California's Pothole-Studded Road to Fiscal Perdition
"A disaster in slow motion’: Wine country latest California region to face fiscal crisis," Canada's National Post reports:
The serpentine strip of asphalt known as Sonoma Mountain Road wends its way through a bucolic landscape 50 miles north of San Francisco, curving past rows of grapevines, dipping into redwood groves, rising again through rippling hills.
It’s a beautiful ride. But it is also a bumpy one.
“You get pothole patch after pothole patch,” groused Craig Harrison, a local resident and attorney who is part of a grass-roots campaign to fix the crumbling roads of Sonoma County. “We’re going to be a test case of what a county does with a completely failed road system.”
Sonoma may be known for its wine, and for a burgeoning artisanal food scene, and for its lush, rural landscapes and great weather — all of which have attracted growing numbers of retirees, long-distance commuters and international tourists. But Sonoma County is struggling with the same type of government financial crisis that has driven California cities such as Stockton and San Bernardino into bankruptcy.
Here, too, a toxic combination of inflated public employee salaries and pensions, combined with reckless financial decision-making and the 2008 housing market crash and subsequent recession have stripped that financial cupboard bare.
Driving the county’s back roads, you literally feel the pain. Spending by the county to maintain some 1,400 miles of Sonoma’s roads totalled US$4.2-million last year, compared with US$7.6-million in 2003, according to the county budget office. Spending is set to increase slightly this year, but is still a fraction of what is needed.
Even the Ministry of Truth known as NPR has admitted that California has some of the worst-maintained roads in the country, as core services of basic government are ignored or deferred in favor of spiraling welfare and pension expenses. Why did wine country think it would be spared similar aggravations as the state as a whole circles the drain?
(Via SDA; read the comments there for more on this topic.)