By John Arbeeny and David Anderson
In the spirit of the “Late Show with David Letterman” and the episode “Top Ten Rejected James Bond Gadgets;” and Jason Russell’s (Jan.7, 2015) commentary in the Washington Examiner entitled “What you could have done while waiting for Obama to decide on Keystone,” here are three solutions the Lakewood City Council might have considered to Save Our Streets (SOS).
The recently council-passed $20 car tab fee – bypassing the promised vote of the people which is understandable given a city survey revealed adamant opposition to any and all taxes and fees to Maintain Or Preserve (MOP) city roadways (and no, this imposition is not subject to referendum) – is, to put it mildly, rather uncreative, uninspired and unimaginative.
Certainly so in light of what might have been:
Similar to the current Lakewood program called ‘Adopt-a-Street’ whereby volunteers pick up trash, etc., the ‘adopt-a-pothole’ idea may be credited to a limo driver in New York although he may have borrowed the idea from a fellow in Mississippi who had been “dubbed the ‘Pothole Robin Hood’” given he’d steal the city’s asphalt, fill holes and leave behind a spray painted ‘citizen fixed’ message.”
Not wanting to resort to theft however, given, after all, he’d a limo-business reputation to uphold, the limo-guy got down-and-dirty just the same procuring his own dirt and filling in the various dents in the road while filling in the time on his busy schedule between appointments chauffeuring dignitaries or whomever about Levittown, New York.
There’s a need for a limo in Levittown?
Listed among the top ten attractions in Levittown are The Flea Market (number nine) on the Hempstead Turnpike which, speaking of hemp, is a stoned-throw from Total Video (number 10), also on Hempstead, and North Levittown Lanes (number eight).
Five of the ten to-be-sure-not-to-miss hot spots, via limo of course, interestingly, are found on the aforementioned Hempstead which street name suggests perhaps why the local Chamber of Commerce, or whoever came up with this list, chose garage-sales-central and video rentals as limo-destinations, hemp maybe having something to do with it.
But I digress.
‘Adopt-a-pothole’ would probably have been ditched here as it has there and everywhere because, as it turns out, specialized skills are apparently required to fill holes created by pot, or pot-shaped holes, or crack(s) as long as we’re going down that road.
“We have a highway crew that is trained to fill potholes,” a town spokesperson from the Hempstead area said, with evident pride.
The adopt-a-school-bus scheme for saving our streets no doubt would have generated a good deal of discussion, drug out longer for study by the council than even the highs swirling about the room like bongs gone bad given the hopes initially offered by the Hempstead suggestion.
But, alas, the adopt-a-school-bus moniker, even though a significant money maker ($200,000 the first year and a little more than $1 million cumulatively over the next four years), eventually would be likewise treated an end most ignominious for reasons that shall become obvious.
Once the smoke clears.
The plan, once again, is not original. The adopt-a-school-bus wheel has already been invented.
Davis School District in Farmington, Utah recently became “the second district in the state to take advantage of a 2011 law that allows 35 percent of a bus’ total area to be covered by advertisements.”
The wheels on the bus do indeed go round and round, rolling through town after town, this “relatively new trend gaining popularity nationwide as a risk-free revenue source for cash-strapped school districts.”
The argument here locally could have been that since school busses use the streets and the streets are in disrepair then revenue-sharing with the city by the schools would be in order via funds generated by the ads – not to mention the children – being bussed about town.
A two-fer, school board members could also have more easily rationalized their unanimously approved R&R (research and representation) attendance at the 75th Annual Conference of the National School Board Association, March 21-23, 2015 in Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry – a limo-attraction for sure.
There would initially appear to be no downside to this concept of school bus advertising unless one takes into account the battle sure to ensue – and probably somebody getting sued – over who gets to, and who does not, advertise.
School officials in Utah for example rather disdainfully regard as “advertising unfit for children” – and therefore unsuitable to adorn the school busses – the following: “alcohol and tobacco sales, political campaigns, religions or any sexual material.”
Gambling, it should be noted, somewhat surprisingly, did not apparently meet with abhorrence by school administrators, absent as it was from the list of anathemas to be shielded from the eyes of little children occupying the various slots, er seats, on the bus.
Political campaigns and pastoral clergy were no-no’s, but not predatory casinos.
One would think that politicians and pastors would take significant umbrage at this not-so-subtle indictment of their professions, dumped and lumped with the pour- , the puff- , and the porn industries – as all are prohibited from school bus advertising in Utah.
Then again, the recent Gallup 25th annual survey in which Americans “rated the honesty and ethics of various professions” scored congressman last of all, even below car salesmen. Clergy barely squeaked into the top five.
But I digress again.
The initial brilliance attributed to the adopt-a-school-bus financial bonanza as a means by which to pay for pavement preservation – or send school board members to the Bahamas – given the brouhaha sure to come from disgruntled advertisers deemed undesirable, would likely have dulled quicker and darker than a dim bulb and adopt-a-school-bus would be thrown under the bus.
In a city’s – or for that matter any governmental entity’s – ceaseless quest for “resources” in order to keep its ever-growing “commitment to providing quality services and amenities to residents” (Lakewood Connections, Winter, 2015, p.2), not to be overlooked or taken for granted are those who actually provide those quality services and amenities: the city government employee.
Some of whom, speaking of roads, have recently been left behind to hitch their own ride.
The dozen city employees recently let go from Lakewood payroll – 20 full-time equivalents if you count positions already vacant or soon to be vacant that won’t be filled – might have been kept on board had there been an adopt-a-city-employee program.
Then again, given what they’re paid, maybe not.
An Administrative Assistant (AA) in Lakewood makes 86-percent starting salary of what is paid in Bellevue for an AA.
And yet nearly 20-percent of Lakewood’s residents live below the poverty level contrasted with less than eight percent in Bellevue.
And only 21-percent of Lakewood’s people have a bachelor’s degree or higher while Bellevue’s is three times that.
Consequently, and not surprisingly, the Median Household Income (HI) in Lakewood is $43,362 while Bellevue’s is $90,333.
In a 2007 city-to-city comparison – 17 cities in all, including Bellevue – of Executive Assistant (EA) salaries, Lakewood ranked 4th from the bottom in Household Income (HI) but third from the top in the amount paid an executive assistant relative to household income.
The same held true not only for executive assistants but also for administrative assistants and for that matter maintenance workers.
Yet who pays the salaries of the dog catcher, the maintenance worker, the AA’s and the EA’s? The citizens. And in Lakewood, the citizens with an HI of less than half that of their counterparts in Bellevue, are paying nearly the same for the positions contrasted.
The only baseline that really matters in establishing what citizens should pay in taxes for government services is household income. Government employee salaries should be commensurate with the community they serve. Yet never is this a basis for determining salaries since they would rise or fall depending on the fortunes of the citizens which, truth be told, is a far more fair and direct measure of how effective government has been in improving the lot of the governed.
In Lakewood, where drivers already pay the highest car insurance premiums in the entire state, those same drivers are now required to pay an additional fee for the little sticker that goes on the license plate when it is difficult enough – as former Lakewood Mayor Doug Richardson once admitted (TNT, Nov.24, 2012) – to put food on the dinner plate.
In a Washington Times piece this past September 30, headlined “Squeezing the Turnip,” editorialists wrote what applies here locally:
“Spendthrift politicians must understand there isn’t any more blood.”