Identifying city’s probems is at least a starting point | Our Opinion | April 22

So, you think you have problems with an old car that needs an overhaul and a roof that needs to be replaced? The city has some management problems that likely dwarf most of ours since its infrastructure has been allowed to deteriorate to such a degree that paralysis finally set in because ... where to start? Well, we started – after a delay of 20 or 30 years – with finally fixing Winslow Way’s decrepit water and sewer pipes.

On top of needing to fix problems such as the Eagle Harbor Beach Mains and Rockaway Beach Drive, we’re mired somewhere deep in a recession that makes embarking on major undertakings nearly impossible. For example, in Interim City Manager Brenda Bauer’s recent memo on strategic planning for all of the city’s capital needs, she wrote about funding repair projects that have reached the point where neglect has become almost criminal because of the huge backlog:

“The city must begin to address these needs, despite the fact that many of the projects represent complex, multi-year, multi-agency efforts with significant funding requirements. Continued deferral also increases the risk that these issues may experience an unplanned failure, which will always be more costly and difficult to resolve than a planned approach.”

Bauer, a career bureaucrat who has managed many big projects in Seattle, knows all about planning and the importance of getting on top of problems before they explode.  She also knows that, while the island’s problems may seem unique, they are not. And she knows that money needs to be thrown at them, though wisely. She suggests a “comprehensive funding strategy,” which would include more money coming from the general fund, grant funding and obtaining “new revenue sources.” The latter probably means voter bonds. Good luck.

Seeking help may be futile since the city has long lost credibility with most islanders. It appears, however, that this group of so-called leaders will at least point out the mistakes made by others. Let’s hope they do the same when they make them.

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