What is the Real Function of Governments Like Elk Grove? Part II

November 1, 2013 | During the two most recent meetings of the Elk Grove City Council there were discussions of great importance tha...

November 1, 2013 |

During the two most recent meetings of the Elk Grove City Council there were discussions of great importance that had little public input, and quite frankly, little news coverage. Nonetheless they illustrate what a municipal government really ought to exist for.

Neither of the two matters is sexy or overtly controversial, yet in many ways will determine the so-called quality of life of residents as they drive to work or take a stroll in their neighborhoods.

At the October 9 meeting Elk Grove Public Works Director Richard Shepard examined the conditions of locally maintained roads and their long-term prospects while at the October 23 meeting, the status of the city's contract for animal control and sheltering was discussed. While the animal shelter issue has received some airplay on KXJX's Insight program, the road discussion has had no public discourse.

The animal control issue stems from the fact that the Sacramento Society for Pets Association decided not to renew its contract with the city as they were unable to handle the volume of animals, about 3,000 last year, coming out of Elk Grove. The city decided to contract with Sacramento County for these services.

Appearing before the council at the October 23 meeting was Dr. Kelly Byam, DVM, who pointed out because of county budget limitations, over capacity of the county facility and Elk Grove's large volume of stray and abandoned pets, many of the animals turned over to them will be euthanized. Byam noted that  Elk Grove is the second biggest city in the county and said it should start acting like it.

During the October 9 meeting Shepard made a presentation to the city council regarding long-term funding for road maintenance. The presentation was eye-opening.

Among other things, Shepard said: 
  •       The city has an annual budget shortfall of $8 million for road maintenance.
  •       If funding continues at current rate, overall road conditions in Elk Grove would have a “poor” rating as defined by professionally recognized best management practices (BMP).
  •       In today’s dollars, to immediately put all the city’s streets into “good” condition based on BMP’s would cost $41 million,  in 10 years it would take $169 million and in 20 years $481 million.
  •       The city should the use more concrete when building new roads to help meet climate action goals. Construction of concrete streets has met resistance from developers because they have higher up-front cost. 

“The real issue is we have got to either close the gap in funding by finding another revenue source, or we have to change our prioritization process where we either can focus our energies on a certain segment of our road system,” Shepard said. "Whatever it is, we have to change our strategies because where we are going right now is not going to be effective.”

Shepard recommended deferring a decision until the outcome of a possible November 2014 county wide transportation vote. Should that be placed on the ballot, it would require a two-thirds majority approval and will increase funding to the city to help cover the gap.

Both of these matters are something that everyone in Elk Grove from residents to City Council Members ought to consider the deeper meaning of. What is it we expect from our government?

Regular readers of this site know that Elk Grove is poised to take a giant leap in its goal to enlarge the city by at least 4,000 acres and is simultaneously pursuing a professional soccer stadium and waterpark. We have to ask, is the city ready to execute these plans without putting city services to its current residents in peril?

As we saw in Shepard's presentation, road maintenance will be a pressing issue in years to come. Should proposition in 2014 not be renewed or even put on the ballot, what will the implications be for existing roads in Elk Grove when the 4,000 acres starts building out? The fees may cover the building of new roads, but what about maintenance?

And though this is a qualitative measure, time and time again we have seen once shiny new neighborhoods and developments come online, older neighborhoods tend to get ignored, perhaps unconsciously, not only by people, but government officials too. Newer areas most often are given more attention because they generate more sales tax revenue than older, lower income areas.

Not only do we see this is in Sacramento, think of the difference in services visible to the eye in the Pocket area versus Oak Park, it happens throughout the United States. Older neighborhoods are ignored over time for new areas and the older ones become blighted.

We already see pockets of this in Elk Grove. There is blight in older neighborhoods east of Highway 99 and increasingly in Laguna.

Aside from both being relatively older, it appears these increasingly blighted neighborhoods, particularly in Laguna, have a high percentage of single-family rental units. While the city has no control over this, most people with any knowledge of real estate understand that a high percentage of rentals in a neighborhood are never the most desirable situation.

Renters simply don't care if a neighborhood begins to look seedy and generally will not complain about neighborhood nuisances as much as a homeowner. They have no skin in the game and consequently it has no long-term economic effect on them. A sort of neighborhood death spiral starts that ultimately spreads like a cancer.

So as Elk Grove starts its expansion, let’s hold our city council members feet-to-the-fire and not let them sacrifice public safety items like animal control and the maintenance of our roads in older neighborhoods for the newer parts of town. Furthermore, the city council should exercise prudence and wisdom and defer their current plans and expenditures for items such as the proposed waterpark and soccer stadium pending  resolution of the road maintenance issues facing the city over the next 20 years.

This is the type of long-term planning the city really needs to focus on. After all, the function of the city is to provide services to its residents, not put them at peril at the expense of expansion or building memorials to themselves or their cronies.

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Anonymous said...

SOI, fresh new dirt, forget the old stuff. BIA doesn't make money on the old stuff.

Anonymous said...

Well looks like all the cities frivolous spending is hitting the taxpayer in the pocket sooner than we expected. We should have all known that was eventually coming. That answers my question on why the chambers have been so packed at city council meetings, questioning the spending of our taxpayer dollars...NOT!

Anonymous said...

Good article Dan. Concrete items that will affect our bottom dollar. 41 million in street improvements! WOW! And of course, that nummber will only go higher over the years. Animal control costs soaring too! These two items do equate to quality of life of residents. Not classy like stadiums and malls, but nevertheless, day to day happenings that effect how we live.

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