GOLIS: The bumpy road to smaller government

  • 6/15/2011: A1:

    PC: Woolsey Road near Santa Rosa, Tuesday June 14, 2011 is one of the roads county supervisors are debating whether or not to decrease repair funding in order to help close a budget deficit. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2011

Thanks to the Road Warrior blog at pressdemocrat.com, we learned last week that the group called Save Our Sonoma Roads wants to know how you would pay to repair the county's rural roads. (Check out the survey at SOSRoads.org.)

You have to like SOSRoads. While other groups complain about the decline of government services, the people involved with SOSRoads organized to do something about it.

And who can blame them? The condition of country roads in Sonoma County is embarrassing — and the situation is only going to get worse. From damaged automobiles to the loss of tourism dollars, all kinds of negative consequences come into play when roads deteriorate.

We can round up the usual suspects — an antiquated tax system, shortsighted politicians, decades of neglect, higher costs, a recession.

When it would have mattered, almost nobody complained that government wasn't taking care of streets, roads, highways and other public investments.

And so now we arrive at the intersection of declining tax revenues and old expectations about government's promises to its citizenry.

When times were flush, critics say, government went on a spending binge that now limits its ability to honor its commitments — while coping with an economic recession and the budget shortfalls that came with it.

There is some truth to their complaint. But the question remains: Now what? When it comes to road maintenance, government may have abdicated its responsibility, but a recitation of past failures won't cancel out the financial realities of today.

SOSRoads did manage to persuade the Board of Supervisors to come up with a few million one-time dollars more for road maintenance. But all sides recognize there is no silver bullet here. No one can explain where the county will find the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to restore 1,382 miles of county roads.

One study said it would cost $926 million over 10 years to modernize about half the county's rural road system.

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