When the City shares news about programs and initiatives like bike share, kayaking instruction, farmers markets, and wi-fi kiosks, I find that community reaction generally falls into two very different categories: (1) “Nice idea, thanks for doing this,” or (2) “Stop focusing on nonsense and fix the roads.”
I am grateful for the first reaction, but also completely understand and respect the second. Fixing roads should come first, and if nice-but-not-essential programs were consuming more resources than the basics, that would be a big problem. So I thought it might be helpful to share a little hard data about New Rochelle’s priorities.
Here’s how much money the City has budgeted for capital improvements to our roads in 2018: $5,226,007
To add a little detail, the City has an aggressive paving contract, including full resurfacing of dozens of roads, that will get underway in mid-summer and continue through mid-fall. In the meantime, crews have filled hundreds of potholes since the winter and continue to do so on a rolling basis. More broadly, in the context of our 10-year capital budget, the City Council has substantially increased the annual allocation for road maintenance, design, and paving, with the goal of achieving a steady improvement in our street network — and adding “complete streets” features — over a decade. (By the way, an additional $5.1m covers operational costs of our Streets & Highways Bureau.)
By contrast, here’s how much money we will spend on the other initiatives I mentioned above:
Bike Share: $0
Farmers Markets: $0
Wi-Fi Kiosks: $0
All these programs are achieved at no cost to taxpayers through sponsorships, user fees, or private means of revenue generation. Yes, there are other City-supported programs that come at a modest cost, but in every case they are dwarfed by expenditures for core municipal functions like public works and public safety, while delivering significant value to taxpayers and/or leveraging outside resources like grants.
Bottom line: fixing the roads is a higher priority by every metric, as it should be. But why impose false choices on ourselves? If we can address the basics responsibly and also launch programs that improve our quality of life, or expand services for residents, or enhance our environment, or help market our community for investment, isn’t that a good thing? Let’s do both.