City must fix infrastructural problems

CITY ISSUES: There are many imminent problems threatened the city of Berkeley that we must be prepared for.

Willow Yang/Senior Staff

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

In November, Berkeley succumbed to old, ineffective habits: It passed the measly Measure T1, which implemented a multiyear plan to fix infrastructural problems. But this time, it will cover only one-fifth of the projected cost — and that’s only if everything goes according to plan. It resembles Measure F passed in 2014 and Measure M passed in 2012, both meant to address the same issues.

Rather than solving the problems, however, these two measures allowed them to fester quietly under the guise of a proactive fix. Projected maintenance has progressed to the point that the cost of repairing Berkeley’s infrastructure likely exceeds $500 million.

As a last-ditch effort, Measure T1 permits the city to sell only $100 million worth of general obligation bonds — failing to take advantage of a time that many economists hail as an opportune moment to sell bonds.

To minimize disruption while facilities are being restored, infrastructural improvements covered under T1 will take place over 12 years, creating a slow burn that will require the city to once again neglect certain problems, allowing them to further deteriorate. By the time the city can get to those later issues, whatever amount of money is left will be even less sufficient to fix them. Notice a pattern yet?

This month, the city’s Aquatic Park flooded after several tide tubes responsible for draining rainwater failed, impacting multiple surrounding businesses. Although the problem had been known for years, it was not considered a priority for T1 funding.

Infrastructural problems do not dissipate with voters’ approval of an ambiguous measure, and without community input on the projects that most need funding, they will only worsen from here.

The city must consider all of its options to alleviate community concerns as soon as possible, whether that includes raising taxes, using emergency funds or applying for federal grants. There are too many problems and too little money, but the city’s answer must transcend kicking the can further down the road.

If the city cannot get more money, then at the very least, it should prioritize the right projects. This means placing improvements to the Berkeley Rose Garden, such as tennis courts — currently listed as a priority — on the backburner. Instead, the city should focus on retrofitting its buildings, including the six locations that are meant to serve as designated care and shelter sites but were declared unfit in the event of a disaster.

With storms, earthquakes and Donald Trump, there are many disasters Berkeley will have to weather in the immediate future. The city should not take half-measures to fix deep-rooted structural problems — let alone one-fifth of a measure.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

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