Opinion: Elk Grove City Council Spending . . .What we want or what we need?

By Connie Conley | One of my favorite movies of all time is The Big Chill. There is a scene at Alex’s funeral, played by the unseen...

By Connie Conley |

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Big Chill. There is a scene at Alex’s funeral, played by the unseen actor Kevin Costner, whereby the JoBeth Williams character gets up and plays Alex’s favorite song on the organ. That song, which most can name in two chords, was the Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

That was the song I immediately thought of when watching the April 10th Elk Grove City Council meeting. On the agenda, we had back to back items which were indicative of what we want as opposed to what we need.

Without so much as a hiccup, the city council moved forward on the 14 million dollar aquatics center which I am sure had a lot of young swimmers singing “Joy to the World.”

However, like a “Bad Moon Rising,” the next item was concerning a $500K grant to purchase new E-tran buses. The cold reality is we need a new fleet of buses. $500K is not going to cut it.

Ever since the Elk Grove City Council voted back in 2004 to form our own bus service, it has been plagued with bad decisions and bad management – how many transit managers have we had who all left suddenly -- with one leaving two million dollars of bills hidden in his desk -- not to mention costing us taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in buses that were unsafe. How many times did we hear at public comment from riders that bus windows fogged up during winter, and then in summer, they were so hot that riders almost passed out from heat exhaustion? And even worse, we had buses that filled up with smoke or broke down on a regular basis.

But our residents did the right thing, first because they had to as Regional Transit was no longer an option, and rode our E-tran buses. And ride they did along with many whose only way of transportation is our bus service.

So when E-tran was in grave financial trouble, what did the city council try to do? They wanted to cut service. We had many a resident who weren’t “[Ain’t] Too Proud to Beg,” pleading with the council not to take away their only form of transportation. Well that didn’t work then and it won’t work in the future. E-tran bus service is essential for our some of our residents’ quality of life. It is a need.

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” to go back to the days when Elk Grove had tens of millions of dollars in reserves, but that money is long gone. So how are we going to pay for what we need: A new bus fleet? Certainly the city council didn’t have any answers. “It’s The Same Old Song” when faced with an issue that is unpleasant, they got “Nothing Yet!”

But what they do “got” is 14 million for an aquatics center. It is a want, and yes, it would be a nice amenity for our city.

However, our city’s demographics are such that though we have 60,000 youth, we also have a very large population of baby boomers whose hair is becoming “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” and will most certainly need to rely on E-tran in the future.

And let’s face it, E-tran isn’t exciting, it isn’t glamorous, it doesn’t prompt headlines, it doesn’t win votes, it doesn’t have people “Dancing in the Street,” like a new aquatics center. That is the way it usually is with needs.

Though I am taking a movie soundtrack and making an Op Ed out of it, this is serious business here and the city council needs to take a lesson from Mick and Keith, “You can’t always get want you want, You can’t always get what you want, But if you try sometimes well you just might find, You get what you need!”

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Tom said...

Well said. I'm seeing less love for the disadvantaged which is par for the course. Oops. I shouldn't have said that. Now they will want to build a golf course.

Ralph Kramden said...

Behind those super dark tinted windows, it is usually an empty or nearly empty bus driving around town all day sucking our money out of their tailpipes. I suspect there is some "creative accounting" going on with the ridership numbers being submitted to the Feds for the grant money that is subsidizing them. What an interesting piece of investigative journalism that would be!

Connie said...

Nice touch Dan to add the song links. Listing to "Whiter Shade of Pale" now Great great song!

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

After viewing Wednesday's meeting, at least I can say Council Member Cooper is consistent in his apparent disdain for public transit. The councilman needs to get over that public transit has always been and always will need subsidies.

While public transit does not add up on a purely quantifiable basis, there are many qualitative measures that makes public transit a good thing to subsidize. Far fewer cars on the road improves traffic not to mention air quality for starters.

In fact, there are probably several ways public transit is a quantitative gain for taxpayers and society at large.

Pipe Dreams said...

Steve Detrick is very naïve if he thinks the aquatics center is going to be net zero cost for the City of Elk Grove. Cities are losing money on their aquatics centers. That is a fact.

The council needs to go into this with their eyes wide open and stop with the pie-in-the-sky thinking.

That mentality will bankrupt our city!

Lynn said...

Spend, spend, spend!!!
What happens when all the youth living here ages out?
This aquatic center is not net zero...city leaders have already suggested....gift of property and the money they will spend for us. All of their ideas have cost money and yet what have they produced? What will their legacies be??? Wayfinding signs? Signs everywhere?
I am ever thankful for the groups who saved our historical buildings and who gave us one regional park! Proud heritage...their gift to us! What will our current leaders gift be? Bankruptcy??? Debt???? Traffic???? Empty store fronts????? Poor air quality???? very expensive water???? We need "smart growth"...true our leaders are about growth...just not "smart" about it.

Anonymous said...

All of this will continue until this city gets quality leadership.

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