The City has a problem. Actually, it has a host of problems but right at the very top is fixing sidewalks. I laughed at the editorial that was praising Byron Matthews concerning the response people have about Newburyport. And it is, in itself, a remarkable thing. It’s either, “Newburyport? We just LOVE Newburyport.” or the response given, “Wow, Newburyport is so beautiful.”
Unfortunately, we have a big pimple on that pretty face, our sidewalks.
THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HIRE A LIBERTARIAN AS YOUR SIDEWALK SUPERINTENDENT!*
Every few yards, a new medium is faced. We have the blacktop, the brick, the cement, the cobblestone, a mixture of at least three types of surfaces and everyone’s favorite, the twisted agony left by a rather aggressive street tree!
And of course, the desperate, poorly-planned efforts by the DPS to fix it when a trickle of money is found – either long stretches of cheap blacktop or ADA-compliant-but-heritage-tourism-killing concrete.
Our locals regularly walk down the streets many toting baby carriages risking their children’s lives in the onslaught of cars and trucks. Our visitors foolishly try to walk our sidewalks and become potentially two-legged lawsuits as they fall to the ground in pain.
In desperation, we look to fix entire city blocks and find we have a measly $30,000. We recently got it up to $60,000 but a tiny drop in the bucket against entire neighborhoods-worth of poor sidewalks hence the poor planning and stabbing at the problem.
IN DESPERATION, PEOPLE HAVE EYED OUR FREE CASH** AS A LIKELY SOURCE. OTHERS HAVE SUGGESTED A BOND TO FIX THIS CENTURY-LONG PROBLEM. AND OTHERS HAVE CRIED FOR A DEBT-EXCLUSION OR EVEN A PROP 2-1/2!
Let’s face it, ‘DEBT is a dirty word right now. We may have needs but right now a debt can not be handled unless there is a guarantee of a future source of reliable income. As much as we would love to FIX the problem, the City can not use debt as a justification in the face of an uncertain future. (The recent attempt at fixing the school buildings is really an effort to suck in State and Federal monies that would do most of the work anyway. Good luck to ‘em!)
Grants from public and private sources? Yes! Money from an already raised source, the meals tax? Yes! Chapter 90 money? Yes! As the parking fees come in, the fraction which is supposed to be toward infrastructure? (i.e. sidewalks, among other things) Yes!
ONCE WE KNOW WE HAVE A SMALL BUT RELIABLE STREAM OF MONEY FOR THE SIDEWALKS, THEN WE NEED TO DEVELOP A SYSTEMATIC PLAN STREET BY STREET WITH THE APPROPRIATE TYPE OF MEDIUM.
* Just a joke! There is no such person!
** Councilor Cameron gave a rock-solid analysis of the free cash – just looking at the numbers is enough to say, ‘No way using that money for problems and projects!’.