Orinda's Measure J --- YES
I am writing to show how Orindans can come together to fix our roads.
For the record, I have been a member of Orinda's Citizen's Infrastructure Oversight Commission since it was created seven years ago, and I am a supporter of the June bond. I believe the majority of Orindans agree with me. But there are some who oppose the bond despite agreement that (1) our roads are in deplorable condition and (2) we should start by fixing our worst residential roads, as the June bond will do.
The dissenters argue that we need a more detailed plan for what comes after the June bond. But this is putting the cart before the horse. We need to start by fixing our worst residential roads. We have a list of these roads -- road segment by road segment -- — and engineering estimates of the cost of repair. Detailed engineering analysis will be completed for each road as additional revenue becomes available. This is standard project management process in road management.
The current chair of the Infrastructure Oversight Commission has a lifetime of professional engineering experience managing roads and road policy. We know what needs to be done and have an appropriate plan. Any disagreements about "what comes next" should not stop us from doing what all know should be done now.
Some have argued that we cannot "trust" the city to use the June bond funds wisely. But there also is no controversy over how the city has been spending available funds on the roads. The city has focused current (gas tax) funds on arterials and collectors -- the roads most heavily used by nearly all Orindans, and all of these roads are expected to be in good to excellent condition within the next five years using existing funding sources. The new sales tax revenues approved by voters in 2011 are being used to begin fixing our worst residential roads. The first two roads are currently out for bids and will be rebuilt this summer.
Without exception, the city council has endorsed and implemented all of the recommendations of the CIOC regarding road policy or road selection. There is no controversy here. There has been some controversy in Orinda over planning issues, but it would be silly to use this controversy to stop us from doing what we all agree needs to be done now -- fix our worst residential roads.
Here is my proposal. Let's all come together and do what we agree on now -- vote for the June bond (Measure J) and get our worst residential roads fixed. Then after passing the bond, let's all come back together to work out legitimate differences that we may have for the remainder of the plan. The city's roads plan expressly calls for a re-evaluation every two years. We could start working on a revised plan in 2015, aiming for adoption and voter approval in 2016.
We can make local politics work. A big "yes" vote on the June bond is the best way to jump start this effort and keep us working together to achieve what is a common and important goal.
Richard Nelson is an Orinda resident and a member of Orinda's Citizen's Infrastructure Oversight Commission
Orinda's Measure J -- NO
Orindans acknowledge our roads are in deplorable shape and need to be fixed. We also acknowledge that the cost to do so will be substantial. While there is generally consensus on the problem, there isn't on a solution. There are powerful reasons for those willing and able to pay for fixingthe roads to vote NO. This commentary summarizes the "hard" reasons to vote NO, the "soft" reasons to vote NO and outlines a credible, professional way forward.
"Hard" reasons as used herein relate to business, engineering and common sense. The proponents of Measure J expect residents to hand over $20 million (plus $12 million in interest over 20-plus years) before there is a definitive plan, including the most fundamental points like what roads will be fixed and to what level of quality. Having witnessed the recent Bay Bridge fiasco, we think such an approach is careless, lacks business sense and is fatally flawed. This kind of expenditure for Orinda warrants a proper definitive plan, a total estimate and an approach to the work that recognizes the scale of the project.
The city's approach is piecemeal and lacks full disclosure of the project's costs and dimensions and is based on design criteria that fail to address the project's objective -- an average Pavement Condition Index (PCI) of 70 is meaningless. The bond measure language is open-ended and does not protect taxpayers.
"Soft" reasons relate to trustworthiness, integrity, track record of ignoring public input and conflicts of interest. Neither Bond Measure J (funding for about a fifth of the total job) nor the city's so-called plan contain any specifics about what roads will be repaired and in what order. Despite the hype about the Citizens Infrastructure Oversight Committee, which has essentially been bypassed in the development of Measure J and in the original "plan" development, the loose wording in Measure J boils down to giving the City Council total control of $20 million and a "trust me" approach.
Those who have followed the City Council closely the past couple of years and witnessed the secretive development of the "housing element" plan, emails from the (now) mayor trying to influence planning commissioners (resulting in calls for her resignation), potential conflicts of interest, reversal of the planning commission's approval of the Montessori preschool allowing the property to be used for other purposes, and most recently an apparent attempt to surreptitiously change aggregate building height codes from 35 to 45 feet maximum, I think trusting this council with the control of $20 million is inappropriate and not warranted. Who knows what "other roads" this city council might decide to repair or build?
Should Measure J fail, as we expect, a credible way forward starts with recognizing and understanding that because of decades of neglect, the fix for Orinda's roads and drains is a project of scale, and should not be planned and managed as a maintenance operation. If we want to complete the work cost-effectively and in timely manner, we need to plan and prepare accordingly. Those who say we must get started now (with a "trust me" piecemeal approach) perhaps because of their frustration, need to realize "getting it started" is not the same as "getting it done" -- which should be the goal for our roads and compromised drains. Further explanations of and recommendations for "what's next" and a proper approach to planning, organizing, executing and controlling the fix for Orinda's roads and drains can be found at:http://www.orindawatch.org,www.FixOrindaRoads.infoand in your voter pamphlet.
With knowledgeable input, real planning, some outside engineering services, and honest public discussion, the "hard" issues, including a balanced funding approach, are fixable in the near future. "Soft" issues require changes in the leadership of our community, also fixable in the near future.
But for the June 3 election, the bottom line is: Measure J is Not The Way.
Chris Kniel is an Orinda resident, a retired engineering project manager and a member of the group Orinda Watch