From buckling sidewalks to potholed thoroughfares to storm drains that can’t handle a little rain, the infrastructure that holds the second-largest U.S. city together is suffering from years of deferred maintenance. Bringing pipes that deliver water to 3.9 million people up to snuff could cost $4 billion — more than half the city’s annual operating budget. The bill for repaving streets will be almost that much, according to estimates from a city consultant, and patching or replacing cracked sidewalks will require $640 million.
City Council members recently gave up on a proposal to ask voters for a sales-tax increase to finance street and sidewalk repairs, and Mayor Eric Garcetti has ruled out raising water rates anytime soon to upgrade pipelines.
“We’re in trouble,” said Jack Humphreville, the budget advocate for L.A.’s advisory neighborhood councils. His estimate, based on figures provided by the city, is that getting public works into good shape will take $10 billion to $15 billion. “This is no different from debt.”
Councilman Mitchell Englander added, “We can’t tax our way out of this,” since Los Angeles already has one of the highest sales taxes in the nation, and that’s on top of the state’s income tax, which is also among the nation’s highest.
California has trouble keeping the water inside the pipes, but they’ve got the money to build high-speed passenger rail connecting Palmdale to Merced.
Bad governance sucks.