Dear Rae & Tonia… • Long Beach Post

Dear Rae and Tonia,

I hope this finds you well and that you had a great weekend in our wonderful city.  I am writing to ask a small favor that would really help my family out, and the 100,000 other constituents in your districts.  You see, our family car is really getting pounded driving on the main corridors through the 7th and 8th Districts.  There are growing potholes all over that are often impossible to avoid due to traffic in adjacent lanes and how fast they seem to creep up on us.  One of our favorites is in the westbound lane of Carson just east of Olive – it is a real doozy and sometimes when we hit it just right we swear we can hear cheering coming from the tire and alignment shops.

Of course we are aware that the City is having severe financial problems, again, and that funds for infrastructure repair are hard to come by—and while I know it is not true many of my neighbors and fellow constituents are convinced that parts of the city like our Bixby Knolls have to wait until roads on the eastside and downtown are repaired before we have any chance of having the huge holes filled in our section of town.  But even with financial troubles can you not find some way to fix our roads so they are even halfway decent.

I make no claim to fully understanding municipal financing and economics, I do know revenue, expenses and budgets however and see that in the December 2006 issue of Long Beach City Works, residents were told that in 2006 $10,000,000 was allocated for street restructure and in 2007 $12,000,000 was so allocated.  I put a call into Ken Mason in the Engineering Bureau of the City of Long Beach and asked a couple of questions: 1) Was that an accurate figure that $22 million was allocated in 2006 and 2007 for street repairs? 2) How much of that has been spent?  And 3) what does it cost to repair the average size pothole-that-is-now-a-problem, say 18” x 18” with a decent depth?

I was very pleased to hear back from Public Works and learn that the $22 million allocated the past two years has either been spent for road repair, is under contract for road repair or is out to contractor bid for road repair.  That is good news, the city and its departments are using the allocated funds as budgeted.  Regarding question 3 (cost to repair a pot hole) they will have to get back to me.  Thanks to the internet I was able to look up “EZ Street” cold asphalt repair, a 35 pound bag fills most potholes and costs $11.99.  Assuming a two-man crew, at $20.00 per hour per man (about $42,000 per year), and 30 minutes a pothole the cost of repair works out to about $32.00 per hole.  If I get a cost back from the city I will let update this post.

It is a challenge, what with the Police Department wanting new helicopters and over-budget on overtime, the struggle over whether to fund kids programs or lights in the 5th District, plus funding the salaries for current workers plus the health and retirement benefits for current and retired workers.  The challenge is more difficult when residents of areas of town fight against people and companies who are willing to invest significant money to improve blighted sites with housing or commercial development that would increase revenues for the city.  With constituents and special interests writing you and calling you and stopping you on the street telling you what programs to keep, or to expand and then what development to stop you certainly get it from all sides.  Of course looming in all of this is the $500,000 cost for a special election for two pro-union ordinances the council passed last year that voters put on the ballot to rescind: union mandated employment for hotels on city property and banning “big-box” stores from selling groceries.

Using my cost of $32 per pothole to repair you have an easy vote to make on Tuesday that can save the City $500,000 and allocate the funds to repair 15,625 potholes; according to Long Beach City Works magazine that is about six months of pothole repair.  Or you can have an election for one item to deny residents the opportunity for cheaper groceries and visitors more expensive hotel stays.

Simply vote “yes” to rescind both of the ordinances that are currently on the ballot in February and you can fix 15,000 potholes, plus save residents and visitors money.  It has been reported that you are willing to vote to rescind the mandatory union employment for hotels on city owned property—at the behest of the Unite Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, aka Unite HERE who I understand were practically living in City Hall last week.  That is a great step forward to save some money to repair the pothole on Carson.  But evidently the United Food and Commercial Workers or other unions that represent the grocery workers—and looking to spend some money in upcoming campaigns—have not yet given the green light to rescind the ordinance banning “big-box” from selling groceries.

What to do?  Protect relationships with the unions for future elections? Spend money that could add police or fix potholes?  Vote to rescind two ordinances that voters have indicated they want rescinded?    

When my kids are older and can understand such things, I will tell them that the quality of their life will depend on the quality of their decisions.   For important decisions determine what role they are in to make the decision, parent, sister, friend, boss, volunteer, elected official.  Then make the decision based on the responsibilities you have for that role.  The easy decision is the one you make for yourself, the hard decision is the one you make that fulfills the responsibility of the role and those who entrusted you with the decision.  It seems apparent to me and many others in the City that we want you as our representatives on City Council to take care of our streets and safety before wasting money on other matters.

I hope you have a good week and thank you for taking the time to read my letter.  I am off to realign the family van after a weekend traveling up and down Carson, Atlantic, Orange, Wardlow….


Dennis C. Smith
8th District Resident

Your thoughts welcome, click here to email me or on “Leave A Comment” below for public response.


Update: 10/9/07, mid-morning:


Art Cox, Superintendent of Street Maintenance was kind enough to call this morning to inform me that the city cost to repair a pothole is $18.  This means the $500,000 for the election to rescind the two ordinances, if cancelled by City Council, would fill 27,778 potholes. 


Mr. Cox indicated that Street Repair needs a new truck and crew to get to the backlog of potholes and the cost appears to be pretty close to the cost of the election.

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