Residential road management objectives
  • Maximizing road fixed per dollar spent
  • Pot hole / small area restoration focus as strategic part of the comprehensive street plan
  • Additional important street considerations for a new residential street program
  • What City staff and committee need to do next
  • Standard costs for reconstruction, overlays, seal coats, and small area restoration

     There has been no move by the City staff to ask, “Can we ramp up since we’re not going to meet our deadlines?”  Even though the program is months behind schedule, “that question never gets asked,” said Taubman.  “A good private business asks this question all the time and would say ‘I’m hiring this contractor, this contractor, and this contractor, and we’re going to surge here and get it done because my year-one program has to be done by the end of year one.’  That doesn’t happen.”

     “If you don’t ask the question, you can’t address the problem.  Because of the way the system was constructed, when you get to that point, you couldn’t address it even if you wanted to address it because you have one IDIQ (Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity) provider for that particular service.  It wasn’t like there was even the possibility of doing that.  In a new program, these are all shakedown issues.  It didn’t get addressed year two.  Now, we’re in year three.  It hasn’t been sorted out yet.”

           The committee meets through May.  Then, they will make recommendations to the City Council based on their findings.  “Even if we come up with good ideas, is there the possibility of implementation?  I don’t know.  It sure seem like it’s hard.  I don’t know where the impetus is going to come from inside the system to say ‘Wow! Now that my eyes are opened, we’re going to do it differently.’  I just don’t know where that’s going to come from.”

(This is the third in a series of articles about the work of the residential street committee.)

 

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Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.
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